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The CPA-Certified Public Accountant — the Top of the Accounting Profession

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CPAs begin to study like any ordinary accountant. First they learn elementary bookkeeping and clerical duties of the bookkeepers. Then they go on to learn about bad debts and depreciation, control and procedures for purchases, drafts, bills of lading and collection devices, auditing, partnerships, corporations, investments, costs, financial statements, and taxes. Then, as if that course of study were not enough, they sit down to take a very difficult and exacting examination- far more difficult than anything you've taken in school.

If they pass, they become certified public accountants.

The CPA is considered to be an expert when it comes to accounting. Supposedly, the CPA is able to cope with any problem in any area of accounting. He or she is able to view a multitude of business operations of a giant corporation and to institute measures to solve problems such as diminishing profits, rising costs, unwieldy payroll. The CPA is the authority on whose advice courts rely and base decisions.

Today, business just couldn't do without the CPA. People in business lean on the CPA because of the guidance and information he or she can give. Of course, the CPA also has very great earning potential-after all, it is the top of the field.

It is in public practice that the CPA can earn the most.

A CPA can open an office door to all businesses. Often he or she hires junior accountants to help with the routine part of the work.

Many accountants feel that the CPA's jobs are more interesting than those of ordinary accountants. Not all of a CPA's time is spent with figures. There are conferences on financial affairs, there are investigations of a financial nature, and there are observations to be made of a business's operations. There is often a great deal of travel involved.

Here is a list of some of the things that a CPA, in public practice, may have to do:
  • Prepare a financial statement for a client to help secure a bank loan.

  • Review and comment on the financial report of local community nonprofit organizations.

  • Explain and draw conclusions from an audit for a client.

  • Develop a cost-accounting system for a new manufacturer.

  • Set up an accounting system for a new store.

  • Revise the accounting system for an existing firm.

  • Counsel other accountants for an audit.

  • Serve on a committee discussing the best solution for a new accounting problem.

  • Help the local government prepare papers for a stock issue.

  • Assist an attorney in the incorporation of a new business.

  • Help a supermarket install a system of internal control to guard against fraud, embezzlement, and theft.

  • Prepare a client's income-tax report.

  • Represent a client at an office of the Internal Revenue Service.

  • Appear in court as an expert witness.

  • Help a small business with sales tax and monthly payroll, or year-end details of submitting withheld taxes to the government.

  • Prepare a monthly or yearend financial report for a small business.

  • Survey the need for increased working capital in a business and advise management on how to use it.
This is, of course, a general list. It doesn't apply to all CPAs, and of course there are some regular accountants who do some of the same things.

There are some things you should know about becoming a CPA. There are rush periods, especially around the end of the year and during the tax season from the beginning of January until April 15, when taxes are due. The CPA may put in long hours, working under heavy pressure from many clients. And because a CPA's work has to be accurate, he or she may spend hours and hours going over a set of figures searching for a small error.

But what about you? Would you make a good CPA? Well, one way to find out is to see how your attributes and interests check out against the following list, prepared by a vocational psychologist:

If you think that you might be interested in becoming a CPA, you're probably wondering exactly how you can become one. It's not, after all, like being knighted by the Queen, but it is a significant decision for any accountant to make, one that requires a great deal of work and study, and one that shouldn't be taken lightly.

If you get a job as an accountant in an accounting firm, you might find that the company will help you prepare for the CPA examination. Candidates for this training are carefully picked from graduates who are accounting majors or by some other criteria, depending on the business. But if you have your sights set on the CPA license, you have to expect even more training. In some states, a candidate is required to have at least two years of practical accounting training before taking the difficult written exam. The test, provided by the American Institute of Accountants, is the same in every state.

In each state, there is no uncertainty about what it takes to become a CPA. The rules are hard and fast. In addition, all states understand the importance of CPAs in terms of business, government, and the general public-which is why the requirements are so stringent. The rules are fairly standard, and most states also have certain guidelines of education, experience, and ability required for people who intend to practice as public accountants.
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