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Certified Public Accountant, CPA

Education and Training: Bachelor’s degree; CPA exam
Average Salary: $50,700
Job Outlook: Very good

A CPA – or Certified Public Accountant – is an accountant who specializes in business finance. Normally, a CPA will work with small businesses that don’t have their own accountant on staff, and they may work for several businesses at once on a contract basis. CPAs can also work for governmental agencies, and some work inside a larger business that keeps an accountant on staff.

Within a business setting, a CPA will help with budgeting and financial planning and management, and the CPA will do the record keeping, bookkeeping, and taxes. The CPA will also check over all company records for expenses, income, and investments to make sure everything matches up before filing them. CPAs wear many hats, and they may also analyze company financial reports to advise the company on how best to move forward with financial planning.

Education and Training Requirements

CPSs must have a bachelor’s degree in finance, accounting, or other similar fields. They must also pass the CPA exam, and they must take 120 hours of continuing education classes every three years to make sure they’re up-to-date on accounting procedures and business legalities. It’s helpful for CPAs to pursue a master’s degree, since larger companies are often looking for CPAs with an advanced degree.

In college and high school, aspiring CPAs don’t need to take calculus or trigonometry, necessarily. Instead, they need to focus on accounting and business classes that make them comfortable with numbers as well as with the world of business in general.

Getting the Job

CPAs can walk into entry-level positions rather easily, and they can advance by taking positions with larger companies, starting their own CPA services businesses, or taking on a managing role over other CPAs. Promotion from within is common, but as long as a CPA has experience and education, they should be able to find a job almost anywhere.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development

CPA jobs are expected to grow at a faster than average rate over the next few years, but growth in this field does depend on the economy in general. As more people start small businesses, the services of CPAs will be particularly in demand. And, of course, CPAs are always in high demand around tax time, so they can do some extra seasonal work, as well.

A CPA will generally start out low on the totem pole in a public accounting firm or at a large place of business with several CPAs on staff. To advance, they may move into management level accounting jobs. Many CPAs find it most financially and personally beneficial to start public accounting firms on their own where they contract out their services to small businesses and individuals in their localities.

Working Conditions and Environment

CPAs typically work in an office environment during normal office hours. Some travel may be required, particularly for those working for an accounting firm and with several different businesses as clients. CPAs typically only work more than thirty-five to forty hours per week during tax time, when their services will be more in demand and they may have to work quite a few hours of overtime. Generally, this isn’t considered to be a stressful job.

Salary and Benefits

On average, a CPA earns about $50,700 per year. Starting out, they may earn slightly less than this, and in a larger firm situation, CPAs normally make more than this. The highest paid CPAs are partners in public accounting businesses, who average around $175,000 per year.

Normally, these full-time jobs include vacation and sick days, health insurance, and often pension plans. Some CPAs may be eligible for bonuses based on performance, as well. These benefits won’t be available in the same way for CPAs who do contract work or start their own business, though these people tend to make more on an hourly or annual basis.

Where to Go for More Information
To learn more about becoming a CPA or job opportunities that may be available for CPAs, check out the following resources:

American Institute of CPAs
1211 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10036-8775
(888) 777-7077

CPA Associates International
Meadows Office Complex
301 Rt. 17 N
Rutherford, NJ 07070
(201) 804-8686

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Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesAccounting & Finance