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Certified Public Accountant


Certified public accountants (CPAs) complete an array of accounting, tax and auditing tasks for clients including individuals, large companies and government agencies. CPAs offer their financial consulting advice to a company's management team, create business proposals on how to capitalize on company profits and give presentations or write reports on such research. CPAs are licensed by a State Board of Accountancy. Certified public accountants may work independently or for private employers, government agencies or public accounting firms.

CPAs track and summarize every dollar that is spent and earned in a company, even down to the last cent. Therefore, every sale, purchase and profit transaction that occurs within a company or even the expenses of an individual person will show up on a CPAs year-end financial reports. Accountants work according to specific guidelines learned in school and are trained to help both individuals and companies organize and manage their daily finances.

Traditionally, accountants were responsible for completing mounds of tedious paperwork, especially during peak seasons. However due to the explosion of Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) into the market, the conventional role has changed allowing the accountant to spend more time on analyzing financial statements instead of dealing with red tape thereby broadening the services accountants offer. Their understanding of both the American economy and foreign markets is quite complex and can help businesses start up exporting ventures. CPAs are licensed by a State Board of Accountancy.

Interests and Skills

Certified General Accountants enjoy working with numbers and money. They must also have a great knowledge of math and must be able to analyze facts and figures swiftly and accurately. Strong written and verbal communication skills are also a must.

Accordingly, CGAs should be interested in computers and programming, constantly working on updating their skills to meet the rapidly changing programs. Most CGAs enjoy having clear, organized methods in their daily work routines and are generally analytical and practical people. Finally, some CGAs enjoy teaching and directing the activities of others.

Typical Tasks

Predicting revenues and expenditures and submitting reports to management

Directing activities of workers performing accounting and bookkeeping tasks

Adapting accounting and record-keeping functions to current technology of computerized accounting systems

Developing, maintaining, and analyzing budgets and prepare periodic reports comparing budgeted costs to actual costs

Reporting finances of establishment to management and advise management about resource utilization, tax strategies, and assumptions underlying budget forecasts

Examining and analyzing records such as journal and ledger entries, bank statements, inventories, expenditures, tax returns and other accounting and financial records, documents and systems

Ensuring financial recording accuracy and compliance with established accounting standards, procedures and internal controls

Planning, setting up and administering accounting systems and preparing financial information for an individual, department, company or other establishment

Examining accounting records and preparing financial statements and reports

Developing and maintaining cost finding, reporting and internal control procedures

Preparing income tax returns from accounting records

Analyzing financial statements and reports and provide financial, business and tax advice

May act as a trustee in bankruptcy proceedings

May supervise articling students or another accountant

CGAs generally work in comfortable office settings. Hours of work are constantly changing depending on the organization, level of responsibility and time of the month. Longer hours are required during company budgeting time, month-end deadlines and the early spring tax season with year-end corporate work and personal tax returns. Accountants working in the public service or consulting firms are required to do a bit of travelling to client's offices. Otherwise, an average day will involve office desk work, computer work and interpersonal work dealing with clients.

Workplaces, Employers and Industries

CGAs are usually employed in both the public and private sectors including businesses, government services, management consulting practices, corporate and personal tax preparation offices, banks, credit offices, public accounting offices, and educational institutions. CGAs are vital in all businesses and industries because they deal with all financial and money matters.

Educational Paths

Most accountant and auditor positions require passing the Uniform Certified Public Accounting Exam, possessing a Bachelor's degree in accounting or finance, and having two years experience working in accounting or public accounting. Some employers prefer applicants with a masters degree in accounting, or with a masters degree in business administration with a concentration in accounting.

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