Certified Public Accountants 101

Certified Public Accountants have one of the most favorable job prospects over the next five years. In fact, CPA job prospects are expected to increase over 10% in the next five years, one of the largest increases in any job industry according to the Department of Labor.

They provide financial data, along with advice based on that financial data, to businesses and individuals so sound financial decisions can be made.

But what exactly does a Certified Public Accountant do? They provide financial data, along with advice based on that financial data, to businesses and individuals so sound financial decisions can be made. They not only explain and interpret financial information for their clients, but they help plan and project financial strategies for the future.

Specifically, services that a CPA may provide, or areas in which they may specialize, are detailed below. CPAs may focus on just one, or any number of, these areas.

Income Taxes

Many CPAs provide tax services for their clients. Not only do they assist in preparing tax forms, but they also:


While many CPAs provide tax services and financial advice, a growing field in accounting has been the area of assurance. With the recent legislation, in particular, the Sarbanes-Oxley Bill, there have been higher standards set for the accounting of public companies.

One piece of this legislation that made many companies sit up and take notice, is that this bill demands that executives take responsibility for their corporate financial statements, as these statements are used by those looking to make stock decisions.

The assurance area of CPA services guarantees that financial statements are based on true, sound numbers and can be used for these financial decisions.

The assurance area is one of the fastest growing segments of Certified Public Accountants.

Information Technology

With advanced computerized accounting programs available, CPAs with technology skills are needed not only to implement computerized accounting systems, but to design and personalize programs for businesses. They are tasked with making sure the accounting data that has been gathered and reported by a computerized system is reliable, safe, and relevant.

Governmental Accounting

Certified Public Accountants not only work for individuals and businesses, but for government agencies as well. They ensure that agencies have checks and balances in place and follow the appropriate accounting laws and guidelines. The CPAs also monitor people and businesses that receive public funding to ensure that they are in compliance as well.

Forensic Accounting

CPAs that specialize in forensic accounting audit financial reports, records, and systems to prevent any fraud or improper reporting, as well as detect any evidence of wrongdoings within the company.

Financial Accounting

Certified Public Accountants can also provide straight accounting services through consulting or employment for individuals and businesses. Their role is to ensure that all financial statements, company policies, and financial reporting adhere to GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles), as well as the law and corporate governances.

Asset Management

Not only do companies and individuals need to manage their finances, but they need to manage their assets. Assets include buildings and equipment, but also more complex items, such as:

International Accounting

With new technology taking many businesses global, there's a rising need for CPAs who understand the ins and outs of doing business in an international setting. International accounting is made up of both financial and managerial accounting and not only for international transactions, but for the operations of international firms that may have businesses located in different countries.

A CPA differs from an accountant who may be employed by a business. A CPA is concerned with the finances "after the fact", while an accountant is considered to be a management accountant, that is, they are not independent and are involved in the financial decisions and operations from the beginning.

The services of Certified Public Accountant are obviously varied, but they are all rooted in two aspects – finances and people. Those who pursue a career as a CPA should not only have an aptitude for numbers, but an aptitude for communications as well.

  • Advise on tax laws
  • Help make financial decisions that work best within the tax laws
  • Help make financial plans for the future by providing tax advice
  • Estate planning
    • Stocks
    • Bonds
    • Other interest bearing accounts