Many people use the terms "accountant" and "CPA" interchangeably, but there is a big difference. The CPA credential carries enormous weight in business and financial circles. CPAs are distinguished from other finance professionals by stringent qualifications and licensing requirements.
CPAs are considered some of the business world's most trusted advisers, according to a recent survey conducted by the AICPA. Specifically, when small business owners were asked how often they rely on outside business counsel, half said that they rely on their CPA "always" or "often," ranking slightly behind one's spouse or family member.
This trust is not surprising considering the strict requirements to enter and stay in the profession. Achieving CPA status takes intelligence, ethics, integrity and lifelong commitment. First, candidates must successfully complete 150 hours of college course work, including some of some of the toughest business classes offered. After graduation, candidates must pass a grueling test of business, auditing and general accounting skills.
The CPA exam was developed in the early 1900s to ensure the competence of CPAs entering the field, much as the bar exam evaluates lawyers and the medical boards test doctors. It maintains that goal to this day and it is continually revised to meet the changing demands of the profession. Almost every state in the country has passed legislation that requires accounting graduates to complete 150 hours of course credits before taking the exam.
The CPA exam is not the only requirement to be a CPA. CPAs are also required to follow a strict code of ethics and perform within the high standards of the profession. CPAs are also required to complete continuing professional education (CPE) courses to keep up with the new rules and regulations in the financial, accounting and business world.
CPAs have worked hard to obtain the CPA designation, and are committed to working even harder to deliver the value that it conveys.