|Why the CPA Credential|
While most people use the terms "accountant" and "CPA" interchangeably, there is a big difference.
The CPA credential carries enormous weight in business and financial circles. CPAs are considered some of business' most trusted advisers, according to a recent survey conducted by the American Institute of CPAs. Specifically, when small business owners were asked how often they rely on outside business counsel, half said they rely on their CPA "always" or "often," ranking just 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.
Education, Exam & Experience
First, candidates must make it through some of the toughest business courses at their colleges or universities resulting in 150 hours of college credit, which is equivalent to a Master’s Degree. After graduation and a year of real-world experience, they must pass a grueling, four part exam covering Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), and Regulation (REG). These four sections represent a total of 14 hours of testing.
The Uniform CPA Examination 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. Today, the Uniform CPA Examination maintains that goal and is continually revised to meet the changing demands of the profession. And now, nearly all U.S. jurisdictions, including Utah, have passed legislation that will require accounting graduates to complete 150 hours of college level course credits before taking the Uniform CPA Examination.
The exam is not the only requirement. CPAs also are required to follow a strict Professional Code of Conduct and perform within the high standards of the profession. In additional to the Professional Code of Conduct there are statute and rules references for unprofessional and unlawful conduct. Every two years, they must complete 80 hours of continuing professional education to keep up with the new rules and regulations in the financial, accounting and business world.
CPAs do More than Taxes
As the profession has evolved, so have the services CPAs provide. CPAs no longer are simply number crunchers and tax preparers, but business and financial strategists who help chart the paths of individuals and businesses.
Individuals turn to their CPAs for tax and financial planning services, investment advice, estate planning and more. Businesses are tapping CPAs to not only manage finances and taxes, but also to determine profitable new product lines, seek creative financing opportunities, help diversify investments and provide a variety of other consulting and business services.
Look to the Future
As technological advances, globalization, new laws and regulations, and marketplace competition continue to complicate financial and business decisions, CPAs will be called upon to analyze information, determine effective financial and business strategies, and help individuals and businesses achieve profitability.
The UACPA provides a Free CPA Referral Service to assist you in finding a CPA to meet your specific needs.