A “CPA” is a Certified Public Accountant. All CPAs are accountants but not all accountants are CPAs. The difference between the two is education, experience and licensing. Many individuals, couples, and business owners wonder if they need to hire a CPA and what the distinction means.
To become a CPA, educational and experience requirements need to be met and a Uniform CPA Exam must be passed. A CPA could be a chief financial officer for a Fortune 500 company, an FBI agent, or, like us, advise businesses and individuals. CPA’s work for small and large public accounting firms, they consultant on many financial issues, including taxes and accounting. We help our clients plan and reach their financial goals.
To become a CPA you need to:
- Complete a program of study in accounting at a college or university. A master’s degree is not required but it may be helpful to a CPA’s career.
- Qualify for the Uniform CPA Examination. Eligibility is decided by individual state boards of accountancy, however, most states require 150 semester hours of education.
- Take and pass the CPA Exam.
- Passing the CPA Exam is not a license to practice. You also need to have professional work experience which varies from state to state.
- Apply for and receive your CPA license from each state your practice in.
- After you get your CPA license, it is still not the end. You will need to take continuing professional education (CPE) courses every year to keep your license. The CPE requirement varies from state to state, however, Pennsylvania requires CPA’s to obtain 80 hours of CPE every two years.
Should you hire a CPA?
CPAs are allowed to do several things that an accountant without a CPA license cannot:
- Issue audited or reviewed financial statements (attest services).
- File reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission. This is required for all publicly traded companies.
- Represent clients in Internal Revenue Service matters (with some narrow exceptions).
Whether a financial issue you need to address concerns your personal or business life, a CPA can help. If you have any questions about accounting or tax issues or need financial consulting, give us a call at 215-497-8888 or send us an email.