Definition of CPA 

certified public accountant

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Financial Definition of CPA

What It Is

A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is an accounting professional who has passed the Uniform CPA examination and has also met additional state certification and experience requirements.

How It Works

To become a CPA, a person must: A) complete a college-level accounting program, B) pass the Uniform CPA Examination, and C) have a certain amount of professional work experience in accounting -- typically one year.

The CPA examination is developed and graded by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. The exam has four sections: auditing and attestation, financial accounting and reporting, regulation, and business environment and concepts. Nearly 14 hours long in total, the CPA examination also includes a writing skills exercise, multiple choice questions and case studies.

Once a person becomes a CPA, they can specialize in one specific area of finance or a wide range of services, including:

Corporate Finance
Corporate Business
Estate Planning
Financial Accounting
Financial Analysis
Financial Planning
Forensic Accounting
Income Tax
Information Technology
Management Consulting
Performance Management
Tax Preparation and Planning
Venture Capital

CPAs are required to complete a minimum number of continuing professional education (CPE) courses in order to retain the CPA designation.

Other countries have different designations for the CPA qualification. The Canadian equivalent to a CPA is a Chartered Accountant (CA).

Why It Matters

The CPA designation is granted by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants in order to maintain industry-wide, professional standards.

A CPA designation is a certification of expertise in the field of accounting. Only a CPA can provide an opinion to the public regarding publicly distributed financial statements.

Source: Investing Answers

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