Certified Public Accountant

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For other meanings of "CPA" see CPA (disambiguation)

Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) are accounting professionals of the United States who have passed the Uniform CPA exam, which was developed and is maintained by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), and have subsequently met additional state requirements for licensure as a CPA. Only CPAs are professionally licensed to provide to the public, attestation (including auditing) opinions on publicly disseminated financial statements. Many states prohibit those without a CPA license to call themselves a "public accountant". According to the National Society of Accountants, the "public accountant" does exist nationwide subject to certain exceptions.

CPA exam

The Uniform CPA exam was developed and is maintained by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, and is administered by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy. Although the exam is uniform, licensing requirements are formed individually by each state's own laws, but vary only slightly by each state. Aside from passing the exam, states typically require:

  • Completion of an accounting program at a university/college with 150 credit hours. Certain courses may also be required.
  • Working experience of public accounting for a certain period of time (for example, one year).
  • Individuals devote a minimum number of hours annually for appropriate continuing professional education (to keep the license).

Because of different requirements in each state one has to meet the requirement of any state s/he wants to practice in, ("practice in" essentially means being able to sign attest reports, including audit opinions, as opposed to simply working on an engagement). Some states also require an additional exam before being licensed in the state.

Before November 2003, exams were offered twice a year, in May and November. The four sections were given in a two-day period.

Since April 5, 2004 the exam has been entirely computer based. Research skill as well as use of word processing and database software is required.

The year is divided into four windows. In each three-month window the candidates can take any number of the sections, once for each section on a window, in the first two months (January and February, April and May, and so on).

The sections have been reorganized as follows:

  • Auditing & Attestation (4.5 hours)
  • Financial Accounting & Reporting (4.0 hours)
  • Regulation (3.0 hours)
  • Business Environment & Concepts (2.5 hours)

The results are available within 60 days taking the exam. The credits for the passed sections are valid for 18 months. If the candidate does not pass all the four sections in the period each section will expire in 18 months.

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