CPAs work in public accounting, business and industry, government and education. Within these areas, CPAs generally specialize in what they do.
Listed here are just a few of the professional opportunities the CPA designation can offer you:
Public Accounting — Public accounting is best known for providing audit services. CPAs must be licensed to perform audits. In audits, CPAs review clients’ financial statements and voice a professional opinion on them. Within public accounting CPAs also use their skills regarding federal, state and international taxation laws, computer technology and management operations. Staff or entry-level CPAs assist those in charge of an audit engagement. At the manager level, CPAs will supervise in-charge staff. As a partner in a firm, the CPA’s responsibilities increase to include supervision of managers and marketing the services of the firm. Partners make decisions that affect every aspect of the firm’s operations, and have responsibilities for managing client relationships and obtaining new ones. A CPA who owns his or her own business and may employ a few individuals to support his or her work is known as an individual practitioner.
Industry and Business — Working as a CPA in business and industry requires specialized knowledge for the particular industry. On-the-job training and continuing education is necessary. A CPA may be responsible for developing, producing and reviewing data useful for making business decisions and developing strategic plans. Additionally, CPAs will need to report the data’s finding to internal and external parties. CPAs in business and industry have titles including staff accountant, analyst, controller and chief financial officer.
Government — CPAs work in a wide range of positions in local, state and federal government. The federal government employs CPAs in its agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the General Accounting Office (GAO). The IRS audits individuals and corporate tax returns. CPAs working for the FBI are involved in cases including fraud, financial crime and white-collar crime. The GAO examines the use of public funds, evaluates federal programs and activities, and provides information and other assistance to help Congress make effective oversight, policy, and funding decisions. And CPAs working for the State of Florida and its municipal governments perform a wide variance of cost analyses and financial audits. CPAs working in government positions have titles that include FBI or IRS agent, staff accountant, manager, comptroller and director.
Education — Accounting educators are on the faculty of community colleges, universities and graduate schools. CPAs also may hold positions as high school business and accounting teachers. Job titles include accounting instructor, assistant professor, professor and department chair.
More-specialized areas within the accounting profession that are currently popular include the following:
Information Technology — CPAs help many businesses design and implement their computer systems, software applications, and network security.
Consulting — When working as consultants, CPAs may give advice on a variety of issues affecting employees, such as retirement plans, or issues that affect the company, such as purchasing a new building or property.
Forensic Accounting — CPAs in forensic accounting track down fraud, white-collar business crime and insider trading. Through their information gathering and accounting background, CPAs assist in building cases. These CPAs work for law enforcement agencies or in private practice.
Tax and Financial Planning — CPAs help businesses and individuals by recommending savings, investment and tax options. They review financial information and provide advice so prudent decisions can be made. These CPAs also help with international business laws and transactions.