A certified public accountant, or CPA, is a person who has passed the very difficult CPA Exam and has been licensed by one of the 50 U.S. states (or one of five other jurisdictions). The CPA's license is renewed if the state's requirements continue to be met including continuing professional education credits.

Many certified public accountants work in the field of public accounting in CPA firms ranging from a sole practitioner to a large international CPA firm. However, many certified public accountants leave public accounting while others never enter public accounting. These CPAs can be found working as accountants in manufacturing, financial services, not-for-profit organizations, health care, government agencies, education, and so on.

Most state boards of accountancy now require candidates to have 150 college credits in order to sit for the CPA Exam.