What is a certified public accountant?

Definition of Certified Public Accountant

A certified public accountant (CPA) is a person who has completed the required accounting degree, passed the very difficult CPA Exam, has at least several years of professional accounting experience, and is licensed by one of the 50 U.S. states (or one of the five other jurisdictions). The CPA's license is renewed if the state's continuing professional education requirements are met.

Examples of a Certified Public Accountant

Certified public accountants work in many areas of accounting including the following:

  • Public accounting as a sole practitioner or as a member of small to international CPA firms working as an auditor, tax consultant, general consultant, etc.
  • Manufacturing companies, service businesses, etc. working as an accountant, controller, vice president of finance, and more
  • Not-for-profit organizations, government agencies, education, and more working in a variety of roles.