What is a CPA?

Become a CPA and you’ll go places. Where, you ask? From international companies to rural small businesses, from running your own one-person shop to managing an entire firm, it’s entirely up to you.

CPAs are prominent business decision makers in a wide range of industries, including sports and entertainment, manufacturing, service, and non-profit organizations.

CPAs also hold leadership positions in education, government, law enforcement, and public accounting.

If you want a successful career that’ll take you places, check out these CPA opportunities.

Public Practice

You can work for yourself, for a large multinational firm or for some size business in between. As a public practitioner, you advise individual and business clients as an objective outsider.

Not a Typical Desk Job

CPAs in public practice are out and about meeting with clients on-site and marketing their firm’s services. Take a look at some of the specialty areas for CPAs in public practice:

Audit – CPAs examine clients’ financial statements, provide advice on internal control systems and assist with reports for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and other regulatory agencies.

  • Tax – CPAs help their clients comply with tax laws, provide consultation for tax planning and represent their clients before the Internal Revenue Service.
  • Management – CPAs provide advice on information technology services, production and marketing techniques and improving overall operating procedures.


Restaurant chains. Sports teams. Banks. Non-profits. If a company makes money and spends money, it’s likely there’s a CPA on board. CPAs employed in industry are responsible for developing, producing and analyzing data useful for making business decisions and for reporting to internal and external interested parties. Industry CPAs report on past operations, interpret results for management and forecast future financial results and capital requirements. If you’re a CPA in industry, you may bear the title of controller or chief financial officer.


Educators are needed to pass knowledge on to future generations, accounting educators included. CPAs hold faculty positions in the academic world, working for community colleges and four-year universities.


CPAs work for government agencies at the local, state and national level. Governmental organizations must have accurate data in meaningful form to evaluate the financial results of their activities and plan for the future.

Passionate about recycling? Consider a CPA career in the Environmental Protection Agency. Love to read? How about being a CPA for the Library of Congress?

There are lots of government agencies like the U.S. Navy, the FBI and NASA with CPAs on staff. The Department of the Treasury and the Department of Defense employ the most accountants.

Specialty Areas

Consulting Services – CPAs give objective advice and assistance to individuals, businesses, financial institutions, non-profit organizations, and government agencies.

Information Technology (IT) Services – If you’re good with computers and enjoy the latest electronic gizmos, think about becoming a CPA who implements advanced systems to fit an organization’s needs.

Forensic Accounting – Is sleuthing your strong suit? If so, you can be a CPA who searches for evidence of criminal misconduct. Also known as investigative accounting or fraud auditing.

Environmental Accounting – CPAs conduct compliance audits and design preventive systems to ensure compliance.

International Accounting – If you’re a jetsetter, pack your bags. CPAs with an understanding and mastery of international trade laws and regulations are in great demand in today’s global economy.

Tax and Financial Planning – CPAs help clients save for goals like retirement and their children’s college educations, as well as tax planning and mergers and acquisitions.

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