Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is a designation given by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants to those who pass an exam and meet work experience requirements.

For the most part, the accounting industry is self-regulated. The CPA designation ensures that professional standards for the industry are enforced. Other countries have certifications equivalent to the certified public accountant. For example, in Canada, accountants similar to the CPA are called Chartered Accountants (CA).

CPAs are required to get a bachelor’s degree in business administration, finance or accounting. They are also required to complete 150 hours of education and have no less than two years of public accounting experience. CPAs must pass a certification exam, and certification requirements vary by state. Additionally, they must complete a specific number of continuing hours of education yearly.

A wide range of career options in public accounting or corporate accounting are available for CPAs. They can move into executive positions such as controllers, chief financial officers and chief executive officers. CPAs are known for their role in income tax preparation but can specialize in many other areas, such as auditing, bookkeeping, forensic accounting, managerial accounting and information technology.

Certified Public Accountants are subject to a code of ethics. The Enron scandal is an example of CPAs not adhering to a code of ethics. Arthur Andersen company executives and certified public accountants were charged for illegal and unethical accounting practices.

Federal and state laws require CPAs to maintain independence when performing audits and reviews. While consulting at Enron, Arthur Andersen CPAs did not maintain independence and performed both consulting services and auditing services, which violates the CPA code of ethics.

Read more: Certified Public Accountant – CPA Definition | Investopedia http://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/cpa.asp#ixzz4QfzbrJM5 

AICPA Official Website: http://www.aicpa.org/Pages/default.aspx