CPA (Certified Public Accountant) Job Description: Top Duties and Requirements

A CPA (Certified Public Accountant), or a Licensed Public Accountant, interprets and communicates financial data to satisfy regulatory requirements. Their duties include auditing taxes, planning financial policies, and analyzing financial data for a client.

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CPA duties and responsibilities

A CPA can provide different services to a hiring organization. Essential duties and responsibilities of successful CPAs include:

  • Preparing and reviewing financial statements for clients
  • Ensuring tax compliance and working with the tax department of an organization
  • Filing tax returns of an organization and acting as an audit representative
  • Auditing information and submitting financial reports to stakeholders
  • Managing a client’s financial activities such as general accounting and cash flow
  • Leading an organization’s accounting department or a team of accountants
  • Developing and maintain relationships through ongoing communication
  • Staying up-to-date with the latest financial and accounting trends and software
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What does a CPA do?

A CPA helps individuals, businesses, and organizations plan and meet their financial goals and objectives. They are financial experts that can be full-time, part-time, or contract employees. They manage the expenses, investments, taxes, audits, and assets of their clients.

CPAs work in a corporate office setting, although some can also perform their duties remotely. They spend most of their time meeting clients and may need to work overtime during tax season and other busy periods of the year. A CPA can specialize in tax services, audit and assurance services, management consulting, or forensic accounting. Therefore, they collaborate with other professionals in a hiring organization.

CPA skills and qualifications

A CPA needs various skills to be successful in their role, including:

  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills to report financial issues to clients
  • Project management skills to plan, execute and close projects
  • Research and analytical skills to understand and interpret financial data
  • Technological proficiency
  • Leadership skills to oversee the activities of other accountants
  • A strong work ethic and keen attention to financial and accounting details

CPA experience requirements

While Accountants don’t need any work experience to write their exams, successful CPAs have practical experience performing their duties and responsibilities. CPAs must have at least 30 months of experience working in a relevant role before taking the exam. A strong background in Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Access, QuickBooks, and related accounting software is essential. They must have an in-depth understanding of tax policies and know how to file taxes, audit practices, and verify financial documents.

A CPA can gain practical experience in unpaid accounting roles. Otherwise, they can get the required experience through mentorship by a Senior Accountant. Other experience requirements for a CPA depend on the area of specialization and your organization’s needs.

CPA education and training requirements

A candidate must have a bachelor’s degree in accounting or finance. However, you may prefer candidates with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or master’s degree in accounting. They must have completed the required 150 hours to write the CPA exam and earn a CPA licence. They also need to renew their licence regularly. The renewal process varies in every province and territory, but for most, the standard is 40 hours of continual professional development (CPD) every three years.

A CPA must also be trained in how to use accounting software, spreadsheets, and related documents. Other education and training requirements depend on the needs of your hiring organization.

CPA salary expectations

According to Indeed Salaries, the average salary for a CPA in Canada is $65,257 per year. This varies depending on experience, office location, and the hiring company.

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CPA job description FAQs

Does an applicant need a CPA licence to be an auditor?

You don’t need a CPA licence to be an auditor. However, all CPAs can provide auditing services for an organization, individual, or business. 

What makes a good CPA?

A good CPA has strong managerial and accounting skills. They are forward-thinkers with excellent people skills that help them develop and maintain trust among clients. They must also be people of integrity that are enthusiastic about learning on the job. Most importantly, a good CPA has excellent time management and organizational skills.

What are the differences between Accountants and CPAs?

All CPAs are Accountants, but not all Accountants are CPAs. First, CPAs must pass the necessary licensing requirements of their province or territory. An Accountant does not need a CPA licence to work in a company, business, or organization. However, a CPA can provide taxation and auditing services such as signing tax returns and auditing company taxes that an Accountant cannot. While CPAs can act on behalf of their clients, regular Accountants cannot perform these functions.

Can a CPA give financial advice?

A CPA can give financial advice to an individual, business, or organization. They can act as financial planners in areas such as estate planning, risk management, investments, and retirement planning.

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