Differences between Accountants and Certified Public Accountants

A graduate of the University of South Florida, Derek Dewan began his career as a certified public accountant (CPA) at PricewaterhouseCoopers. Within a short time, he achieved distinction as one of the youngest partners at the firm. Several years later, he was promoted to the position of managing partner. Derek Dewan worked as a CPA for 16 years.

Many individuals use the terms “accountant” and “certified public accountant” interchangeably, when in fact, only some overlap exists between the two functions. An accountant manages financial information and performs duties regarding how finances should be used. To become a CPA, an accountant must pass a series of tests given by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). In some cases, CPA candidates must also pass licensure exams given by the state in which they wish to practice.

Earning a CPA license qualifies an accountant to perform a wider range of jobs, including preparing income tax information, serving as a consultant, and performing audits and bookkeeping duties for individual and business clients. CPA licenses are not permanent. The AICPA requires 120 hours of continuing education courses every three years to maintain licensure.

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