CPA FAQ's: What you need to know

Aug 11, 2011

Q: Are CPAs and accountants the same thing?

A: Yes and no. All CPAs are accountants but all accountants are not certified public accountants.

The principal differences between accountants and CPAs are education, experience, and opportunity. Becoming a CPA is a challenging goal, but one very much within your reach.In order to become a CPA, there are education and experience requirements you'll need to fulfill, and a uniform exam that you must pass. Receiving your CPA certification distinguishes you from other business professionals―you will benefit from increased trust, opportunities, and financial rewards.

Q: I've heard that accounting is now a five‐year degree. Is this true?

A: Well, not to duck the question, but yes and no. You can graduate with a degree in accounting and begin working after four years of undergraduate college education. However, if you want to go on and sit for the Uniform CPA examination in Ohio, you must have 150 semester hours (225 quarter hours) of education to be eligible to sit for the exam. Having this "fifth year" of education can open a lot of doors for you, personally and professionally.

Q: Why do CPAs have to be licensed to practice their profession? How will that affect me?

A: CPAs in Ohio are regulated by the Accountancy Board of Ohio to help protect the public interest. To maintain a license, CPAs must continue to earn professional education over the course of their career. This dedication to the public makes the CPA designation one of the most respected and well‐known professions.

Q: What's the deal with having to take an exam to become a CPA? I thought when I graduated I'd be done with tests! What's the test like?

A: We know, we know. Taking a test, especially one as important as the Uniform CPA Examination, isn't exactly what you'd call fun, but the CPA exam is the one universal measure of accounting skills across the country.

Exam Structure

The examination is divided into four main sections, each testing a different set of business and accounting aptitudes. They are:

  1. Business Law and Professional Responsibilities.This section tests your knowledge of a CPA's professional responsibilities and the legal implications of choices made within the profession.

  2. Auditing. Your knowledge of auditing standards and procedures will be tested in this section. It will also test your knowledge of how computers, or Information Technologies, are used in auditing today.

  3. Accounting and Reporting. Taxation, Managerial, Governmental and Not‐for‐Profit Organizations That's a long name for this test of your knowledge of principles and procedures for federal taxation, managerial accounting, and accounting for governmental and not‐for‐profit organizations.

  4. Financial Accounting and Reporting. This tests your knowledge of generally accepted accounting principles for business enterprises.

When the time comes for you to take the exam, you will have spent time preparing for it by studying and learning more as you work. Don't panic. Millions have gone before you and succeeded making the accounting profession the respected profession it is today.