4 differences between accountants and CPAs

November 21, 2019


While all CPAs are accountants, not all accountants are CPAs.

A CPA is a certified public accountant who has met specific state and education licensing requirements and passed the CPA exam; as such, it’s a highly sought-after accounting designation.

So what are the main differences between CPAs and accountants? Why would a CPA designation be beneficial to your career?

Here’s a look at four differences between CPAs and accountants.

1. Licensing

CPAs have passed rigorous testing and strict requirements for licensing in the state in which they intend to practice. CPA candidates must complete a

After graduation and a year of experience under the supervision of a CPA, candidates must pass a comprehensive test of business, tax, auditing, and general accounting skills.

After becoming licensed, CPAs must take continuing education classes throughout their career in order to maintain up-to-date information on issues and changes in the accounting world.

2. Fiduciary Responsibility

Many businesses that are required to have a financial statement audit or review will need a CPA to perform these services and issue the required reports.

In addition, CPAs are considered fiduciaries with a legal duty and power to act on behalf of, and in the best interest of, their clients. Non-CPA accountants are not considered to be fiduciaries to their clients.

3. Taxes and Regulations

Accountants without a CPA certification may prepare a proper tax return, but a CPA offers distinct advantages to clients that non-CPAs cannot provide.

First, many CPAs are more knowledgeable in tax codes as a result of the rigorous CPA licensing examination and continuing education requirements. Another significant factor is that CPAs are eligible to represent clients before the IRS if audit support is required, while a non-CPA accountant is not.

4. State Requirements and Codes of Ethics

The license is not the only requirement to be a CPA. CPAs are also expected to follow a strict a

Capella University offers a bachelor’s degree in Accounting CPA and a Certificate in Accounting,allowing you to tailor your program to your state’s CPA requirements.

*Completion of the BS Accounting CPA alone does not adequately prepare students to be eligible to sit for the CPA exam or to become licensed certified public accountants. Students also need to understand and follow their specific state licensing requirements.

You may also like

Experiential learning delivers real-world results

What is the value of competency-based education for human resources (HR) professionals?

DBA as springboard for future success

Start learning today

Get started on your journey now by connecting with an enrollment counselor. See how Capella may be a good fit for you, and start the application process.