The accounting profession is one of the most respected and
rewarding career paths available to students. At the pinnacle of the accounting
profession is the Certified Public Accountant (CPA). CPAs are versatile
business strategists who provide valuable insight and information to
individuals and companies working to improve their financial position or
business performance. CPAs work for public accounting firms, corporations and
private businesses, government agencies, education institutions, and
CPAs perform certain core services: Assurance Services and Information Integrity, Technology
Services, Management Consulting and Performance Management, Financial Planning,
and International Services.
Assurance Services and
Information Integrity: CPAs provide services that improve and assure
the quality of information used in making business decisions. The CPAs
assurance has traditionally been applied to financial statements in the form of
an audit. An audit is the process of verifying the accuracy and
legitimacy of the accounting practices used by a company. The purpose is to
determine whether the companys financial statements, which include the Income
Statement, Balance Sheet, Statement of Stockholders Equity, and Statement of
Cash Flows, have been prepared and stated in accordance with specified
accounting criteria. CPAs refer to this specified accounting criteria as GAAP,
or Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. The Securities and Exchange
Commission requires public companies ones that sell their stock in
public financial markets such as the New York Stock Exchange to undergo an
annual audit of their financial statements by an independent CPA.
In addition to traditional audit services, new exciting
niche areas have increased the demand for the expertise of CPAs. The new
assurance services that CPAs provide WebTrust, SysTrust, Performance Review,
and ElderCare require a multitude of skills and knowledge, such as technology
in the case of WebTrustSM/TM and SysTrustSM, which CPAs have gained through
their education and work experience.
WebTrust: CPAs conduct an
examination of Internet-based systems that carries the professional equivalent
of a financial statement audit. WebTrust, an assurance service, is designed to
build confidence among consumers and businesses purchasing goods and services
over the Internet. The WebTrust seal of Approval is given to companies that
comply with stated procedures, thus assuring consumers that they can transact
business electronically with confidence.
SysTrust: CPAs examine
the reliability of information systems and provide assurance that transactions
are processed accurately, without security and privacy concerns.
Performance Review: CPAs
identify the critical factors that will lead to success in a business and then
measure, track, and analyze them in order to assess the progress made in
achieving specific goals and targets.
ElderCare, CPAs provide assurance to children and family members that elderly family
members, no longer able to live independently, will have long-term care. The
CPA, working with other professionals, such as healthcare practitioners and
attorneys, coordinate and assures the quality of services provided to the
Technology Services: CPAs
provide services that help businesses accomplish their goals by designing and
implementing computer systems and software applications that improve business
performance and decision-making.
Management Consulting and
Performance Management: CPAs utilize their strong problem-solving skills
and broad business knowledge to provide objective advice and insight to any
company on a wide range of management and performance issues. For instance,
CPAs provide services that deal with business valuation, operational
efficiency, strategic planning, organizational restructuring, business risk
assessment, and mergers and acquisitions.
Forensic Accounting also
falls under the management consulting umbrella. In forensic accounting, also
known as investigative or fraud auditing, CPAs search beneath the accounting
records, analyzing the paper trail for evidence of criminal conduct.
Financial Planning: As a
financial planner, the CPA assists clients in identifying financial objectives
and advising them of the risk, liquidity, management, and tax characteristics
of investments. Examples of financial planning services include developing
investment strategies, tax consulting, insurance analysis and retirement
planning. The CPA also assists clients with preparing income tax returns.
International Services: CPAs
provide international consulting services, such as development and
implementation of operating procedures that are in accordance with the laws,
rules and regulations of a foreign country. Serving multinational businesses
requires an understanding of the business practices of different countries and