The Difference Between a CPA & an Accountant

A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is not the same thing as an accountant. We can help you learn the difference here!

A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is not the same thing as an accountant, it’s a special kind of accountant that has passed specific exams, who has met certain state license requirements. The CPA Exam is a special exam that one must take to be certified, along with minimal requirement of a bachelor’s degree, and in field experience. CPA’s also must stay current by completing at least 40 hours of professional education each year. That is why a CPA is not just an accountant, but one that is recognized for their commitment to the highest standards.

Uniform CPA Examination

The Uniform CPA Examination, administered by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), and takes about 14 hours. It is not easily passed the first time around; the test has four comprehensive parts:

  1. Regulation
  2. Business Environment and Concepts
  3. Financial Accounting and Reporting
  4. Auditing & Attestation


Many accountants do receive accreditation from a college or university; however they typically perform basic financial functions related to the collection, accuracy, recording, examination and performance of a business, organization or company’s financial processes. In a smaller business, an accountant’s role may consist of primarily financial data collection, entry and account generation.

Non-certified accountants maintain business financials in a general way, work in a bookkeeping position, handling basic tax related matters, but it varies by the state that you are working in. Even those who are not certified, with proper training can manage a vast range of services.

The Advantage of CPA

Any accountant can prepare a compiled financial statement, but only a CPA can prepare and audited or reviewed financial statement which is something many small businesses require. For individual or business needs in tax and changing laws, estate planning, new business ventures, multiple income, or managing investments – a CPA is worth going with. Don’t settle for less!


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Michael Callahan

CEO of Intentional Accounting

Financial Advice

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