A CPA is much more than its definition of Certified Public Accountant. The term certified refers to the licensing to carry on business as a CPA and meeting the standards as promulgated by the American Institute of CPAs and the various state societies.
To be initially licensed, an individual must pass a rigorous examination, which is uniform among the states, and then obtain a certain amount of experience working for a firm which performs examinations of financial statements and renders a report upon them. The term public accountant refers to the role as an accountant, who handles recordkeeping and reporting matters for the public. However, the term CPA, in sum, means to most people much more than these parts of certifed and public accountant. A CPA is a very trusted advisor of both individuals and of businesses.
CPAs are relied upon so much because of not only their keen analytical and decision-making skills but also their objectivity, integrity and dedication to service. Many CPAs provide services well beyond accounting, auditing and reporting. Some are business and management consulting, information technology consulting, tax planning and preparation, personal financial planning, valuation services, elder care services, and compliance. The consumer often expects a CPA to be proficient at many specializations, even those just indirectly related to the traditional role of an accountant. The CPA's role has been quickly expanding, and one leading CPA proposed that the term CPA more appropriately stand for Certified Professional Advisor. The CPA profession is currently grappling with how best to define the CPA in today's world and whether to change the moniker CPA.
One preliminary recommendation of the AICPA for a new term to encompass CPAs worldwide has met with much criticism within the industry. Stay tuned for further developments. One thing is clear - the CPA is a very valued and trusted advisor and a professional who has not only kept up with the quickly changing world around us, but who has helped shape it.