CPA Vs. Public Accountant: Is There a Difference?

CPA vs. Public Accountant

Whether you are trying to pursue your career in accounting, or finance or you want to hire a financial expert to manage your finances, you might get confused about the CPA vs Public Accountant. If you are really perplexed about these two terms and their role, we have got you covered.

Although there are many similarities between these two accountants, the key differences between them are ambiguous for a general audience. So, they use the terms interchangeably. However, the distinctions grow between them as we climb up the ladder of accounting roles, skills and education.

Are you struggling to choose between a CPA and a Public Accountant and want to know their key differences? In this blog, we will walk you through the main duties, education and skills required for both CPA and a general accountant and what are the main differences. So, let’s dive deep!


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What is a Public Accountant?

A public accountant performs the general duties of accounting and requires the educational background of graduation in accounting only. This is why Public Accountants can work in any organisation, from small-size to large-size firms, performing the day-to-day accounting, bookkeeping, maintaining records, internal audits, and preparation of annual reports, annual tax returns and the preparing financial reports.

Based on their limited role, they cannot perform tasks like tax returns on behalf of their clients. Instead, they can provide professional tax advising services or prepare reports for them. But, they cannot present them to the HMRC on behalf of their client.


What is a CPA?

A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is a highly educated, experienced and skilled accountant who is a part of a government body or a large corporation. A CPA is an authorised person performing many tasks and duties on behalf of their clients. They can perform all the duties performed by the public accounts. However, they go one step ahead by getting higher accounting certification regularly to meet the latest standards and code of conduct in the finance domain.

With more authority and management control, a CPA works without any personal gains and is committed to meeting the stringent code of conduct and ethics.


CPA Vs Public Accountant

Generally, people use these two terms interchangeably. However, when an organisation wants to hire services for accounting or other financial reports, they get confused between them. On the other hand, students looking for an opportunity to pursue a degree in finance and accounting also need clarification between these two professions. Let’s discuss the key differences between them!

Education: The primary difference is the attainment or level of education. A public accountant requires a general degree in accounting. On the other hand, a CPA requires a certification from an International body. Moreover, they get regular education to upgrade their knowledge and skills.

Experience: A CPA is a highly experienced chartered accountant who has work experience in large corporations or government bodies as compared to a public accountant who can work independently or with any firm.

Skills: A CPA is highly skilled and his skills are driven by the code of conduct and ethics of the government bodies. On the other hand, a public accountant has a restricted role in an organisation. He performs only the general accounting and financial analysis tasks for helping the organisation to manage the finances efficiently.

Authority: A CPA enjoys more authority in financial decisions and can work on the behalf of their client by being a part of a fiduciary organisation. On the other hand, a public accountant is liable to follow the rules specified by the organisation he is part of.

In spite of many similarities, the key differences between a public accountant and a CPA make them distinct considerably. So, we can say that every CPA is a Public Accountant, but every public accountant is not necessarily a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).


The Bottom Line

Wrapping up the discussion, we conclude that a public accountant performs the routine tasks of accounting, bookkeeping and preparing financial reports. On the other hand, a CPA is a part of a government agency and performs financial audits in addition to general accounting tasks.

If you want to pursue a highly-paid profession, you can pursue a course in CPA and become a part of a government agency or be a part of an authorised government body to perform high-level accounting and audited tasks. The tasks of an accountant become more complex and they have to follow more strict rules, standards and ethics. Lastly, every CPA is a public accountant, but every public accountant is not required to be a CPA to perform his tasks.


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Disclaimer: All the information provided in this article on CPA vs. Public Accountant, including all the texts and graphics, is general in nature. It does not intend to disregard any of the professional advice.