Essential Skills for a CPA?

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Mark Goldman CPA

Last month I had the privilege of hearing Barry Melancon speak on the topic of the future of the CPA certification at the Texas Society of CPAs Annual Meeting.  Mr. Melancon serves as CEO for AICPA, the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, and has been with the organization since 1995.

I’ve heard similar discussions before, but never in this much depth.  Mr. Melancon is obviously a subject matter expert on the topic of essential skills for a CPA, not only due to his position but also due to being a CPA and CGMA himself.

While I knew the talk would involve a discussion of how technology is changing the practice of accounting, the more interesting part of the conversation was about what truly should be defined as essential knowledge for a CPA.  Mr. Melancon made interesting and compelling points about previous concerns in the profession years ago regarding changes to the certification process, and how now those issues seem trivial.  A few of those previous concerns were whether or not a basic calculator should be allowed, and how we felt it important that an examinee could memorize the wording of an unqualified audit report.  Fast forward to today, and we know those items are trivial, but at the time they seemed major.  It will be interesting to see how we view the changes that are being contemplated now, fifteen or twenty years in the future.

The attendees at the annual meeting broke out for table discussions after the presentation.  A major point of discussion at our table was exactly how to define the essential skills, and how “essential” that definition truly is when making these changes.  If an accounting degree won’t necessarily be required to become a CPA, then exactly what knowledge will be prerequisite for passing the exam?  We all know that technology and analysis need to be better represented in the core knowledge of a CPA, and we also know that business gets ever more complex as time goes on; however, there must be a certain minimum skill set for professionals holding the CPA designation.  There is definitely some foundational knowledge that every CPA should be expected to have, such as how to correctly debit or credit an account, but where do you draw the line between was is essential for all CPAs, and what only applies to some specialties within the field?

My purpose for me writing this article is to ask the following question:

What do you consider to be essential knowledge for a CPA?

If you are reading this on social media, please comment where you found it so we can continue the discussion.  Or if you came directly to our site, please email me at [email protected].  I’d love to hear your feedback.

So what do you feel someone should definitely have to know to become a CPA…?