What is a Typical Day for a Certified Public Accountant?

typical day for cpa

Before considering what a typical day for a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) might look like, perhaps it’s best to first consider what a CPA looks like. The most common traits of a CPA are: they organize sequentially, they like detail-oriented work, and they make logical, objective decisions. If you’re considering a career as a CPA and this sounds like you, read on.

A Typical Day for a CPA Varies by Job Sector, Company, and Personality

Depending on the workplace environment, the typical day for a CPA can be routine, determined by the monthly accounting cycle, or can be immersed in audit activities day after day. For the most part, a CPA’s job depends upon the particular office and position. For example, a public accountant’s responsibilities include auditing, tax and management services, and consulting. In the public setting, CPAs provide objective insight for the clients they serve. Business and industrial positions are found in any size privately owned company or public corporation. The CPA is part of the accounting staff that supports that business. Government CPAs perform many of the same financial reporting and management accounting activities, but can also conduct performance audits, financial audits, compliance audits and investigative audits. Not-for-profit organizations need a CPA to set-up an internal control system, solve tax problems, prepare financial reports and budget resources.

Work in any of these sectors determines the day-to-day activities of a CPA, and the work can vary greatly. For more in-depth information on CPA careers, the AICPA (American Institute of CPAs) is a great resource.

There is, However, a Monthly Accounting Cycle That All Businesses Follow

A CPA at a business or industrial position will ensure accuracy and timeliness in following the sequence of events/reporting required each month. The eight steps in the monthly accounting cycle include: transactions, journal entries, posting, trial balance, worksheet, adjusting journal entries, preparation of financial statements and closing the books for the month.

Accounting software has made the job faster, easier and more accurate. The basic process of the cycle is a carryover from the days of manual bookkeeping and accounting. Once the books are closed for the month, the cycle begins all over again.

In a sense, it can be said that there is a typical month in the life of a CPA.

Tax Season Happens Twice a Year, Disrupting the Comfortable Monthly Accounting Cycle

The first wave of activity comes from February 15 to April 15. The second wave is from August 1 to October 15.

Tax returns for calendar year corporations, usually S-corporations, are due March 15, but they can be extended six months to September 15. Tax returns for individuals and calendar year partnerships are due on April 15, but can also be extended six months to October 15. During the second busy tax season of the year in large accounting firms, everyone pitches in to work on tax returns during September and October.

An accountant’s day can also change in a moment, like if a client requests an audit which requires fast turnaround. Depending on the area of specialization, the typical work day of an accountant can look quite different. Many CPAs are self-employed, which offers flexibility and additional opportunity along with added responsibility.


While a typical day for a certified public accountant varies by job title, work environment, and client list, CPAs are dedicated to producing thorough audits, accurate tax returns, and detailed financial management. If you are looking for steady employment and stimulating, varied work, perhaps accounting is for you. For information on online accounting degrees, check out 10 Best Online Accounting Schools.

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