A: Many people don’t know if they need the services of a CPA because they’re not sure how a CPA, a bookkeeper, and a secretary or clerical staffer differ.

Here’s what you need to know:

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

CPAs are highly trained and licensed professionals. Only those who 1) possess an Accounting degree, 2) have passed a rigorous three-day licensing exam, 3) have worked the required period of time in the profession, and 4) continue education and training annually may call themselves CPAs. CPAs offer much more than just bookkeeping and income tax knowledge – they can help business executives analyze and evaluate business operations to assure that goals are met on time and within budget.

Bookkeeper

Bookkeepers are trained in accounting theory and know how to properly classify items in an accounting system. Often bookkeepers serve as scorekeepers, meaning they can capture historical information, but do not examine business operations in a proactive manner.

Secretary or Clerical Staffer

Secretaries and clerical staff generally serve in a data entry function. They often don’t know how to classify information they are given to enter, don’t understand the relationship between classifications, and don’t know what to do with information once it is entered.