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Characteristics of a professional accountant.

Characteristics of a Professional Accountant

More than 100,000 independent noncertified practicing accountants are professionals in every sense of the word as they go about in quiet dignity providing competent accounting services at affordable prices to their small business clients. If you want to impress your clients, your colleagues, the state legislators and others with the fact that you are a professional accountant, then the place to start is to project your image as a practitioner of a profession.


A profession has certain characteristics that distinguish it from a trade or vocation. The first of these characteristics is education. For years it has been conceded that education achieved by study and experience is the major characteristic of a profession that distinguishes it from trade or craft. Professional activity is basically intellectual activity. Hence the enthusiasm of professional accountants in pursuit of CPE, whether or not mandated by a regulatory authority.

Qualifications to serve as a professional accountant depend not only on a basic education in the profession, but education that is supplemented by experience and CPE to ensure an acceptable level of current knowledge. Because of the necessity of continuing education, the National Society of Public Accountants offers its members comprehensive and quality education in a variety of formats and opportunities. Seminars that accord the seasoned practitioner an opportunity to exchange information and ideas with other professional colleagues are very significant.


A second characteristic of a profession is examination. Customarily, but not always, admission to the professions has been by examination. Credentials are achieved by examination. The individuals who pass an examination demonstrate a level of competence to render a service to their clients. Consumer and legislative concerns regarding the competency of persons who offer their professional services are satisfied to a great extent when the professional can point out a credential achieved through examination.


A third characteristic of a profession is ethics. The difference between a profession and a trade or craft is the existence of a code of ethics and rules of professional conduct to govern the conduct of those individuals who are engaged in the profession. The code of ethics is the symbol of a profession because it emphasizes service to the client and condemns inappropriate conduct by the professional.

Professional societies, such as the National Society of Public Accountants, impose and enforce recognized standards of ethical conduct. The recognition and obedience to voluntary ethical standards are professional obligations and duties owed by professional accountants to their clients, the government and professional colleagues.

The ideal education of the professional person is not complete without an examination in ethics. Integrity and trust are the by-products of an ethical professional practice. There is no such thing as a lapse in the knowledge of ethical conduct nor any reason why a professional person shall fail to distinguish between what is ethically right or what is morally wrong.


Professionals strive for excellence. A professional seeks to perform a service in a style that few, if any, other professionals can exceed. The professional is rewarded for excellence because the community follows the practitioner whose work merits a superior rating. Clients recognize the value of superior services and are willing to pay a premium for such services. Striving for excellence is nothing more than providing a level of competence that exceeds the standard norm in the profession.

The professional accountant renders competent services to the client with enthusiasm and a genuine interest for the client's well being. The client is the beneficiary of the practitioner's intellectual commitment to the profession. Accordingly, the practitioner has a duty to fulfill that commitment with enthusiasm as well as competency and skill.


You don't become an accountant by simply calling yourself one. Assuming the title (where permitted by state law) doesn't make you an accountant. If you aspire to be a professional accountant you've got to take that extra step into the world of professionalism through education, examination and adherence to the professional ethics and standards of the profession. Practitioners will be rewarded with the tangible and intangible benefits that accrue to a professional accountant.
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Title Annotation:Washington Comment
Author:Sager, William H.
Publication:The National Public Accountant
Article Type:Column
Date:Jan 1, 1992
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