I just read the letter, "A Replacement for CPE" ( JofA , Mar.99, page 84), and was a little surprised.
In the past, an accountant's role was more limited, and an understanding of all facets of accounting was probably obtainable. However, in today's world, it's hard to believe that someone, especially an individual involved with the accounting profession, could think that any accountant could study all changes as they occur and still have time to practice a pr ofession. Just as the world of medicine has grown so that there are many specialty areas, so has accounting.
The accounting industry needs to allow the public to acknowledge that not all accountants, CPAs or otherwise, are versed in all realms of accounting—they're not all interested in the same issues.
A CPA friend, with a master's in taxation, will not do personal income taxes; instead, he concentrates on corporate, sales and property taxes. I also have friends who are specialists in leases. I'm sure the letter writer has friends who would have great difficulty forcing themselves to study other accounting areas that have little or no impact on their individual practices.
Let's get real and rethink the process. The CPA exam could be the foot in the door. Other tests later would allow additional letters to be added to the CPA designation, such as TS for tax specialist or IMS for international management specialist.
The public needs to be reeducated to ask what a CPA specializes in instead of relying on those three letters.