Accountants work for companies and organizations producing accounts and profiles of their financial condition, management, and activities.
The accuracy of accountants’ work is essential for actions and decisions that investors, government officials, managers, and the public make concerning finances.
In the following guide, we will cover information related to duties, education, skills, and certifications required for accountants.
Because of the complexity of laws, methods, and regulations which organizations follow to collect and process information, accountants remain in high demand.
Article Table of Contents
What Does an Accountant Do
Accountants produce and review financial records and information to ensure that individuals and companies manage funds and business properly while following laws.
Public accountants usually provide results for investors and governmental entities.
The duties of accountants include evaluating budgets and preparing them for the future.
They have to ensure the reliability and security of collected information and its processing according to the laws and regulations.
Accountants also provide services to law enforcement organizations and private agencies, investigating the evidence and coming up with options concerning fraud and other financial wrongdoing.
- Prepare income statements, balance sheets, cash flow statements and other financial reports for management, investors, and others who use this information.
- Examine the financial reports so that they are accurate and follow the laws and regulations.
- Prepare tax returns for clients and ensure prompt and proper payments of client’s taxes.
- Audit the company’s records, including checks, ledges, and other financial documents to identify potential mismanagement of the company or its funds, fraud, etc.
- Review the accounting, data collection, and information technology systems of the company for their efficiency and reliability.
- Estimate and calculate the costs of production, sales, and other activities related to accounting.
- Determine and develop methods to reduce expenses.
Accountants deal with numbers at all times every day and should perform multiple calculations and math operations.
Math skills are crucial for the job of an accountant.
Accountants should be able to identify the instances of financial misconduct and mismanagement by finding errors in financial statements, irregularities in receipts, or detecting the absence of the necessary documents.
They should analyze financial data to determine the best methods to reduce costs and recommend other ways of improvement to the organization.
Accountants should present their findings and regulations clearly to clients, management, investors, or government regulators verbally or in written form.
Forensic accountants should deliver their testimonies to juries and judges briefly.
Accountants should also be able to listen to and understand questions, responses to reports, fact scenarios, etc.
Organizational and management:
Accountants must prepare accurate reports and be able to meet deadlines.
They should sort out and prioritize their tasks.
With their organizational skills, accountants can also delegate tasks and ensure that documents and data are well-organized and readily available.
How to Become an Accountant
Accountants need to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in accounting or business administration.
In some positions, a more advanced degree may be required.
A certified public accountant also needs a license issued by the state board.
Depending on the licensing standards you may need some specific education and testing to obtain one.
Training and Qualifications
A minimal educational requirement for accountants is a bachelor’s degree in accounting, business administration with a focus in accounting, or a similar degree.
Many companies seek candidates with a master’s degree.
With the advanced development of computers and cyber-driven data, those with a degree in information technology can build a career as an auditor.
Public accountants are required to be licensed by states.
By law, only Certified Public Accountants can file reports to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
The CPA educational requirements are different in various states.
Typically, a CPA needs to complete 150 hours per semester.
Students can enroll in a five-year program that covers accounting and business administration.
In some states, candidates with experience as public accountants can be eligible to sit for the exam.
CPA candidates should pass a Uniform CPA Examination that combines four parts.
After you complete the first part, the other three should be completed within 18 months.
Upon obtaining the license, a CPA should take a specific number of hours in continuing education every year.
Managerial accountants don’t need any certification or licenses issued by a state board.
Instead, they are certified by the Institute of Management Accountants.
With this certification, you can significantly broaden your job perspectives.
Learn more: What Can You Do with an Accounting Degree?
Students earning a degree can gain some experience through summer internships with CPA firms, businesses, or government agencies.
If you are looking for an entry-level job at an accounting firm or with other employers, you need to have strong academic performance and some experience in a summer internship.
Some employers hire accounting clerks or bookkeepers for entry-level accounting positions.
In this case, you have the opportunity to advance to accounting positions at a higher level.
Accountants typically work full-time.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 20% of accountants worked over 40 hours a week as of 2014.
Overtime can take place in the busy period when the tax return preparation season starts.
It usually happens between late January and April 15th.
At or near the end of a budget year, accountants may also have to work additional hours.
At this time, they deal with the preparation of the year-end financial statements and planning of the next year’s budget.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average salary of accountants stands at $75,280 per year.
These are the statistics collected in May 2015.
The median salary is $67,190, and the top 10% of employees make $118,930.
The highest salary of accountants is offered in the “Securities, Commodity Contracts, and Other Financial Investments and Related Activities” sector with $95,540 per year.
This sector includes firms that offer trading, brokerage, investment advice, underwriting stocks, bonds, futures, and other financial products.
The demand for accountants and auditors will increase because of the economic conditions, technology, and the complexity of tax and other regulations.
For instance, accountants prepare returns with changing and detailed tax regulations for businesses and individuals.
Auditors ensure that lenders comply with tightening underwriting standards while borrowers can demonstrate that they are creditworthy.
Additionally, auditors specializing in information technology will sustain the demand due to the threats of cyber-attacks.
The employment rate should increase by 11% by 2024, according to the BLS.
Accountants are responsible for ensuring compliance with standards and regulations and providing facts and recommendations to businesses, individuals, and government.
Certified public accountants need to obtain a state license.
As for managerial roles, a certification is not legally required but can help get a higher-paying job.
Self-employed accountants will see multiple opportunities and prospects as individuals and organizations face an increasingly complex technical and legal environment.