Career Q & A: What Exactly Does An Accountant Do?

An accountant has one of the most secure jobs across many industries even during recession. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook (2008-09) of the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the employment rate of accountants and auditors is predicted to increase by 18 percent from 2006 to 2016. It is a faster growth rate when compared to other professions. This makes one think: what does an accountant do that they are given such importance?


what does an accountant do


What does an accountant do?

The work of an accountant is very broad and greatly differs depending on his or her career option and the particular position being handled. Generally, accountants are involved in recording, analyzing and reporting financial transactions of a business or organization.


How much is the average salary of accountants?

As of 2011, the average annual salary of accountants is more than $62,000 where 10 percent receive around $110,000 and the lowest are paid around $40,000, based on data provided by the Labor Department. Many of the highest paid accountants are working in San Jose, Nassau and the New York metropolitan areas.


What are the educational requirements to be an accountant?

To get a job in the accounting field, you must at least have an associate degree. You can get this degree in at least two years and it entitles you to apply for an entry level position in accounting. If you like more career options, you should go for a bachelor’s degree. A bachelor’s degree is also required if you later plan to take up a master’s or doctorate degree in accounting.


What are the career options for an accountant?

There are many career options for accountants which can be grouped into four general categories:

  • Public accountants – Public accounting is the broadest category in the accounting profession. If you choose to be a public accountant, you can be a bookkeeper, tax advisor, auditor, consultant or forensic accountant (an accountant who investigates financial crimes such as fraud).


  • Management accountants – If you like to work for a specific company and be directly involved with its financial planning, budgeting, expenditures and management, you would aspire to be a management accountant.


  • Government accountants – Government accountants work for government agencies or government- owned or controlled businesses.


  • Internal Auditors – Internal auditors are accountants who analyze the business activities of companies to detect internal inefficiencies in accounting controls as well as detect criminal activities such as fraud, embezzlement and others. They also provide recommendations on how to improve the accounting system of a company.



What are the best accounting jobs?

The website lists some of the best accounting jobs based on compensation and demand for the job:

  • Actuary – Actuaries are accountants who are also knowledgeable in finance and statistics and normally work in the insurance industry. The employment rate for actuaries is expected to have a growth rate of about 24 percent by 2016. Their average annual salary is around $82,000 with the top 10 percent earning more than $140,000.


  • Budget analyst – Budget analysts are involved in budgeting for companies, with the goal of improving efficiency in spending and increasing profits. There is a predicted growth of 7 percent for this job through 2016. Their average yearly earning is more than $61,000.


  • Financial manager – Financial management generally involves preparation of financial reports for companies. The employment growth rate for this job is about 13 percent by 2016 with an average annual salary of more than $90,000.


  • Financial analyst – Financial analysts have the strongest expected growth rate of 41 percent through 2016 and with average annual earnings of more than $66,000.



Are there any accounting certifications for career advancement?

There are two general certifications for career advancement in accounting. One is CPA certification which is normally taken by public accountants. The other is CMA certification which is normally taken by management or government accountants. The requirements to take these certifications vary depending on the state where they are administered.

A survey conducted by the Institute of Management Accountants reveals that the average annual salary of accountants with certification is more than $102,000, while that of those with no certification is just around $80,000.


Are there graduate school options for accountants?

Enrolling in graduate school courses can help accountants in their career advancement. There are two general paths which accountants may take in graduate school: Masters in Business Accounting (MBA) and Masters in Accounting (MAcc). MBA is for accountants who are interested to increase their knowledge in business, while MAcc is for accountants who are interested to advance their knowledge in accounting principles.

You will need an MBA degree if you desire a top position in Fortune’s 500 companies. MAcc is required if you want to get other accounting certifications.


In conclusion

As for the question, what does an accountant do? The answer is it depends on the type of occupation he or she does and career enhancement certification he or she has. But one thing is for sure, accountants are among the best-paid workers in many industries.

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