Accountant Job Description

Salary: $48,000 – $81,300 Number of Jobs: 1,290,640
Hourly Rate: $23.07 – $39.08 Employment Outlook: Good
Green Job: No Education: Bachelor’s degree

What do Accountants do?

Accountants are responsible for maintaining and analyzing financial records for organizations and individuals.

Every person and business has money coming in and money going out. Accountants keep track of the money, and suggest ways that processes could be improved. Depending on the type and size of the client, the accounting practices required can be very straightforward or very complex.

Because this occupation provides many different challenges, it’s common for accountants to specialize in a particular type of accounting. Here are a few common specializations.

Public Accountants work for accounting firms who offer their services to the public. These accountants perform a wide variety of tasks, including filing tax returns, auditing company financial statements and accounts, producing financial reports, or setting up accounting systems. A CPA is required to practice in this field.

Forensic accountants investigate financial crimes like embezzlement and securities fraud. They are also involved in cases involving bankruptcy, contract disputes, and other types of complex financial transactions. They often work closely with law enforcement, and appear as witnesses in trials.

Internal accountants are employed by an organization to keep their financial records in order. Because they work so closely with the finances of a single organization, they are able to become more familiar with a businesses’ operating and financial procedures than public accountants. This can have positive effects on the organization.

Government accountants are employed by local, state, and federal government agencies. Some manage the accounting for the agency itself, while others audit people or businesses to ensure compliance with tax laws and other regulations.

Management accountants create financial reports for upper management at a business. Their reports normally focus on budgeting, financial performance evaluation, and ways that business costs can be improved.

Work Environment and Schedule

Businesses in every industry need accountants, so there are plenty of opportunities for employment.

Most accountants work full time, but overtime is often required during busy times. For internal accountants, busy times may come on a monthly, quarter, or annual basis. For others (like tax accountants), they come only once per year.

This occupation requires regular contact with clients, so it’s important to develop good customer service skills. Explaining complex accounting practices to those outside of the industry can be challenging, and requires excellent communication.

How to Become an Accountant

A bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field (such as business or economics) is required for most entry level accounting positions, though employers increasingly require a master’s degree in business or accounting. Earning a master’s provides you with the most opportunities for advancement.

To work as a public accountant, you will need to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). However, many other accountants choose to become certified as well, because it builds trust with potential clients and may result in more advancement opportunities.

To become a CPA, you will need to take 150 hours of college coursework (the equivalent of a master’s degree) and pass the Uniform CPA Examination, which is administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

Often times, accounting firms will hire junior accountants to help their certified public accountants. This allows the junior accountants to get hands on experience while training for the CPA exam.

If you’re still in high school and think that you might want to be an accountant, taking as many math classes as possible will help prepare you for college coursework.

Related Occupations

Employment Outlook

There are currently 1,290,640 accountants in the United States, with 49,750 new accountant job openings created each year.

Accountant jobs are not expected to see much growth beyond their current levels in the next decade.

Accountant Salaries

Overall Salaries

Accountant salaries can vary depending on your experience, the location, company, industry, and benefits provided. Nationwide, most accountants make between $48,000 – $81,300 per year, or $23.07 – $39.08 per hour.

Updated: 09/02/2017

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