Accountants manage the finances of clients that range from large corporations to governmental bodies and small businesses to individuals. Their work involves preparing and checking financial statements and records, assessing the financial implications of business decisions, preparing company accounts, filing tax returns and providing financial advice.
Duties and responsibilities
- Examine financial statements and ensure their accuracy and compliance with laws and regulations
- Organise and maintain financial records
- Resolve accounting discrepancies
- Administer payrolls and control income and expenditure
- Develop, forecast and check budgets
- Compile and present reports, budgets, business plans, commentaries and financial statements
- Advise management on financial aspects of business such as budgets, tax and cashflows
- Represent and support clients during litigation involving financial issues
- Assess financial operations and suggest ways to reduce costs, enhance revenues and improve profits
Skills and knowledge
AVERAGE WORKING HOURS
Long hours during tax season
Most accountants work in an office, although some work from home either as freelancers or as salaried employees. They may occasionally be required to travel to their clients’ place of business, while their work can be stressful, particularly at the end of the financial year when they are expected to work late or at weekends.
Annual salary estimates are based on percentile wage data collected through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey of US workers.
Bachelor’s degree in accounting or related field
Most accounting positions require a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field, although this is not always the case. Still, it can improve your job prospects significantly, especially when looking for employment at one of the Big Four accounting firms. That said, some employers prefer to hire applicants with a master’s degree.
Certification is not necessary unless you will be filing reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). In this case, you are legally required to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) through your state’s Board of Accountancy. This involves successfully passing the four-part Universal CPA Examination, for which many employers will cover the costs involved.
Accountants often begin their careers as accounting clerks. With experience, they can move up the ranks in the companies they work for, often to senior management or finance director positions. Others progress to setting up their own practices.
They can also choose to specialise in a particular area of accounting, such as risk assessment, tax, assurance and forensic accountancy, through additional training.