The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that there were 1.2 million accountants and auditors working in the United States in 2010, mostly in big cities where large companies are located. Most accountants work in an office or at home.
The average salary for an accountant in 2008 was $65,840 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But the salary depends on a number of factors, including years of experience, the size of the company, the type of accounting, and highest education and certification achieved.
Being an accountant requires strong organizational skills because you will be working with many different clients, each one requiring the management of multiple financial documents. You need math skills to analyze and interpret the financial data for clients. Although much of the work of an accountant is dealing with finances, you will be spending some time dealing with the clients themselves, which requires good communication skills. This means listening to their needs and then communicating the financial data to them.
Roles and Responsibilities
Accountants ensure that financial statements are accurate and in compliance with the law. They are responsible for organizing all the company’s financial records and dealing with issues relating to taxation. Accountants may also be expected to recommend ways to improve the finances of the business.
There are basically four different specialties in the accounting profession: public accountants, management accountants, internal auditors and government auditors. Public accountants do the accounting and taxes for people and companies outside of their own company. Management accountants are responsible for the finances within their company. Internal auditors make sure the company is in compliance with tax laws and analyzes the company’s internal finances to prevent theft. Government auditors measure the legality of a company’s finances and taxes. They also keep track of government finances in relation to the businesses the government is working with.
There are many opportunities for advancement in the accounting profession. Earning degrees and certification help to start the process of advancement. Accountants can work into positions of supervising, managing, and even partnerships. Accountants can work their way up to the very top of an organization in such roles as chief financial officer, treasurer, and financial vice president.
Certifications and Degrees
If you want to be an accountant, you must start by earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting. Employers also like candidates with a master’s degree in accounting or business administration. A bachelor’s degree is sufficient for entry-level employment, but advancement in the profession requires that you become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). You must pass a national exam and meet state-specific qualifications to become a CPA. Most states require additional coursework in accounting beyond the bachelor’s degree to qualify.
Accountants can obtain additional certification in specialized fields to improve job prospects and pay. The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) has a four-part exam for aspiring auditors. The certification makes you a Certified Internal Auditor. The Institute of Management Accountants has an exam offered to become a Certified Management Accountant. This exam can only be taken by accountants who have at least two years of professional experience in management accounting.