What exactly do Accountants and Auditors do?
Generally, Accountants and Auditors evaluate all financial operations within an organization or business, preparing financial records that are authentic and compliant with set regulations/laws. They calculate taxes owed and see to it that they are paid on time, and analyze accounting systems and account books to establish whether the procedures used are the acceptable kind. Further, an accountant/auditor is mandated to review financial statements of a company and then suggest practices that will help the company increase revenue, cut down on costs and boost its profits. They are also required to present written reports, explaining their findings to clients and/or management if they are working within an organization.
Types of Accountants and Auditors
• Public Accountants: they can work for individuals, governments, businesses, and corporations, handling consultations, auditing, accounting or tax matters.
• Government Accountants: they are tasked with maintaining financial records of government agencies as well as auditing private entities that are taxed and regulated by the government.
• Management Accountants: they create financial reports for organizations and prepare budgets that the organizations will work with when doing business.
• Internal Auditors: they are tasked with finding whether there are irregularities in the managements of funds within an organization. They come up with ways to discover and prevent fraud.
• External Auditors: they are hired by authorities or investors to check for misappropriation of funds in an organization. They review the financial statements of the organization to see whether they have been rightly recorded and reported.
• Information Technology Auditors: these are internal auditors who oversee computer system’s controls of an organization to ensure reliability and accuracy of the financial data within the system.
Steps to becoming an Accountant
Accounting Licensures, Certifications, and Registrations
Seeking certification in accounting and auditing shows just how professionally competent and prepared an individual is. Below are some of the available certifications:
i. CPA (Certified Public Accountant): Nearly all states require for CPAs to have completed a college coursework of least 150 semester hours. They must pass the AICPA national examination before earning their licensure which is granted by the Board of Accountancy in every state.
ii. Certified Management Accountant (CMA): it’s granted by the Institute of Management Accountants to degree holders who have at least 2 years’ experience working in management accounting or financial management.
iii. Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA): offered by the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA), this certification is given to professionals who have at least 3 years’ experience working in information systems control, security and auditing.
iv. Certified Internal Auditor (CIA): issued by the Institute of Internal Auditors to college graduates who have at least 2 years’ experience as internal auditors. Their area of expertise includes Information Technology and Risk Management.
v. Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA): this certification is important to managers of funds, equity analysts, asset managers and security analysts working in the investment sector. It’s issued by the CFA Institute.
vi. Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA): it is intended for CPAs and finance professionals working for the government, organizations and businesses. This certification is recognized globally.
Important Skills for an Accountant / Auditor
• Analytical Skills: these skills will help an accountant or auditor do their job thoroughly. They can be able to review reports or information and detect misuse of funds as well as suggest best-practices that will grow the business.
• Good Interpersonal / Communication skills: accountants and auditors are required to discuss their findings during meetings with management and clients. For this reason, they require good listening and communication skills.
• Must be Detail Oriented: any accountant will require a good eye when examining documents. By being keen on their job, they are able to compile reports as is required of their profession and by law.
• Math Skills: by having good math skills, they can scrutinize and interpret facts and figures.
• Organizational Skills: this will help them prepare and maintain financial records/documentation for each of their clients.
Accountant Career Compared with Similar Occupations
Career Paths with a Degree in Accounting
Accountants are indispensable to every kind of business that exists. Accountants’ main work can be generalized into preparation and checking of financial documents of a company such as financial statements, budgetary records, and taxes. A job description may entail tasks such as fraud auditing, reporting to shareholders and meeting the state’s financial regulations.
Accounting is a great and rewarding career. It is a career that opens door to a lot of choices in terms of the working environment. Accounting is also a financially rewarding career with most jobs paying above average salaries. Moreover, it is easy to advance into higher degrees and professional specialization with an accounting education.
To be a great accountant, you need to have an interest in the financial aspects of a company and be able to enjoy working with others. Knowledge of computer and Microsoft office is a requirement for this job.
Some career paths in accounting require a specific level of education. The most common education levels are; an associate’s, a bachelor’s, masters and doctorate degrees in accounting. The higher the education level, the more the opportunities are available. Acquisition of professional accreditations such as CPA and unique skills leads to more demand for your services and great financial rewards.
Career paths associated with associate’s degree in accounting
An associate’s degree is the basic education level that can earn you a chance in accounting. However, this degree offers limited opportunities. Although you may get an opportunity in any of the careers listed below with years of experience, it is becoming increasing difficult for associate degree holders. Most employers prefer those with at least a bachelor’s degree for middle level and senious positions. It is advisable to take an associate’s degree as a starting point with the aim of advancing your education to a bachelor’s degree. Career paths that you can follow with an associate’s accounting degree include the following.
1. Office Manager
Office managers attend to various tasks within an office. They maintain financial records, organize the office, prepare budgets, purchase needed supplies and provide information to clients and other workers. Office managers liaise with staffs to ensure that projects are running smoothly and they communicate this to the top management. Essential skills for an office manager include; office administration, Microsoft office, accounts payable, office management, accounts receivable, communication skills and ability to work under stress.
Accountants are responsible for evaluating the financial position of the company. They prepare documents that reflect the financial activities of a company by analyzing financial data and interpreting it. They also maintain the general ledger, perform internal audits, manage budgets, issue payrolls and file taxes. An accountant must be well versed with software such as QuickBooks and Microsoft office. This position is, however, more open to persons with a Bachelor’s degree.
3. Assistant Controller
An Assistant Controller is generally tasked with maintaining the integrity of the financial data of a company. This means that they ensure the data is accurate and that all financial regulations are adhered to. Assistant Controllers are responsible for conducting internal audits. This career path requires one to have industry-specific experience for them to prepare statements that are in line with the industry regulation. The median annual salary of for this job is quite high due to the high experience that assistant controllers are required to have.
4. Financial Controller
A financial controller’s main work is to manage all departments within an organization that is related to finance. On top of producing critical financial reports, financial controllers are required to determine the current and future financial performance of the organization. They are also charged with submitting the necessary paperwork to government regulatory bodies. Financial controllers handle complex financial aspects and as such, they must have great financial experience.
5. Staff Accountant
Staff accountants are responsible for preparation of financial statements and performing audits. They assist the financial controllers of a company and ensure that the necessary financial regulations are followed. A staff accountant should be able to sit for long hours since the job entail working on a computer most of the time.
6. Accounting Manager
An accounting manager is responsible for developing and implementing policies, procedures, and systems that are used in the various processes of obtaining accurate financial information. They manage activities related to accounts department. Accounting managers have a role in staffing of persons related to their departments. They also keep track of the financial status of the company by preparing and analyzing reports.
Bookkeeping clerks are in charge of the records or books of a company. They update the accounting records by compiling and computing various financial information. They calculate expenditures, prepare invoices, attend to payroll issues, oversee overdue accounts and make payments to banks. Communication skills, MS-Excel, QuickBooks and payroll administration are some of the basic skills that are required for this job description.
Bachelor’s degree in accounting career paths
A bachelor’s degree in accounting offers one more opportunities than an associate’s degree. This course requires about 120 credit hours and can land one in any of the following career paths.
Most companies require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree for a person to apply for the position of an accountant. An accountant prepares, analyzes and interprets financial records of a company. At times, they are required to give a forecast of the financial situation of the business. Skills that accompany this job include financial analysis, general ledger accounting, financial reporting and budget management. An accountant’s median salary is $47,936. The salary increases significantly for about 5 to 10 years before stagnating.
2. Staff Accountant
Staff accountant opportunities are more open to people with at least a bachelor’s degree. Staff accountants ensure that protocol and accuracy are followed when preparing financial statements. They also work in controllers departments in an assistant capacity. This career requires one to spend many hours before a computer. Skills such as Microsoft Excel, accounts receivable, accounts payable and financial reporting are required. Most people advance their career from being a staff accountant after a number of years.
3. Senior Accountant
Senior accountants are responsible for maintaining financial organization in a company. Organization and talent in mathematics are essential in this career as they determine the accuracy of financial information. Senior accountants manage other accountants and as such, leadership skills are required. This job title is often advertised for persons with a master’s degree; however, one can acquire a bachelor’s degree and advance to this title with enough experience.
4. Financial Controller
Financial controller is a prestigious career path that requires one to have a bachelor’s degree or a master’s in financial accounting. Otherwise, at least 10 years experience in a top accounting position is required to fill this position. Financial controllers manage all the departments within an organization that is related to finance. They also handle financial reports and make a forecast of the company’s financial situation in the future. They hand over important documents to the state and federal agencies.
5. Corporate Controller
A corporate controller is in charge of the finance and accounts department of a company. They oversee the activities of these departments in a managerial capacity. They also file reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission. At times, a corporate controller is the Chief Financial Officer of a company. Skills such as senior financial management, forecasting, budget management and financial analysis are required for this position. This figure is attributed to the high experience that most corporate positions demand.
6. Accounting Manager
Normally, an account manager is required to have a bachelor’s or master’s degree. An accounting manager has various tasks that range from hiring staff to monitoring the financial status of the company, updating procedures to avoid legal misfits and improving the financial model of a company by participating in educative ventures. They also participate in limited accounting activities such as preparation of financial statements such annual budgets and correcting mistakes in the budget.
7. Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
Certified Public Accountants can work for various employers such as corporations, governments, and individual persons. CPAs tasks include analysis of financial data and the creation of financial statements. At times, they conduct audits. CPAs also handle taxes and they are particularly in demand from January to April the annual tax season. Essential skills required for this job include; tax compliance, finance reporting, tax consulting, tax preparation and auditing.
Careers associated with a master’s degree in accounting (MAcc)
Senior positions in any field of accounting require a person to have a master’s degree. Most people continue their education to this level in order to be in a better demand and for specialization in the field of one’s interest. The salary of a person with a master’s degree is mostly on the high end of the normal pay range. One can pursue any of the following career paths with a MAcc.
1. Senior Accountant
Senior Accountants are the head of accounting department of a company. As discussed under a bachelor’s degree, senior accountants are charged with maintaining the financial organization of a company. Accuracy is a trait that they must have so as not to miss any important figures. Being a senior accountant means being in charge of the other accountants in a company.
2. Staff Accountant
The job description of a staff accountant with MAcc is similar to that of a person with a bachelor’s degree. This includes ensuring that the necessary financial regulations are adhered to, the general ledger is maintained and that the records of financial activities of the company are well maintained. Knowledge of software used in accounting is necessary for staff accountants.
Calculating figures concerned with the finances of a company is the main work of an accountant. They do this in order to create or maintain financial documents that reflect cash flow, budgets, billing activities, balance sheets and payrolls among others. Accountants need to be self-motivated and collaborative. People with a bachelor’s degree or Certified Public Accountants are the most common requirements for this job.
4. Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
Certified Public Accountants are tasked with work related to taxes, accounting and sometimes auditing. CPAs work on financial information presented to them in order to create financial documents or reports. Their scope of work requires them to be updated on government regulations. CPAs are required to be accredited by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
5. Accounting Manager
An accounting manager is mostly required to have a bachelor’s degree with experience or a master’s degree. The job description is quite similar on both levels. They are responsible for creating and implementing new procedures for accounting activities, staffing, monitoring the financial status and advising the company on means of avoiding legal suits. They give assistance and oversee various accounting activities such as auditing and budgeting.
6. Financial Controller
A financial controller is also known as a comptroller. This position though stated under associates and bachelor’s degree requires someone to have a master’s degree. Certifications such as certified financial manager, CPAs, and certified management accountant are helpful when aiming for this position with a lower education level. A comptroller is the head of all financial departments within a company. They communicate financial knowledge to top executives and submit important documents to regulatory agencies.
7. Financial Analyst
Financial analysts’ main responsibility is to ensure that the company makes wise investments. They study the market, economic factors, and demographics in order to offer sound investment advice. They study the company’s current investments and advice on expansion or termination of a venture. Financial analysts protect the wealth of the company and provide financial forecast by studying financial statements.
Career paths associated with a Doctorate degree in accounting
A doctorate degree in accounting is the highest education level. This level of education offers specialization and acquisition of higher skills or knowledge.
The general skills required for the role of a teacher or researcher with a PhD include; accounting, grant writing, statistical analysis, clinical research, research analysis, molecular biology, communication, curriculum planning and project management. The following are some of the common career paths one can take with a PhD in accounting.
1. Assistant Professor, Post Secondary or Higher Education
An assistant professor has two main roles that include teaching and research. As a teacher, an assistant professor is in charge of teaching course work that is related to their postgraduate field. They also act as mentors to students. Research and contribution to the curriculum of the institution is the second requirement. A person can only obtain tenure once they are successful in both roles.
2. Associate Professor, Post-secondary or Higher Education
An associate professor is also tasked with teaching and conducting research. As educators, they develop curriculum, implement it and teach units related to their fields. Associates professors also conduct research and publish their findings. They are expected to know new developments in their field and participate in learning opportunities. They too must be successful in both areas in order to achieve tenure and become full professors.
3. Professor, Higher education
A professor’s main work is to guide students in their studies, research and lab work. They develop Curriculum and deliver lectures to students. Professors examine students and grade their dissertations. A professor is also expected to conduct research, publish findings and keep up with current developments in their field. Skills needed by a professor include curriculum planning, research analysis, public speaking and people management.