Accountant jobs come in four main categories, each of which requires a certain level of certification. If a person has an affinity for numbers and likes math as a subject, then becoming an accountant is an excellent career choice. It offers good job security because accountants look after other people’s money whether it’s an individual, government or corporation. As long as money is being accumulated, accountants will be required.
The four main types of entry-level jobs for accountants are:
• Bookkeepers and accounting clerks require a high school diploma and a two–year associate degree in accounting. Some companies will accept a high school graduate and train them to do the accounting work in that company. These jobs are usually available in companies that have several accountants who require assistants. Bookkeepers may handle a wide range of financial responsibilities while an accounting clerk usually has one job such as looking after the accounts payable or receivable or as a payroll clerk.
• Accountants may have a wide range of financial responsibilities depending on the type and size of the company for which they work. Accountants need to have a bachelor’s degree in accounting. Some of the courses required are financial accounting, income tax, consolidations, cost accounting and auditing. They may also need to take courses in business law, computer systems, statistics and economics.
• Certified Public Accountants (CPA) are required to take 150 college credits in certain business and accounting courses before they are allowed to sit for the CPA exam. This differs according to state, so the candidate should check with their state’s board of accountancy to find out the courses required in order to take the CPA exam in that state.
Accountants are often stereotyped in movies and on TV as reclusive people who stare at spread sheets all day. This is far from the truth. Accounting is a blend of problem solving, analysis and detective work, and accountants need to have the people-skills to make clear and concise presentations. Accountants may also provide limited legal advice as well as financial planning and information technology consulting. If a person wants to enter the field of accounting, they can also select their area of specialization.
Management accountants work for a company on a team of accountants. They give the executives the financial information they need to make decisions and prepare financial reports that are sent to shareholders, regulatory agencies, creditors and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Federal, state and local governments employ accountants/auditors to do the bookkeeping for the government agencies and audit businesses and individuals who must conform to government regulations. The IRS employs accountants to audit government agencies to make sure they are meeting their financial objectives.
Public accountants provide financial consulting, tax services and auditing services for governments, corporations, nonprofit organizations and individuals. There are several specializations:
• Certified Public Accounts, as mentioned above, require a CPA license to do particular jobs such as independent auditing. They are mainly employed to do tax returns, but a CPA license is not required to do tax returns.
• Chartered Financial Analysts (CFA) requires much more education for certification. It is broadly considered the equivalent of a master’s degree. The most popular job for a CFA is financial analyst, but this is not an easy job to get. Some employers on Wall Street prefer a CFA charter candidate to an MBA candidate.
• Internal auditors are the detectives who examine the books of organizations and businesses to find inaccuracies, financial mismanagement or fraud taking place in the company. The IRS employs auditors who regularly audit the tax returns of selected citizens.
• Certified Financial Planners (CFP) are at the top of the accounting career food chain. To meet the requirements of the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, candidates must meet education levels as well as pass a rigorous examination, have experience and meet ethics requirements. Candidates in the U.S. may take the exam before they have completed their college education, but they must complete it within five years. To hold this title, they must pay an ongoing certification fee. Some of the main areas in which they work are:
o Insurance planning
o Estate planning
o Securities and investment planning
o Tax planning
o Retirement planning
o Asset protection planning
o Employee benefits planning
When a person is considering becoming an accountant, they need to examine all of the possibilities and select the area that is best suited for their educational goals. Only the CPA is governed by state laws to protect consumers. Accountants can work as an employee and receive a guaranteed salary, or be a private financial consultant. As far as job satisfaction, there is a good chance for upward mobility and the stress level is average. However, for flexibility, being an accountant is above average dispelling the myth that they spend their time in a dark basement adding lists of numbers.
By Andre Bradley