Accounting jobs are poised to undergo significant growth in the coming decade. Both large and small businesses depend on accountants and auditors to keep track of expenses and fine-tune budgets. Also, businesses especially turn to these workers to prepare tax returns. What’s more, businesses need accountants to interpret new accounting legislation, which directly arose in response to Enron and other accounting scandals.
Despite their different names, accountants and auditors generally share the same job responsibilities. First of all, they input company expenses and returns on a daily basis. They also examine monthly expense accounts, staying attuned to any operations that are costing the company too much money. Furthermore, during tax season, they fill out state and federal tax returns. They also consult with other managers on company expenses and outline new cost-cutting budget plans.
However, only in small businesses are accounting jobs referred to as simply “accountants” or “auditors.” Larger businesses usually employ various subcategories of auditor and accounting jobs. Firstly, they employ public accountants who work with company databases to audit company expenses. Public accountants also consult with corporate managers on budget plans, and may recommend budget cuts in the form of employee lay-offs. Most public accountants are Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), and a good number of them concentrate on corporate tax returns. If they do specialize in tax accounting, they advise company managers on how certain financial decisions may influence their tax returns. Additional duties of public accountants include developing benefits packages, such as retirement plans and insurance programs. In this case, they may be known as payroll accountants.
Other accountants include management or cost accountants. These accountants present regular financial reports to leading company managers, so these managers can be well-informed before making important decisions. Because these accountants focus on the cost of operations, they advise management on the budget cuts that may best benefit the company without sacrificing the company’s efficacy. As such, they often do performance evaluation on company operations. For instance, an industrial cost manager may observe a company’s manufacturing operations and prepare a report highlighting which operations are wasteful. These accountants usually work side-by-side with project and operations managers for large corporations, keeping these managers informed on their financial situations.
Other types of accounting jobs include federal accounting jobs. These accountants may be Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents. The federal government also hires accountants to develop budgets for various government departments and agencies. Nevertheless, even local governments employ accountants to create local budgets and manage governmental assets. These accountants, moreover, are fully aware of government regulations concerning accounting. Therefore, they make sure every individual and company within their government’s jurisdiction sends regular tax returns. If they notice any non-participating party, or a party that has provided suspicious financial information, they visit that party’s home or office to do auditing.
The final major type of accountant is an internal-control auditor, also called a forensic accountant. This is the most recent type of accountant because it arose in response to corporate accounting scandals, such as money-laundering operations. Forensic accountants monitor and implement the internal controls of accounting software used by their company. They advise management on financial transactions that may potentially constitute infractions of state and federal accounting laws. Therefore, they are knowledgeable about both accounting software and government regulations.
Besides security, internal-control auditors also perform waste control by “cleaning up” their company’s database system. Like management accountants, they pay close attention to company operations and pinpoint jobs or expenses that are overloading the budget. When reviewing operations, they also monitor compliance with state laws, federal laws, and corporate policies. Because these accountants take on so many different roles, they may also be called information technology auditors or compliance auditors.
All auditor and accountant jobs require deep familiarity with accounting software. This software has now completely replaced ledgers as record-keeping “books.” Accountants are generally most familiar with Microsoft Excel and Intuit QuickBooks. When working with this software, accountants enable internal controls and perform accounting analysis. They refer to this software whenever they prepare reports for management or government authorities.
All profitable accountant jobs require the CPA licensure. This licensure is conferred by each state’s board of accountancy, though the CPA examination itself is uniform and computer-based. This licensure requires a bachelor’s degree in accounting, with each state usually specifying about 150 total semester hours split between accounting and business courses. Some states also require accounting experience, which students can easily fulfill through internships or summer accounting jobs.
Without taking the CPA exam, accountants and auditors will find it hard to advance in their jobs. In fact, any accountant that files a report to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is required to have a CPA. The CPA exam tests knowledge of Generally Accepted Accounting Procedures (GAAP), business administration, tax accounting, federal regulation, accounting analysis, asset management, and so forth. The CPA exam takes a total of 14 hours to complete, with each of its four parts taking 4.5 hours to complete. This exam is so comprehensive that only half of its takers pass it per year. Once they have passed their CPA, accountants are legally bound to renew it at state-mandated internals. Accountants usually renew their CPA by attending professional-association courses.
As long as the economy continues to grow, accountants and auditors will have little trouble locating accounting job listings. In order to stay competitive, they must keep up-to-date on accounting legislation so they can provide sound guidance to the managers that hire them. They may also want to gain a master’s degree in accounting or business administration, and get as much certification as possible from accounting associations. Furthermore, they should hone their internal-controls skills so they can spot potential errors before they inflate into full-blown accounting scandals.