Becoming an Accountant

Accountants are in the unique position to apply themselves in many different fields. Some work in an office as part of a team, while others use their education to start up their own businesses. In any situation, most accountants earn a BA with an accounting major or even a masters in accounting to learn how to use their math skills to "crunch" numbers so others can understand them. Take a look at the classes below, and consider whether this is the job for you.

Accountant Career Description

Accountants and auditors make sure that a company's or a person's financial records are in order and compliant with the law. This means that they actually offer a scope of financial services to their clients, including budget analysis, fiscal planning and some legal services. They also ensure that taxes are paid properly and on time.

Accountant Career Details

Accountants and auditors meet with those legally responsible to understand the financial implications of the company's work. Increasingly, they advise on a company's financial direction and how it can be improved. Additionally, they discuss options and routes that a business can take to improve its fiscal situation. But the real product produced by accountants and auditors are summarizations of transactions and quarterly or annual tax reports. Accountants and auditors work extensively with large amounts of data to determine exact numbers in regards to a company.

Accountant Career Specializations

Public accountants have the broadest range of duties. They meet with clients-who can be individuals, non-profits, governments or corporations-to dispense tax advice or to prepare income tax returns. They might also offer advice regarding the ways in which a business is run-for instance, discussing different employee health care options. Others certify a company's or an individual's financial records to report that they are in order. 

Management accountants work for a single company and are responsible for budgeting and evaluation of financial resources. They might prepare reports for stockholders and creditors, and interpret financial information for the benefit of executive decisions. 

Government accountants and auditors are entrusted with government records and with those of private businesses which have dealings with the government. Internal auditors are hired by a company to determine how to best save money. They implement systems meant to limit fraud and waste, and formulate policies based on the detailed examination of a company's records.

Accountant Career Working Environment

Accountants and auditors typically work a steady 40-hour week in an office setting. Occasionally, the job may entail traveling to a branch of a company in another city to conduct an audit. Tax specialists may work extra hours during the tax season.

Programs to Consider:

Accountant Career Required Training

A bachelor's degree in accounting is highly recommended for any entry-level position. A master's degree in accounting (or business administration, with an emphasis in accounting) is even more valuable. The federal government requires of its applicants four years of college, including 24 semester hours in accounting or auditing, or the equivalent. 

Professional associations and certifications are especially important in this field. The Certified Professional Accountant (CPA) recognition is required in many states and demands that CPAs complete 150 semester hours of college coursework-30 hours beyond that required for a bachelor's degree. The CPA exam is a two-day test that only a quarter of applicants pass every year.

Accountant Career Coursework

A wide variety of course work is not a necessity in this field-as long as a student emphasizes accounting, auditing and business. Beyond this education, a student should intern at a public accounting or business firm while attending school. A strong basis in computers is also helpful.

Accountant Career Future Job Outlook

Because the CPA certification is so difficult to obtain, and because more states are requiring it, the job outlook for those who hold this title will increasingly improve. Employment in this field will grow at about the same rate as most other careers in the next ten years. However, the availability of accounting software will decrease the need for traditional services. Those who can respond to the market and make solid financial decisions and analyze systems are those who will fare the best in this evolving career.

Accountant Salary

The median annual earnings for accountants and auditors in 2011 was $61,690.

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