An accountant is an essential part of any business or organization that conducts financial transactions. Many people also hire accountants to manage their money. Accounting academic preparation includes courses in auditing, financial accounting, and taxation. Most accounting education eventually leads to professional certification from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (CPAs).
Accountants are in charge of creating and maintaining financial records. They help verify that clients comply with government regulatory standards for taxes, reporting, and other legal requirements. Performing these activities properly enables organizations to operate cost-effectively while adhering to government tax and compliance regulations.
Busy businesses manage several revenue streams and undertake hundreds of thousands of transactions as part of their typical business operations. Accountants provide financial accounts, handle tax responsibilities, audit books and systems for legal compliance and cost-effectiveness, and organize reporting systems. All of these responsibilities must be communicated to management, and accountants are required to suggest cost-cutting options for the business in question.
Undergraduate accounting degree programs frequently require students to take courses such as:
- Governmental Accounting
- Accounting for Not-for-Profits
- Forensic Accounting
- Federal Taxation I & II
- Managerial Accounting
- International Accounting
- Accounting Software
Graduate accounting courses often cover the following topics:
- Financial Statement Analysis
- Advanced Forensic Accounting
- Entrepreneurship Law
- Tax Research Methodology
- Issues in Reporting
- Accounting Information Systems
- Business Mergers and Acquisitions
According to the Securities and Exchange Commission, any accountant who files tax returns in the United States must be a certified public accountant or CPA. Before a prospective CPA can sit for the certification exam, most states demand a bachelor’s degree and an additional year of education. Many CPAs pursue five-year degree programs that award both bachelor’s and master’s degrees and prepare graduates to sit for the CPA exam. Accounting certificate programs are also available.
An associate degree in accounting is the quickest way to an entry-level career. In some ways, it’s also a low-cost entry point into the field. Once acquired, students can choose whether to continue their accounting education, another degree, or simply a job. An associate degree holder can seek careers in bookkeeping, payroll, and billing. A person with an associate’s degree is more likely to begin as an assistant to a certified accountant.
A standard four-year bachelor’s degree in accounting requires students to spend the first two years of school pursuing general education courses and electives in economics, advanced mathematics, and business law. The core of an accounting program focuses on technical proficiency in auditing, taxation, and financial accounting to prepare graduates for the CPA exam.
At this point, recent bachelor’s degree graduates may continue their program for another year to gain the extra credit hours required for the CPA credential through a master’s in accounting. Some firms engage these graduates in junior positions and allow them to complete their education, while others only hire CPA-certified accountants.
The master’s degree program for accountants could be a five-year program that awards both degrees or a special program that prepares bachelor’s graduates for the CPA exam.
All of the graduate work stated above applies to the doctoral experience. The master’s program, on the other hand, is often designed for individuals who want to pass the CPA exam and then enter the job. In contrast, the Ph.D. in accounting is designed for committed research and education positions.
Most Ph.D. graduates will teach at the university level, work on an academic, accounting-focused publication, or become a senior members of some financial think tank.
Accounting Ideal Candidates
Accountants must first be mathematicians. Aside from the ability to crunch numbers, strong analytical and critical thinking skills enable successful audits and the identification of inefficient business processes. Accountants must also be meticulous, organized, and capable of explaining complex financial concepts to their employers and clients.
Accounting may be the field for you if you are good with numbers and can solve complex problems. Consider looking into the several undergraduate degree programs available; accounting is a degree program that lends itself well to online learning. Young CPA groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, and many professional organizations, such as the American Institute of CPAs, provide tools for prospective accountants.
Pathways to a Career
Accountants with CPA certification have numerous career options. Most CPAs work in one of four fields: public accounting, management accounting, government accounting, or auditing.
The most visible CPAs are public accountants. Individuals, corporations, and government bodies may be among their clients. A public accountant must guarantee that all legal obligations are met for these clients. These include tax form creation and payment, financial information reporting and disclosure, and internal audits of financial operations. Public accountants typically work as lone practitioners or collaborate with other public accountants.
Management accountants work for a specific company. Budgeting, financial document creation, strategic planning, cost-efficiency analysis, and asset management are all responsibilities of management accountants. Management accountants frequently report to upper management.
Accountants in government work for local, municipal, or state governments. Many statutory rules must be followed in the accounting industry, including tax payment and reporting compliance. Government accountants audit the entities subject to their employers’ laws to ensure that the government revenue stream is managed legally and efficiently.
Internal auditors normally work for a company, but they can also act as consultants. They examine the organization’s financial operations to detect fraud or inefficiency. Internal auditors can assist a company in avoiding large fines and penalties for noncompliance with government requirements.
Accounting is a rising discipline due to increased federal legislation on various elements of taxation, reporting, and legal compliance. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 16% increase in new accounting positions through 2020.
CPAs can choose which industry appeals to them the most. CPA abilities are prized in public accounting companies, corporations, non-profit organizations, and government regulatory bodies. A CPA’s normal career path begins with an associate position. Promotions to senior associates may occur with time and good achievement. Accountants’ career paths eventually lead to senior management and Corporate Financial Officer (CFO) positions.