What does a Accountant do?

Median Pay $69,350
Growth Rate 10%
Citation Retrieved from BLS.gov

Accountants have a very important place in the finance and business industries. They examine the financial records of a business, ensure the accuracy of those records, and then prepare financial reports to leadership regarding the companies profits and losses. They would also ensure taxes are paid and sent in on time.

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How to Become an Accountant

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

To become an accountant, many earn a bachelor’s degree in business, accounting or a related field. This can be completed at a state college or university. According to O*NET OnLine, though not all accountants have earned a bachelor’s degree, a little over 40% have.

Step 2: Pass The CPA Exam

In order to become a certified accountant, you can earn a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certification by passing an exam administered by the jurisdiction’s Board of Accountancy.

Step 3: Specialize

Some accountants choose to become certified or specialize in a focused area of accounting. Though this is voluntary, a specialization can earn you a competitive edge over other applicants. Other certifications that an accountant can earn are the Personal Finance Specialist certification, Accredited in Business Valuation certification, or a Certified Information Technology Professional certification.

Job Description of an Accountant


Accountants and auditors ensure that companies or organizations are efficiently operating. They do this by accessing financial records of their clients. Duties include analyzing data, finance reports, budgets, tax returns, and accounting records. An accountant reports findings to management regarding finances and sometimes may make suggestions to become more financially efficient or stable.

An accountant may analyze government agency records or work for clients in areas such as compensation, data processing, health care benefits or even estate planning for taxes. Accountants and auditors may prepare reports for budgeting costs to actual costs for a company or organization. An accountants working hours vary depending on the season. For instance, the end of a fiscal year or tax time at the end of the year would require longer hours than other times, but one should expect this to be at least a 40 hour work week.

Accountant Job Posting

Let’s look at an actual accountant job description posted by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, Veterans Benefits Administration. This job announcement lists a salary range of $61,218 to $79,586 per year for an accountant to perform the following tasks:

  • Oversees all accounting functions.This includes operation and augmentation of the comprehensive accounting system for the various, complex, inter-related programs of the DVA.
  • Oversees budgetary accounting and, as required, exercises authority to commit the station to fiscal and accounting administrative actions involving the RO’s funds and accounts.
  • Assists in preparing and maintaining financial budgets, enforces compliance with good accounting principles and maintenance of all series of accounting records.
  • Conducts internal audits and test audits to verify the validity and accuracy of accounting records and reports.Responsible for establishing and monitoring a system of internal controls to prevent over-obligation of funds, omission of obligation, or obligation of funds at a rate that would cause untimely exhaustion of station funds and violate the provisions of the Anti-Deficiency Act.
  • Reports to management any omission or misstatement of obligations that may be considered delinquent obligations or any apparent statutory violations.
  • Develops and implements electronic applications and spreadsheets within the division and the RO; and prepares SAOs, internal control reviews and other division reports.
  • Analyzes pertinent accounts, furnishes information for management that may provide the basis for establishing RO policies or corrective action with respect to rates of expenditures and determination of charges to be made for services furnished; and provides analytical and organizational expertise for all division activities, including financial, budgetary and administrative.
  • Serves as either primary or alternate liaison with ALAC and serves as ALAC POC within the RO, Liaisons with staff in the Finance section, division supervision and management, as well as other RO managers and supervisors, Liaisons with Treasury Regional Disbursing Office, IT Centers in Austin, Philadelphia and/or Hines; Treasury Disbursing Centers, Federal Reserve Bank, GAO and VACO.
  • Receives, analyzes and interprets regulatory, fiscal, and accounting directives issued by VACO, the Comptroller General, Treasury, OMB, etc.
  • Performs other duties, as assigned.

The job posting ran from 12/07/2018 until 12/28/2018 on USAjobs.gov.

Free Teacher and Student Resources

The University of Maryland offers a free Financial Accounting course on EdX.org (opens in a new tab) with the option to pay a small fee receive a verified certificate upon completion of the course.

By taking this course, you’ll learn:

  • The impact of financial transactions on financial statements
  • How to read and prepare balance sheets, income and cash flow statements
  • How to use financial statements to understand the profitability and financial health of your organization
  • How to choose between equity and debt to finance the growth of your firm

Related Careers to Research:

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Accountant Career Video Transcript

What’s the difference between an accountant and an auditor? Basically, accountants keep track of an organization’s money, and auditors check their work. But there’s much more to the work than simply balancing the books. These financial professionals make sure the organization’s finances operate properly. They are involved in analyzing financial information and records, and preparing reports related to budgeting, cost control, employee compensation, new product development, and of course calculating taxes. If money’s involved, accountants and auditors are too. In fact, so many areas need accounting and auditing services that many professionals opt to specialize. Some become tax specialists. Others become employee benefits experts. While still others concentrate on preparing the income statements and balance sheets every publicly-held corporation must file.

Auditors and accountants work in a wide range of industries from accounting companies to hospitals, insurance firms to manufacturing. To take full advantage of the many opportunities for accountants and auditors, you need to have at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting. To become a “Certified Public Accountant” or “CPA,” in many states you will need 150 hours of college coursework to qualify to take the state licensing exam. And, as long as there is money to spend, accountants and auditors will be needed to make sure it’s accurately recorded.

Article Citations

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Accountants and Auditors.

National Center for O*NET Development. 13-2011.01. O*NET OnLine.

The video is Public Domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.