An accountant is an important career field in finance and business. Accountants prepare taxes, examine financial records for accuracy, and prepare financial reports for individuals and businesses. They track a company’s profits and losses and ensures their clients comply with tax laws and regulations.
Watch a video to learn what an accountant does:
How to Become an Accountant
Time needed: 2 minutes.
Take two minutes to review these steps to learn how to become an accountant.
- Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting
Though you may think all accountants have a bachelor’s degree in accounting, a degree is not mandatory. In fact, O*Net OnLine reports a little over 40% of accountants have earned a bachelor’s degree. The rest of the accountants surveyed had earned an associate’s degree or have taken some college courses. Given that over 40% of people in this career field have earned a bachelor’s degree, we’re listing a bachelor’s degree in accounting as step one so you can be competitive in the job market.
- Become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
To become a licensed certified accountant, you must earn a CPA certification. Accountants who earn the title of CPA have met education and experience standards and they passed the CPA exam. Not all accountants become a CPA. Others gain experience as an accountant while working toward their education and experience requirements and then study to pass the CPA exam. Though the requirements to become a CPA vary by state, the CPA exam is the same for everyone. Learn more about a career in accounting and the CPA exam on the American Institute of CPAs website.
- Gain additional certifications in accounting
Accountants can choose to become certified in a focused area of accounting. Though this is voluntary, a specialization can earn you a competitive edge over other job applicants. Certifications that an accountant can earn to include a Personal Finance Specialist certification, Accredited in Business Valuation certification, Certified Information Technology Professional certification, or a Certified Fraud Examiner. Each specialization may have its own requirements to meet. For instance, to become a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) you must become a member of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, hold a bachelor’s degree or meet experience requirements if you do not have a bachelor’s degree, and then pass the CFE exam.
Job Description of an Accountant
An accountant makes sure a company or organization is efficiently operating by accessing their financial records. Duties include analyzing data, finance reports, budgets, tax returns, and accounting records. They send financial reports to their clients that include current financial status, and future trends. They may also recommend ways for their clients to become more financially stable or advise on ways to take advantage of tax incentives.
Those in this career field, can find plenty of job opportunities as accountants can work for individuals, businesses, and government agencies. If you become an accountant, you can expect to work on a computer most of the day and work in an office setting. Accountants also often work full-time but hours do vary throughout the year, especially during tax season.
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The following accountant job description was posted on USAjob.gov by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. The salary range for this accountant position was listed as $61,218 to $79,586 per year. Applicants should be able to complete these tasks:
- Oversee all accounting functions. This includes the operation and augmentation of the comprehensive accounting system for the various, complex, inter-related programs of the DVA.
- Oversee budgetary accounting and, as required, exercises authority to commit the station to fiscal and accounting administrative actions involving the RO’s funds and accounts.
- Assist in preparing and maintaining financial budgets, enforces compliance with good accounting principles and maintenance of all series of accounting records.
- Conduct 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.
- Report to management any omission or misstatement of obligations that may be considered delinquent obligations or any apparent statutory violations.
- Develop and implements electronic applications and spreadsheets within the division and the RO; and prepares SAOs, internal control reviews and other division reports.
- Analyze 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.
- Serve 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.
- Receive, analyze and interpret regulatory, fiscal, and accounting directives issued by VACO, the Comptroller General, Treasury, OMB, etc.
- Performs other duties, as assigned.
Free Teacher and Student Resources
The University of Maryland offers a free Financial Accounting course on EdX.org. You also have the option to pay a small fee and receive a verified certificate upon completion of the accounting course. This free accounting course covers:
- 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
Benefits of Accounting
Accounting is one of those jobs that do not sound exciting or rewarding, but we want to share some benefits you should consider. After all, you’ve gotten the education and experience, so we are sure you would like to get the rewards it brings. Let’s look at what they are! Accountants have rock-solid stability for employment! No matter the economy, its turns and twists, accountants are always needed! Many like that it constantly changes and offers new challenges. They enjoy meeting new people and keeping the steady clients that have counted on them to keep their finances straight. The public and private clients depend on the accountants.
Accountants benefit from deepening their knowledge of finance themselves. They have noticed that education has helped them manage their budgets, savings, and investments. Understanding their finance is an excellent benefit for their future. Accountants benefit from the time and effort they put into the job and often experience recognition from an employer, such as a raise or promotion. However, when accountants have the experience and clientele, they have the option of going out on their own and beginning a business. Starting a business is always risky, but some accountants like the challenge! The rewards can be amazing!
Accountants like the opportunity to be flexible, like meeting with people outside of the 9-5 hours. They can go to offices, homes, or travel to other places when a corporation requires it. You can do this and make a career that is beneficial to you in many ways!
Article CitationsThe accountant job posting was listed on USAjobs.gov.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Accountants and Auditors.
National Center for O*NET Development. 13-2011.01.
The video is Public Domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.