Accountants play a key role in managing, controlling and organizing the financial elements of any business entity. Accountants maintain, analyze and verify financial records. If they are chartered accountants they will also ensure that client taxes are paid when due.
Accountants employed by government agencies, corporations and individuals are qualified as Certified Public Accountants. This means they have completed the CPA examinations held by the Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Practicing CPAs must be licensed by the Board of Accountancy in the states in which they are working.
Accountants can also choose to earn the title of Certified Management Accountant (CMA). This is given by the Institute of Management Accountants. Other titles that can be held by Accountants upon completion of specified requirements are:
- Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) or Certified Government Auditing Professional (CGAP) both of which are conferred by the Institute of Internal Auditors.
- Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) which is conferred by the Information Systems Audit and Control Association.
- Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM) is offered by the Association of Government Accountants and can help candidates land a job as a government auditor.
An entry-level accounting position in any government agency--local, state or federal--will require a four-year college degree with a major in accounting and strong emphasis in auditing. Post-graduate business studies specializing in accounting tend to be equally acceptable.
Different Accounting Jobs
Accounting duties vary depending on the specialization and the role; however, most accountants are involved in financial planning, budgeting, and advising management or clients.
The job functions of an accountant will depend on the type of job he or she has chosen, including that of a:
- Public Accountant
- Government Accountant
- Internal Auditor
- Management Accountant
Accounting employment is one of the brighter spots in an otherwise gloomy job market. Accountants are always needed and even more so as businesses and government need help in better managing their cash flow and resources. Demand for qualified CPAs and CMAs looks likely to increase substantially in the future. Graduates with an accounting specialty are also likely to be in solid demand whether or not they have chosen to earn professional titles. Employment prospects will be improved by relevant experience as well as professional appearance, attitude and high-level communication skills. Accountants and auditors will always be needed to help businesses conform to government regulations and requirements in addition to helping companies improve their financial position.
Salaries for accountants vary greatly depending upon whether they work for the private or public sector and their responsibilities within these environments. For example, the average salary for government accountants is somewhere between $45,000 and $50,000, while the average for management accountants is $55,000. The income earned by public accountants ranged between $55,000 and $100,000. Internal auditors had the widest range of salaries--from $45,000 up to $200,000, depending on their experience and qualifications. These salary ranges are only estimates as many accountants in high-level positions earn substantially more than the average.
How to Make the Most of an Accounting Career
If you wish to establish a successful career as an accountant, it is important to obtain professional certification beyond your degree. This means you must become a CPA, CIA or CMA. You will further increase your earning potential by becoming an expert in a particular niche such as forensic accounting. The competition for specialist accounting positions is less intense because there are fewer people qualified for them.
Accounting is a very rewarding profession with excellent employment and income opportunities. If you undertake the appropriate training and look for jobs that increase your skill levels as well as your experience, you will gradually move up to high-earning positions.