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Job Opportunities in Accounting

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One of the best things about accounting is that there are so many choices and opportunities within the field. For example, when you graduate from college, you have a big and fun multiple-choice test ahead of you: what will you do?

Here are some of the opportunities for the graduate:

  1. Stay with the firm where you take your internship or company training (if, indeed, you take an internship and if you are invited back). If you show good potential, you might be offered a permanent position.

  2. Start a private practice. They say that if your community has at least 50 businesses, it can support a small accounting office. If you live in a large industrial area, the opportunities of working for yourself are greater.

  3. Form a partnership with others. You need broad experience when you start working for yourself. It is usually better for a person starting out in accounting to form a partnership with someone with more experience.

  4. Specialize. If you have taken your CPA exam, have had specific study and/or experience, and the area in which you plan to work can support you, then you can specialize in one of the many phases of accounting.

  5. Take a job with a firm as a private accountant. Many accountants are employed by private industry as controllers, auditors, treasurers, and tax department heads. The government is another big employer of accountants through civil service. Individual state governments employ a large number of accountants. If your academic record is good, you might get offers from privately owned companies and from medium-and large sized operations.

  6. Teach. Perhaps you can get a job teaching accounting in a high school or college. If you are a CPA, many colleges will accept your certificate as equivalent to a Ph.D. in the field.

Employment in accounting should be steady. In good times and bad times, a company needs its accountant. He or she is an essential employee and would be one of the very last to be discharged. Also, as an employee, you will receive benefits such as social security, unemployment insurance, and pension and retirement benefits provided by large employers and government agencies. Often you will receive stock options and life insurance, as well as health insurance.

In other parts of this book, we have discussed the many kinds of accountants and some of the opportunities that are open to them. However, one very significant possibility for accountants is a job with the government. Accountants, auditors, systems analysts, and budget administrators help maintain the stability needed in government.

The federal government offers opportunities and advantages that compare favorably with those in accounting and industry-good pay, good working conditions, and other benefits. Also, as in businesses, you can look forward to training, advancement, and professional recognition. Once again, however, a college education is important.

It's important to know that the U.S. government is the largest employer in the world. But basically the operations of the government and any other business are the same: each is receiving money and paying out money. A gas station, for example, sells products and gives services, and then collects money. Then it pays wholesalers and the service station attendants. The government also gives services, and the citizens pay taxes. The service station in the course of a year may receive $80,000. The government will receive, in taxes alone for one year, $307.4 billion (estimate for 1976).

If you decide that you want to work for the federal government, you will first learn about financial management- managing money. Here are some of the individual jobs that might be listed under financial management:
  • Designing, maintaining, and auditing accounts.

  • Auditing or regulating the accounts of privately owned enterprises.

  • Supplying accounting information to budget and administrative personnel.

  • Maintaining cost-accounting systems for construction, maintenance, and manufacturing.

  • Making internal audits.

  • Making audits for the military departments.

  • Making audits for the Energy Commission.

  • Auditing tax returns for the Internal Revenue Service.

  • Reporting to Congress on the general financial health of various corporations and governmental departments.
As an accountant, you have to supply information to several regulatory commissions; for example, the Comptroller of the Currency in the Treasury Department, which keeps a check on national banks. The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Trade Commission keep checks on the financial reports of industries and businesses.

There is another choice, one that appeals to adventurous accountants: you can work overseas. The General Accounting Office, which does external audits throughout the government (it's the watchdog over all governmental activities) has offices in Frankfurt, Paris, and Tokyo.

Here are some advantages of governmental accounting work:
  1. Orientation and training. You can expect organized programs of in-service training and career development. As a governmental accountant, you'll get on-the-job training and practical experience not only in accounting but also in related technical and administrative fields, as well as internal auditing. You will get orientation in the history, organization, and functions of the agency for which you work. You will also get instructions in accounting laws, regulations, and procedures applicable to your job. In addition, a program of rotation among assignments is practiced in many agencies to help you gain experience in various jobs.

  2. CPA help. If you don't take the CPA exam when you leave college, your experience in government work in many states will qualify as your eligibility to take the exam.

  3. A Federal Career Service can help you get located and help you get the job you are best suited for.

  4. Pay. This is set by the government in the 1949 amended Classification Act. The pay scale occasionally changes, so check with a governmental office if you want to know what you can expect.

  5. Promotions in government jobs are usually good. Pro-motion is usually from within.

    There are also incentive awards that provide special recognition and cash awards-sometimes as high as $25,000-for suggestions and outstanding job performance.

  6. Other benefits: 40-hour workweek; up to 30 days a year vacation; liberal retirement benefits; low-cost life insurance; help with hospital and doctors' bills; compensation in case of injury on the job; unemployment compensation; and government-paid travel.
As a government accountant, you could work in any of the hundreds of government offices around the country. There are tax offices, agricultural offices, army bases-the list goes on.

Most of the functions of the government are performed by agencies, each of which handles funds, so they need accounting help. To give you an idea of the scope of government, here is a list of some of those government agencies, the work they do and the accounting services they need.
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