If you're considering a career as an accountant, having an accurate job description might help you make up your mind. Accountants are in charge of financial records and have the responsibility to make sure all federal and state income taxes are paid in a timely manner for individuals, small businesses and large corporations. Accountants closely work with their clients to maintain a full financial accounting system that includes gathering financial information, preparing financial statements and verifying information. Accountants who work with individuals also help clients with financial planning and budgeting. Public accountants are specialized to work with taxes, auditing and assets. If you are considering a career in accounting, there are several accounting areas in which you can work, and each area has its own responsibilities.
In general, accountants need to keep up to date with accounting software programs. General ledger accountants keep track of day-to-day transactions and employee payroll. These accounting procedures are not normally done manually nowadays; however, general ledger accountants should be prepared to manually enter daily transactions into a hard copy accounting ledger. Some accountants specialize in auditing, which entails examining a company's financial information and checking for accuracy and fraud. Tax accountants are responsible for gathering all necessary financial information to file state and federal income tax returns. Payroll accountants are in charge of keeping accurate records of employees' compensation. This includes making sure the proper amount of taxes are withheld and forwarding the tax withholding information to the tax accountant. Forensic accountants specialize in looking for illegal financial activities, such as money laundering, embezzling or tax evasion.
All accountants must have at least a four-year degree in finance or accounting. Many companies that hire accountants prefer master’s degree in finance or accounting often. If accountants want to specialize their careers, it is recommended that elective courses include those areas. For example, if you are interested in forensic accounting, you should take a specialized track of courses for that area, which may include tax law. Most accountants who enter the work force receive additional on-the-job training under the supervision of more experienced accountants. Most accounting firms also sponsor continuing education programs so that accountants can take courses or attend seminars to remain up to date on state and federal tax laws and accounting procedures and accounting software. Accountants generally are promoted on the basis of experience. Accountants can be promoted to supervisor and manager positions as well as auditing positions.
Tax accountants, auditing accountants and any other accountant who is required to submit documents to the Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, must be certified public accountants, CPAs. To obtain certification, accountants must be eligible to apply for and pass a rigorous CPA exam. Eligibility requirements vary by state, but most states require accountants to have a certain number of years of experience under the direct supervision of a CPA and have at least 150 hours of college credit. Accountants also can become certified financial accountants, CFAs. The process for all specialized certifications is the same in that they require accounts to pass a specialized exam. These exams are standardized national tests; however each state administers these tests via state boards of accountancy. Accountants need to check with their state board to find out all the requirements for applying for certifications.