Maintaining accurate and detailed financial records is crucial to the smooth operation of a business, big or small. Accountants are professionals who handle this task, ensuring that the business-owner is always aware of the flow of money. As our economies and business relationships grow more complex, these professionals are necessary to have on a team. In fact, there is a high demand for accountants in today's corporate world. If you're interested in finding out what it takes to become an accountant and more, read the following information.
What Do Accountants Do? What Skills Do They Possess?
Many people wrongly perceive the job of an accountant as simply crunching numbers. The truth is that today's accountants have taken on a greater role in the running of businesses than before. Not only do they examine financial statements to ensure they are in the correct order, they also check these financial statements for compliance with business, state, and federal laws. They also assess financial operations and advise managers on ways in which the company can reduce costs or increase its profit margins.
There are different types of accountants who work in different fields. These include:
Public Accountants - they deal with financial statements which must be released to public records
Management Accountants - they work with financial information pertinent to the company for which they work
Government Accountants - they handle state and federal expenses in facilities.
Internal auditors - they check the records of a company to check for management of funds.
The profession requires individuals to have a strong understanding of legal matters and possess excellent analytical skills. They must also be detail-oriented, with the ability to pinpoint any inconsistencies in large financial documents.
How to Become an Accountant: Education, Licensing, and Certification
An accountant requires more than six years after high school graduation to start his or her career. Accountants require four years of undergraduate education, two years of work experience (this requirement may vary with states), to take the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam. Not all accountants are certified however. But those filing a report with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) must be certified.
Having at least a bachelor's or master's degree in accounting or business administration - depending on the employer's preferences - is necessary if you want to become a professional accountant. Students will be taught how to interpret and analyze financial data, create financial statements, and offer advice to company-owners on the best ways to reduce expenses and reallocate finances for efficiency. Those who do not choose to earn a bachelor's degree can still get training via community college or specialized programs in bookkeeping and accounting.
For licensing, CPA candidates are required to complete 30 additional hours of college coursework than the usual 4-year bachelor's degree. Many schools offer a 5 year program combining a bachelor's and master's degrees in order to meet this requirement, but as already mentioned, a graduate degree is not a requirement. Typically, clearing a licensing exam for CPA certification requires an additional 18 months after your undergraduate studies. In total though, the duration for becoming an accountant ranges from 5.5 years to 6.5 years, but this will depend on what route you take before your CPA exams.
There are also different accounting organizations with their own certifications. Two other certifications available for accountants are Certified Management Accountant certification from the Institute of Management Accountants. And the Certified Internal Auditor certificate from the Institute of Internal Auditors. Having a certification adds credibility to your training and may increase the chance of securing a decent job.
Job Outlook and Pay
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the growth rate for accountants to be at 13% between 2010 and 2020. The top 10% are reported to have earned over $100,000, while the median salary for 2013 was$65,080. This value may vary depending on your specialization, employer, location, and expertise. Most accountants deal with large amounts of numerical data on a daily basis and often work over 40 hours a week. Therefore, this job requires patience, attention to detail, and strong analytical skills. Only those individuals who feel they have what it takes should sign up for this profession.