An accountant's job entails working to ensure that business firms and individuals are keeping good records and paying taxes properly and on time. Though the accountant job description for some accounting positions may be simple, other accountant job descriptions are not quite as clear because of the number of duties that are required.
In general, an accountant performs vital functions to businesses, as well as individuals, of all types by offering a very wide array of business and accounting services, including public, management and government accounting, as well as internal auditing. These four major fields of accounting, and in addition to having a minimum of a bachelor's degree, each has a separate accountant job description.
1. Public Accountant
A public accountant job description can be summed up in what most people envision as "typical" accountant's work. It involves performing a broad range of accounting, auditing, tax, and consulting activities for their clients, which may be corporations, governments, nonprofit organizations, and individuals. Specialties in public accounting are often chosen. For example, a public accountant may choose to concentrate on tax matters, such as advising companies about the tax advantages and disadvantages of certain business decisions and preparing individual income tax returns. Other public accountants may choose areas such as compensation or employee health care benefits, or may design accounting and data processing systems. Still other public accountants may choose to specialize in auditing financial statements and inform investors and authorities that statements have been correctly prepared and reported. Public accounts are usually Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), and generally own their own businesses or work for public accounting firms.
2. Management Accountant
Another accountant job description is that of a management accountant. Also called a cost, managerial, industrial, corporate, or private account, management accountants record and analyze the financial information of the companies for which they work. The management accountant job description includes a detailed listing of responsibilities, such as budgeting, performance evaluation, cost management, and asset management. Management accountants are often a part of executive teams involved in strategic planning or the development of new products, where they analyze and interpret financial information that corporate executives need in order to make sound business decisions. They also prepare financial reports for other groups, including stock holders, creditors, regulatory agencies, and tax authorities. Management accountants are usually a part of an accounting department, employed a large company, and may work in many areas that may include financial analysis, planning, budgeting, and cost accounting.
3. Government Accountant
A government accountant works in the public sector, maintaining and examining the records of government agencies and auditing private businesses and individuals whose activities are subject to government regulation and/or taxation. This accountant job description, while detailed, is much more specialized. Government accountants are employed by Federal, State, or local governments, and work to guarantee that revenues are received and expenditures are made in accordance with laws and regulations. Those employed by the Federal government may work as Internal Revenue Services agents or in financial management, financial institution examination, or budget analysis and administration.
4. Internal Auditor Accountant
The accountant job description of an internal auditor can basically be summarized by the job title. Internal auditors verify the accuracy of their organization's internal records, and check for mismanagement, waste, or fraud. It is an increasingly important area of accounting, because internal auditors examine and evaluate their firms' financial and information systems, management procedures, and internal controls to ensure that records are accurate and controls are adequate to protect against fraud and waste. They also review company operations, evaluating their efficiency, effectiveness, and compliance with corporate policies and procedures, laws, and government regulations. The accountant job description of an internal auditor can vary with different companies, and may include job duties such as electronic data processing, environmental auditing, engineering, legal auditing, insurance reviews, banking, and health care auditing.
Accountants in all four areas can work for a company, or can be employed by an accounting firm, which would in turn be hired by a company for consulting. An accountant can also be self-employed, and provide accounting services to individuals, businesses, or both.
Most accounting jobs include an accountant job description that requires a bachelor's degree, at minimum, in accounting or a related field, and some accountant job descriptions might include the requirement of a master's degree or Certified Public Account (CPA) certification, obtained through a four-part, Uniform CPA Explanation prepared by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). While the two-day CPA examination is rigorous, and only about 25 percent of those taking the exam pass every part they attempt, CPA certification can greatly assist in the rate of pay received, and in most states, the examination can be taken in two parts, which may assist in preparing for and passing the exam.
According to the United States Department of Labor, employment of accountants and auditors is expected to grow at a faster than average rate, for all accounting occupations from all accountant job descriptions mentioned, through the year 2014. This is due to an increase in the number of businesses nationwide, changing financial laws and regulations, and increased scrutiny of company finances. In addition to these reasons for new accounting jobs opening up, there will also be a need to replace accountants and auditors who will retire or transfer to other occupations.
The field is also becoming more specialized due to technology and new, accurate accounting and auditing software experience becoming a crucial addition to an accountant job description. An accountant job description may include, in addition to educational and technological requirements, strong interpersonal and communication skills, simply due to the fact that most accountants work on teams with others from different backgrounds, and will need the ability to communicate accounting and financial information clearly and concisely.
Regardless of one's qualifications, competition in the accounting field will remain strong for the most prestigious jobs, as well as for obtaining clients for those accountants that are self-employed.