Careers

Learn About Being an Accountant

What does an accountant do?

Accountants ensure companies and organizations are operating efficiently by accessing financial records and analyzing data, finance reports, budgets, tax returns and accounting records. Accountants may work alongside Senior Accountants and other professionals within the accounting or finance department. Specific responsibilities may vary based on the company the accountant works for and the industry of the company,  but typically include: 

  • Perform monthly, quarterly and annual accounting activities including reconciliations of bank and credit card accounts, coordination and completion of annual audits and reviewing financial reports/support as necessary

  • Analyze and report on financial status including income statement variances, communicating financial results to management, budget preparation and analysis

  • Documents financial transactions

  • Recommends financial actions by analyzing accounting options

  • Improve systems and procedures and begin corrective actions 

  • Oversee taxes and abide by federal regulations 

Average salary

Accountants are typically full-time, salaried employees. Salaries for accountants vary depending on their level of education, relevant work experience, the geographic location of the job, the size of the company and the industry of the company. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the salary link.

  • Common salary in the U.S.: $54,603 per year
  • Some salaries range from $14,000 to $120,000 per year.

Accountant requirements

Securing a position as an accountant may involve certain requirements depending on the industry and size of the company, including:

Education

Accountants need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in Accounting, Finance or another related field. Many companies prefer candidates who also have a master’s degree. Relevant coursework includes accounting principles, accounting technology, business communications and business law. Many companies also prefer candidates who have a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation.

Training

Accountants often begin their relevant training through internship programs they complete while getting their degree. Besides the experience and training from internship programs, accountants also often receive additional on-the-job training specific to their role and company. Accountants typically receive this additional training as part of the on-boarding process for their new role. On-the-job training can last for a period of a few days up to a few months depending on the company and the role. 

Certifications

There are several certification programs available for accountants to choose from. Certifications allow you to prove your skills and qualifications to current and potential employers. Accountants can also earn certifications to gain additional knowledge about their responsibilities and further their career advancement opportunities. Popular certifications for accountants include:

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

The Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license is the most respected credential within the accounting industry. Accountants must have the CPA designation to get licensed by state governments and to write audit reports and provide opinions on publicly-traded company financials. CPAs can also sign tax returns as paid preparers and represent clients in front of the IRS. 

Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)

The Chartered Financial Analyst designation trains and prepares you for a career in the finance and investment industries. This certification helps train you to think analytically about finance, investing and how businesses operate. The CFA designation is popular among individuals aspiring to become controllers and CFOs. 

Certified Management Accountant (CMA)

The Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) offers the Certified Management Accountant designation. This certification specifically specializes in company accounting management. The CMA designation is popular among individuals aspiring to reach management and executive-level roles such as COOs and CFOs. 

Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)

The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) offers the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) certification. This certification is the only internationally accepted designation for internal auditors. This certification verifies competencies in areas such as risk and control, information technology and proficiency working with both internal staff and external clients. 

Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE)

The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) offers the Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) designation. This certification teaches you the inner workings of accounting and auditing, criminology and sociology related to fraud, fraud investigation, forensic methods, loss prevention, fraud law and the ACFE code of ethics.

Skills

Accountants need a combination of several hard and soft skills to succeed in their roles. Some of the most common skills required for a role as an accountant include: 

Communication skills

Communication skills involve the ability to communicate both verbally and non-verbally with active listening, observing, speaking and empathizing. Accountants must have excellent verbal and written communication skills so they can communicate internally with the rest of the accounting team, senior accountants and across other departments. 

Detail-oriented

Being detail-oriented means having strong attention to detail. Accountants need to be detail-oriented to ensure they are accurately preparing and reviewing financial documents. 

Time-management skills

Time-management skills involve the ability to balance and prioritize responsibilities in a manner that helps you complete your work on time while also maintaining a work-life balance. Accountants spend most of their day multitasking and need to prioritize tasks to ensure they complete their work on time. 

Computer skills

Computer skills include a combination of typing, system and software knowledge. Accountants need strong computer skills as their job responsibilities include typing and using programs such as Microsoft Office and QuickBooks to complete their work. 

Accounting skills

Accounting skills include a combination of strong mathematical, logical and analytical skills. Accountants must have excellent accounting skills as most of their work involves preparing and auditing financial statements and documents.

Accountant work environment

Accountants typically work full time within an office environment. Accountants typically work standard business hours on a Monday-Friday shift but may need to have a flexible schedule including weekends and evenings depending on the needs of their business and the time of the year. They may spend most of their day sitting at a desk, on a computer or reviewing physical documents. Accountants may work independently or with a team of other accountants, senior accountants and auditors.

How to become an accountant

Becoming an accountant requires a combination of education and relevant work experience. Many accountants get their positions after completing an internship in their company while they are getting their degree. Here are the steps you should take to become an accountant:

1. Earn a degree.

Accountants must have a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting, Finance or another related field. Many companies prefer candidates who also have a Master’s degree. Popular Master’s programs include Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) and Master’s of Accounting (MAcc). The MAcc degree is a good choice for individuals pursuing a career as a CPA, whereas the MBA degree may be a better choice for individuals who want to advance their careers within the corporate field. Relevant coursework includes accounting principles, accounting technology, business communications and business law. 

2. Complete an internship.

Complete an internship with an accounting firm or the finance department of a company in the industry you are interested in while you are working on getting your degree. Internships provide great opportunities to network and build business connections that can help you get a job in your field once you graduate.

3. Get certifications.

Consider getting certifications in areas relevant to your position and industry. Popular certifications include Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Certified Management Accountant (CMA), Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) and Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE). Certifications help you prove your skills and qualifications and help you stand out as the best candidate to hiring managers and recruiters. 

Accountant job description example 

Our investment firm is seeking an organized and driven Accountant to join our growing team. The successful candidate will work closely with our senior accountants and operations personnel and handle day-to-day bookkeeping and monthly audits of financial statements. We’re an energetic company and are looking for a passionate individual to join our organization and revitalize our record keeping by bringing more organization to our day-to-day financials. 

Candidates should have a bachelor’s degree in accounting or another related field and have a CPA designation. We prefer candidates who have prior experience working in a large, fast-paced corporate environment and a basic understanding of the investment industry is a plus. 

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