Everything you need to know about becoming an accountant

  • In this article you will learn:
  • What skills and education you need to become an accountant
  • The typical career path of an accountant
  • The average salary of an accountant and accountant jobs that are available now on Ladders

If you are currently or have ever considered accounting as a profession, just as with any other job, you will want to know what you’re getting yourself into. What exactly does an accountant do? How do you become one? And even more important, how much will you be making? Read below for answers to these questions and more, as well as job opportunities that are currently available.

Becoming an accountant

An accountant is a professional who handles the bookkeeping and prepares financial documents including profit-and-loss statements, balance sheets, and more. Their job duties include performing audits of your books and preparing reports for tax purposes. Accountants are essentially responsible for handling all the financial information that is a part of a business.

What does an accountant do?

Most of us have a general idea of what an account is. According to Ramsey Solutions, an accountant handles bookkeeping and prepares financial documents. They also perform audits, help with taxes, and handle all of the financial information for a business.

An accountant’s duties and responsibilities can look different depending on the organization or company they are working for. They often handle duties such as administering payroll, managing budgets and inventory, sending out invoices, keeping a balance sheet, and more.

According to Payscale, internal audits are also necessary to ensure that the company is performing as expected. An accountant must be able to create detailed reports based on their findings that will often be presented to the upper management. More or less, all financial transactions in and out of the company must be managed and overseen by the accountant.

Some accountants may also manage the taxes for their company. By keeping up with the current tax laws, an accountant can make sure that your taxes are being done correctly and you aren’t overpaying.

Again, an accountant’s duties may vary depending on the type of accountant they are. According to FreshBooks, an accounting software company, there are eight different branches of accounting:

  • Financial Accounting
  • Cost Accounting
  • Auditing
  • Managerial Accounting
  • Accounting Information Systems (AIS)
  • Tax Accounting
  • Forensic Accounting
  • Fiduciary Accounting

Financial accounting is probably what traditionally comes to mind when you think of accounting. This is the process of keeping track of and categorizing transactions for a business. Cost accounting is more focused on manufacturing costs and keeps track of both fixed and variable costs for a company.

Auditing can happen both internally and externally and is essential to keep track of a company’s finances to avoid fraud or mismanagement. Managerial accounting works specifically with the management at a given company, giving them the information and cost analysis they need to make decisions.

AIS is somewhat of a catch-all for accounting systems, focusing on software management, bookkeeping and more. Tax Accounting is exactly what it sounds like, working directly with the IRS to make sure businesses are compliant with the current regulations. Forensic accounting typically happens on a consultant level and is focused on legal affairs. And finally, fiduciary accounting is focused on property management for another person.

How do you become an accountant?

In most cases, if you are interested in becoming an accountant, you will need a bachelor’s degree. Most accountants get a degree in accounting or some related field. However, the most important requirement is a certified public accountant (CPA) license. A CPA license is required in order for a person to legally audit the books of an organization.

Accountants may also pursue a certified management account (CMA) designation. A CMA certification is more focused on management and executive-level duties. An accountant holding this certification is able to work in corporate financial accounting and take on more of a management role.

What is the career path of accountants?

There are many different career paths for accountants and depending on the company or business model, an accountant may find themselves covering a variety of tasks. However, according to Ramsey Solutions, there are three distinctions: Bookkeepers, CPAs, and Enrolled Agents.

A Bookkeeper handles duties such as bill payments and weekly reports. Bookkeepers may be responsible for a variety of financial activities, however, unlike CPAs, they are not required to hold a license. This means that they cannot represent a business to the IRS or prepare taxes, but they are still able to help with other tasks.

CPAs are certified through a state-specific examination and must meet licensing requirements to work in this role. They can represent taxpayers and businesses before the IRS and perform audits. CPAs may become accountants and go on to become an accountant manager or a senior accountant. From there, they may even go on to become a corporate controller or a financial controller.

Enrolled agents must pass an examination covering individual and business tax laws to work in this role. This allows them to prepare tax returns, however, they cannot sign them. They also must continue their education in order to maintain their licenses. They can also represent a person or business before the IRS if they are audited.

What is the salary of accountants?

A certified public accountant can make anywhere from an average of $47,000 a year at the entry-level to up to an average of $58,000 a year after 20+ years of experience, according to Payscale.

However, according to Accounting Today, accountants at the senior level can make up to $110,000 a year if they are working at a larger firm. On the lower end at a smaller firm, they can still make an average of $66,000 a year.

What skills do accountants need?

Some valuable skills to consider when pursuing a career as an accountant are knowledge of accounting software, such as Quickbooks and Microsoft Excel, general ledger accounting, financial reporting, and bookkeeping. Accountants must also be self-motivated and able to self-manage, as most of their work is done independently. However, they may work on teams, as well, so collaboration skills are also important.

Accounting is an incredibly important job for any business, and we won’t see this field going away anytime soon. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, employment for accountants is expected to grow by six percent by 2028. Robert Half Financing and Accounting reported that the demand for accounting professionals in the U.S. is high, while the supply is still low. Right now there is a high demand for accounting managers, business analysts, financial analysts, internal auditors, payroll managers, senior accountants, and staff accountants.

Take a look at the following jobs currently available for accountants across the country available on Ladders Jobs:

Accountant, United Nations – New York, NY

Accounting Manager, UrbanStems – New York, NY

Revenue Accounting Director, Facebook – Austin, TX