Accounting is a branch of finance that involves recording of financial transactions and subjecting them to analysis, summarizing and reporting. It is an important aspect of business and so an inseparable part of every organization. Accounting also involves assessment of cash flows, assets and liabilities of a business. In short, accounting is a means of understanding and communicating the financial operations of an organization.
Accounting information can be categorized into three broad sections namely, operating information, financial accounting information and management accounting information. They are presented in the form of financial statements – Balance Sheet, Income Statement and Statement of Cash Flow.
If what you have read so far has enticed you into opting for accounting as a career, then your next question would be what are the qualifications required to become an accountant. A bachelor’s degree in accountancy is the first step to a career in accounting. Degree programs in accounting are popular and offered in most colleges and universities.
A basic bachelor’s degree in accounting can help you get started with a career in accounting, but to move further other credentials are a must. CPA is a prerequisite for a public accountant. CGMA and CMA are a must for management accountants. Similarly, CIA and CISA are for internal auditors.
Apart from this, some of the skill sets required by accountants are: Analytical skills, attention to detail, math skills, communication skills and organization skills.
Accountants are professionals who are well-versed in accounting and keep track of financial transactions. So, in a nut-shell, if you have a knack for crunching numbers and money matters, accountancy can be your choice of career.
But what exactly does an accountant do? Accountants primarily prepare financial records and examine them. Apart from that they also perform the following functions:
Accountants can choose from one of the following career paths:
Public Accountant - As a public accountant one would provide auditing, tax and consulting services for a wide range of clients from individuals to corporations. Most public accountants hold a relevant bachelor’s degree in addition to a specialized certification such as CPA or CFA.
Management accountant – A management accountant works for companies and analyzes financial information of the client for passing it to the accounting executives of the company for internal use.
Government accountant – A government accountant or auditor is one who is appointed by the state or federal governments for preparing, reviewing and auditing financial documents of government organizations.
Internal auditor – An internal auditor inspects the internal controls and prevents fraud and mismanagement of accounting procedures in an organization.
The most common roles in the accounting profession are:
Most of the accounting positions are based out of corporate offices. However, consultants and practitioners can work from the comfort of their home office. An accountant’s work involves a lot of attention to detail and preparation of records that are labor intensive. It may also involve putting in more than average work hours and is almost always a full time job. Certain periods in the year may be particularly hectic - the tax season or the financial year ending.
Salaries at the lower rungs of this career path can start from $38,000 per annum. But as you advance to higher levels, based on your specialization and expertise you can earn a good pay packet of about $110,000 per annum. Here are the median salaries for some of the common accountant designations:
Accounting careers are pretty stable and the employment opportunities are expected to grow to 13% by 2022.
Prospective general accountants can expect a growth of 10 – 16% in the job market in the coming decade. This projection is based on the steady increase in new ventures across the globe. Even risk averse nations are now seeing a steady surge in entrepreneurs. Furthermore, the average salary of accounting professionals has risen to $70,000 per annum.
Alternative career options such as clerks, bookkeeping, loan officer, accounting assistant, stock broker, personal financial advisor and cost estimators are becoming more popular as well. These options allow an aspirant to enter the workforce with just a bachelor’s degree and then work towards adding more qualifications on the go. The market for these alternate careers is also growing at an exponential rate. For instance, cost estimators now draw a salary of $60,000 and above.