If you love crunching numbers and dealing with stats, and looking to build a profitable living in the future, a career in accounting may be the one for you. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, degree holders of accountancy in the US are projected to earn a median salary of $71,550 per year ($34.40 per hour) in 2019, with more experienced ones earning more than $124,450 a year. Now that sounds enticing!
To put things simply, accountants are fundamentally in-charge of daily money matters, be it of an individual, a company, or a non-profit organization. As the job title suggests, these professionals “count” the financial figures, track the growth of a business or entity and alert the company through reports of signs of financial decline. To do this, they must collect, analyze, and organize financial data of their clients, and keep the business running by tracking possible problems before they affect the company greatly.
Aside from doing risk mitigation work, an accountant can also strategize and help business owners improve their financial standing. Because of their expertise with business laws and other specifics, their advice is often vital in different decision-making activities.
Additionally, they inspect possible discrepancies in an entity’s financial records and possibly deal with any legalities together with the legal team. Depending on their experience and expertise, the tasks of accountants are usually compartmentalized, especially in big corporations that require teams to manage several aspects of their financial systems.
Popular Accounting Jobs
In the US, there is a surplus of job opportunities for accountancy graduates. Individuals with specialized fields in the said industry typically have different responsibilities, with a few listed below:
Certified Public Accountant
Certified Public Accountants (CPA) encompass a wide range of responsibilities, from auditing firms and producing tax reports up to consultancy services for small and large-scale businesses. In most cases, they take care of maximizing the company’s profits by mitigating possible tax loopholes, making the whole finance system running smoothly. In a general sense, CPAs can take on a certain accounting specialty, depending on their training. They can also represent companies and take care of day-to-day financial activities, creating long and short term projections with financial analysts and executives.
Additionally, CPAs can take care of a couple of tasks, such as internal auditing, financial reporting, management accounting, and compliance reports.
Financial analysts are professionals considered to be on top of their field. They are tasked to look into an organization’s financial logistics. They research and gather revenue and expenses data and, after a series of calculations, make reasonable estimations. Financial analysts offer sound guidance to clients in terms of investments, credit, and policy-making to increase or stabilize financial gain. To put it simply, finance analysts focus on statistical analysis and using this data in order to plan the wealth projection of their clients.
In most cases, financial analysts are also certified public accountants by profession, as they may have completed requirements for both certifying bodies. Depending on their job designations, they may choose to practice a certain specialty under the company. There are also notable differences in their job descriptions, but they coexist with each other in order to achieve optimal results for business entities they work for.
Gathering financial information on the company, its competitors, or market trends is part and parcel of a financial analyst’s job. They work closely with CPAs and/or bookkeepers to compile pertinent documents before carefully analyzing them. They are essential in the budgeting process because their financial analysis or report consists not only of a summary of the company’s gains and losses but also recommendations for increasing revenue and mitigating expenses.
Compliance officers, or internal auditors, see to it that rules and regulations are strictly in place as the organization conducts its day-to-day financial operations. The government imposes rules to prevent financial crimes; compliance officers are tasked to ensure they prevent these situations and intervene in their occurrence. Aside from checking with national legislation, compliance officers also make sure that internal policies and bylaws are followed by the decision-makers of the company.
A critical role of compliance officers is checking the welfare of workers. They uphold minimum wage laws and primary labor benefits. Health insurance and retirement benefits are crucial metrics for determining if workers are getting what they should according to the law. Compliance officers ensure corporations abide by these employee regulations to the letter.
However, upholding government regulation is not the only issue that keeps compliance officers busy. They ensure that contracts entered into by the company are fully compliant with the law. Case in point: a food manufacturing company that requires a stable supply of apples procured through supply contracts. The compliance officer comes into the picture by evaluating these contracts and ensuring that all provisions are executed correctly. They see to it that all laws are complied with in supply agreements that involve third parties.
Compliance officers also act as negotiators. Representing financial institutions such as banks and lenders, they speak with debtors to come up with an arrangement with them to guarantee the fulfillment of debt, and in turn, make sure that both parties are amenable to possible repayment schemes.
Most importantly, as compliance officers are internal auditors, they make certain that all state taxes and other financial laws are upheld, as manifested in the organization’s “clean” records that are free from fraud and corruption.
External Auditors are sometimes considered as bad news to accountancy teams, although they are important facets of “check-and-balance” within private entities. Keeping companies on their toes, external auditors conduct third-party independent checks that thoroughly evaluate the integrity of the company’s financial transactions and systems.
In popular culture, the term “auditor” is associated with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), a government entity that conducts audits or a review of a company’s financial activity in order to ensure accuracy in the data submitted. There is a good reason for organizations to take extra steps in keeping all their financial records spotless; the IRS can be excessively meticulous in pointing out flaws.
Auditors can also work for private firms. They track down cash flow from its source. They are hired by the government and private corporations to evaluate the state of their day-to-day financial affairs. They provide organizations with an independent perspective. Clients turn to them for advice on reducing inefficiency and eliminating mismanagement.
Forensic accountants are responsible for examining financial statements that are subject to litigation or settling court disputes. In this case, they can be employed by government agencies like the FBI as investigators, where they dig extensively through records that may show misappropriation of funds. In forensic accounting, accountants are tasked to examine financial statements and detect possible white-collar crimes including fraud, embezzlement, and tax evasion. They find and provide evidence in cases like money laundering and Ponzi schemes.
Accountants hold varying degrees of responsibility depending on their skills and, consequently, the specific job they are hired for. As such, management roles demand leadership skills in the accounting department. Other than that, the size of the company determines the function of the accountant. In big companies, accountants have the luxury to focus on specific duties. In smaller companies, their responsibilities tend to overlap. In start-up businesses, an accountant can be an analyst, auditor, and compliance officer at the same time.