What does an Accountant do?

What is an Accountant?

An accountant is one of the main players in any business that he or she works for, whether it is a large corporation or a small business. The accountant monitors and records the flow of money through a business or organization.

It is the responsibility of the accountant to verify the accuracy of all money transactions and to make sure that all these transactions are legal and follow current guidelines. It may be that the accountant works for a company on a contractual basis to do the books or tax returns. Or they may also choose to work for private individuals and help them with their financial decisions, tax returns, or other money related issues.

What does an Accountant do?

Using numbers and financial statements, an accountant describes the health of a company, organization or individual, by using their skills in math, accounting, law and finance. They analyze profits and losses, providing information that investors and business owners need in order to evaluate how a company is doing over a period of time. This information forms the basis of a company's report and legal filing reports. The following are some of the duties that an accountant may have to perform:

  • Determines payroll requirements; maintains payroll data; prepares and processes monthly payrolls
  • Interacts with internal and external auditors in completing audits
  • Explain billing invoices and accounting policies to staff, vendors and clients
  • Prepare and review budgets, revenue, expenses, payroll entries, invoices, and other accounting documents
  • Analyze and review budgets and expenditures for local, state, federal and private funding, review contracts and grants
  • Prepare profit and loss statements and monthly closing and cost accounting reports
  • Analyze revenue and expenditure trends and recommend appropriate budget levels, and ensure expenditure control
  • Compile and analyze financial information to prepare entries to accounts, such as general ledger accounts, and document business transactions
  • Supervise the input and handling of financial data and reports for the company's automated financial systems
  • Resolve accounting discrepancies
  • Establish, maintain, and coordinate the implementation of accounting and accounting control procedures
  • Recommend, develop and maintain financial data bases, computer software systems and manual filing systems

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How to become an Accountant

You will need a four year business degree to get a job as an accountant. It is imperative that you like numbers and are good in math as you will need to have a lot of math courses under your belt. Exceptional organizational and communication skills are a must, as well as operating a computer efficiently. Most all accountants now use a computer, very few still use a spreadsheet to do business.

You will need to be qualified and certified as a CPA (Certified Public Accountant in the US, or Chartered Accountant in Canada) by taking an exam, at which point you will get a license. If you pass your first attempt at the exam, then you can be licensed. If not, then you may have to go back for another year of school (Masters in Accounting) in order to attempt the exam again. After that, you can try as many times as you need, in order to pass.

A company may also require you to take even more training to be an accountant at their place of business. You can also become a member of the ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) or the IFAC (International Federation of Accountants).

Types of Accounting

Public Accounting -
This would be an accounting service to the general public, and is considered to be more professional than private accounting. Certified and non-certified public accountants can provide public accounting services.

Private Accounting -
This would be accounting that is limited to only a single firm, where an accountant receives a salary on an employer-employee basis. This term is used even if the employer is in a public corporation.

National Income Accounting -
Rather than the usual business entity concept, national income accounting uses the economic or social concept in establishing accounting. This type of accounting is responsible in providing the public estimates of a country's annual purchasing power. The GNP (gross national product) refers to the total market value of all the goods and services produced by a country, usually within a calendar year.

Fiduciary Accounting -
This type of accounting is done by a trustee, executor, administrator, or anyone in a position of trust. The accountant's job is to keep the records and prepare the reports, which may be authorized by or under the jurisdiction of a court of law. The fiduciary accountant will control all property subject to the estate or trust.

Fund or Governmental Accounting -
This type of accountant will work for a non-profit organization or a branch or unit of any level of government. The double-entry system of accounting with journals and ledgers is used, the same as conventional accounting. The services of private or public accountants can be used, like any business entity. Special funds accounting is used for control, since profit motive cannot be used as a measure of efficiency.

Forensic Accounting -
Forensic accounting is the specialty practice area of accountancy that describes engagements that result from actual or anticipated disputes or litigation. "Forensic" means "suitable for use in a court of law", and it is to that standard and potential outcome that forensic accountants generally have to work. Forensic accountants, also referred to as forensic auditors or investigative auditors, often have to give expert evidence at the eventual trial. All of the larger accounting firms, as well as many medium-sized and boutique firms, have specialist forensic accounting departments. Within these groups, there may be further sub-specializations: some forensic accountants may, for example, just specialize in insurance claims, personal injury claims, fraud, construction, or royalty audits.

Investment Accounting -
Investment accounting, portfolio accounting or securities accounting - all synonyms describing the process of accounting for a portfolio of investments such as securities, commodities and/or real estate held in an investment fund such as a mutual fund or hedge fund.

What is the workplace of an Accountant like?

There is no typical workplace for an accountant in the sense that just about any business has an accountant or uses the services of one. A bigger company may have an accounting department that employs many accountants, and would have a hierarchical structure. Or, there may be only one accountant at a branch office, who might report to a supervisor at the regional or head office.