Accountant: Salary and Career Profile
Accountants play a vital role in helping companies and individuals manage, monitor and report their finances. Pursuing an accountant career can mean working for a private or public company, an accounting firm or with the government. Accountants’ responsibilities vary by employer but may include analyzing income and expenditures, monitoring accounts for fraud and waste, or making sure tax returns are filed correctly and on time.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts employment of accountants will grow much faster than other occupations through 2018. Jobs will become available in part due to an increasing number of businesses and more complex financial reporting requirements. The demand for trained accountants’ specialized knowledge will continue to grow in the coming years.
Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) and other certification holders should have the best prospects for accountant careers. Those with advanced degrees may also enjoy an advantage.
Accountant Job Duties
Accountants perform a broad range of accounting, auditing, tax and consulting duties. They might make recommendations concerning the tax advantages of equipment or property purchases. Some accountants help with strategic planning to maintain a firm’s long-term financial health or an individuals’ investments. Routine paperwork can be a big part of an accountant’s career. Accountants regularly provide profit and loss statements, balance sheets and closing reports to their clients or upper management.
Some accountants are involved in other areas of a business, such as budgeting, revenue projecting, expense control, payroll, accounts payable and accounts receivable. Resolving billing disputes is another accountant responsibility, as is interacting with internal and external auditors.
An accountant’s duties sometimes involve more technical activities, such as recommending and implementing accounting systems. Those with strong computer skills may even specialize in developing accounting software to meet the needs of industries and organizations.
Accountants usually work in an office setting. Long hours and flexible scheduling may be required by some employers. During audits, budget preparation or tax season, accountants may work overtime.
Accountant Salary Potential
The BLS reports that in May 2009, accountants earned a median salary of $60,340, with the middle 50% earning between $46,740 and $79,470. While the lowest 10% made about $37,690, the highest 10% brought in $104,450 per year. Recent bachelor’s graduates will generally start out toward the lower end of the range, although those who have passed the CPA exam can command higher incomes. The top salaries generally go to those with the most experience, certifications and specialized education.
Education and Training
Accountants usually begin their careers after earning a bachelor’s degree. Many professionals choose to become CPAs to advance to positions with more responsibility, or to qualify for higher-paying jobs. Some employers prefer to hire an applicant with a master’s degree in accounting or an MBA with a specialization in accounting. Previous experience in accounting is attractive to many employers, and can be obtained through summer jobs or internship programs while pursuing a degree in accounting.
The first step to an accountant career generally starts with enrolling in a bachelor’s degree in accounting program. Coursework often includes statistics, economics, finance and public administration.
Employers can be confident that graduates of an accounting education program are able to:
- Develop annual operating budgets.
- Adhere to the latest tax rules and regulations.
- Use computers and specialized software to prepare financial reports.
- Accurately input data into automated financial systems.
- Apply knowledge gained from a bachelor’s program toward an advanced degree or industry certifications that may be required for certain jobs.
Should You Pursue an Accountant Career?
Accountants take a strongly-detailed approach to their work – which must be high-quality and error-free. A commitment to ethical, professional behavior is also important. Accountants are analytical, accurate and focused, and usually possess strong critical-thinking, decision-making and problem-solving skills. If you possess these qualities, an accountant career can be a challenging and rewarding choice.