Most people have a very general idea about accounting and believe that all accountants do the same things. This is not true as there are several different areas of specialization in accounting. However, most accountants begin their job as entry-level bookkeepers and accounting clerks. If you are looking at accounting as a career option, then you should have a clear idea of the different types of accounting jobs and exactly which one you want to pursue.
The career of accountants starts with an education in their chosen field. As a student of accounting, you will learn some or all of the following:
• Bookkeeping: Keeping records of all financial transactions
• Accounts payable: Keeping records of outgoing payments or debits
• Accounts receivable: Keeping records of incoming payments or credits
• Cost accounting: Track, analyze and record the costs of running the business
• Tax accounting: Preparing the company’s taxes
• Payroll accounting: Preparing the company’s employee payroll
On a professional level, you can work for companies, government organizations, non-profit organizations, schools and colleges, charities, law firms and accounting firms in various capacities. It is not necessary to be an employee of a company. You can provide your services to companies and individuals as a consultant. You may also run your own accounting firm.
Based on the major responsibilities entrusted to accountants, accounting jobs can be broadly divided into four types: public accounting, government accounting, management accounting and internal audit accounting. However, all types of accountants are responsible for taking care of their company’s or client’s finances.
• Public accounting: This group of accounting jobs has the broadest of scopes. If you choose this career path, your job may include all sorts of accounting, including bookkeeping, managing your client’s finances, preparing taxes and auditing financial statements. Your clients may be individuals, companies, corporations, governments and non-profit organizations. Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) may have their own accounting firms. A special type of public accounting, called forensic accounting involves investigating financial crimes, securities frauds, contract disputes, bankruptcies, money laundering and other criminal financial transactions.
• Management accounting: This type of accounting involves recording and analyzing the financial information of a company. As a management accountant, you would manage the finances of the company you work for, prepare budgets and taxes, evaluate performance, and perform cost accounting and asset management. Here, you may also be involved in strategic planning as part of the executive team. You may also be required to prepare financial reports for shareholders, creditors, tax authorities and regulatory bodies.
• Government accounting: This type of accounting involves handling the finances of federal, state and local government bodies. As a government accountant, your responsibilities may include bookkeeping, payroll, budgeting, managing revenues and expenditures, making sure that the accounting practices of government agencies comply with the law, auditing individuals and private businesses that are subject to government tax. You may also be required to do work as a CRA agent, financial examiner or budget analyst.
• Internal audit accounting: This type of accounting involves examining and verifying the company’s financial records to check for waste, mismanagement and fraud. As an internal audit accountant, you will evaluate your company’s financial information system, internal controls and management procedures to ensure the accuracy of records and adequacy of controls. You will also be required to review your company’s operations, evaluating their effectiveness, efficiency and compliance with the company’s policies and government regulations.
Within each organization and type of accounting, there may be several different designations depending on the responsibilities entrusted to the accountant. However, you will greatly improve your chances for employment and a higher salary by obtaining one of the following certifications:
• Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
• Certified Management Accountant (CMA)
• Certified Financial Manager (CFM)
• Certified Fraud Examiner (CFF)
• Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
• Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)
• Enrolled Agent (EA)
• Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM)
This post was written by John Halliston, career coach extraordinaire.