Most jobs require at least
a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field.
Job seekers who obtain professional
recognition through certification or licensure, a master's degree,
proficiency in accounting and auditing computer software, or
specialized expertise will have an advantage in the job market.
Competition will remain keen
for the most prestigious jobs in major accounting and business
Accounts and Auditors (CPA)
Accountants and auditors and (CPA's) Certified Public
Accounts, help to ensure that the Nation's firms are run more
efficiently, its public records kept more accurately, and its
taxes paid properly and on time. They perform these vital functions
by offering an increasingly wide array of business and accounting
services to their clients. These services include public, management,
and government accounting, as well as internal auditing. However,
accountants and auditors are broadening the services they offer
to include budget analysis, financial and investment planning,
information technology consulting, and limited legal services.
Beyond the fundamental tasks of the occupationpreparing,
analyzing, and verifying financial documents in order to provide
information to clientsmany accountants now are required
to possess a wide range of knowledge and skills.
Specific job duties vary widely among the four major fields of
accounting. Public accountants perform a broad range of accounting,
auditing, tax, and consulting activities for their clients, who
may be corporations, governments, nonprofit organizations, or
individuals. For example, some public accountants concentrate
on tax matters, such as advising companies of the tax advantages
and disadvantages of certain business decisions and preparing
individual income tax returns. Others are consultants who offer
advice in areas such as compensation or employee healthcare benefits,
the design of accounting and data-processing systems, and the
selection of controls to safeguard assets. Some specialize in
forensic accountinginvestigating and interpreting bankruptcies
and other complex financial transactions. Still others audit clients'
financial statements and report to investors and authorities that
the statements have been correctly prepared and reported. Public
accountants, many of whom are Certified Public Accountants (CPAs),
generally have their own businesses or work for public accounting
Management accountantsalso called industrial, corporate,
or private accountantsrecord and analyze the financial information
of the companies for which they work. Other responsibilities include
budgeting, performance evaluation, cost management, and asset
management. Usually, management accountants are part of executive
teams involved in strategic planning or new-product development.
They analyze and interpret the financial information that corporate
executives need to make sound business decisions. They also prepare
financial reports for non-management groups, including stockholders,
creditors, regulatory agencies, and tax authorities. Within accounting
departments, they may work in various areas including financial
analysis, planning and budgeting, and cost accounting.
Many persons with an accounting background work in the public
sector. Government accountants and auditors maintain and examine
the records of government agencies and audit private businesses
and individuals whose activities are subject to government regulations
or taxation. Accountants employed by Federal, State, and local
governments guarantee that revenues are received and expenditures
are made in accordance with laws and regulations. Those who are
employed by the Federal Government may work as Internal Revenue
Service agents or in financial management, financial institution
examination, or budget analysis and administration.
Internal auditing is an increasingly important area of accounting
and auditing. Internal auditors verify the accuracy of their organization's
records and check for mismanagement, waste, or fraud. Specifically,
they examine and evaluate their firms' financial and information
systems, management procedures, and internal controls to ensure
that records are accurate and controls are adequate to protect
against fraud and waste. They also review company operationsevaluating
their efficiency, effectiveness, and compliance with corporate
policies and procedures, laws, and government regulations. There
are many types of highly specialized auditors, such as electronic
data processing, environmental, engineering, legal, insurance
premium, bank, and healthcare auditors. As computer systems make
information more timely, internal auditors help managers to base
their decisions on actual data, rather than personal observation.
Internal auditors also may recommend controls for their organization's
computer system to ensure the reliability of the system and the
integrity of the data.
Computers are rapidly changing the nature of the work for most
accountants and auditors. With the aid of special software packages,
accountants summarize transactions in standard formats for financial
records and organize data in special formats for financial analysis.
These accounting packages greatly reduce the amount of tedious
manual work associated with data management and recordkeeping.
Personal and laptop computers enable accountants and auditors
to be more mobile and to use their clients' computer systems to
extract information from large mainframe computers. As a result,
a growing number of accountants and auditors have extensive computer
skills and specialize in correcting problems with software or
in developing software to meet unique data management and analytical
needs. Accountants also are beginning to perform more technical
duties, such as implementing, controlling, and auditing systems
and networks, and developing technology plans and budgets.
Accountants also are increasingly assuming the role of a personal
financial advisor. They not only provide clients with accounting
and tax help, but also help them develop a personal budget, manage
assets and investments, plan for retirement, and recognize and
reduce exposure to risks. This role is a response to demands by
clients for one trustworthy individual or firm to meet all of
their financial needs.