What Does an Accountant Do? Skills and Responsibilities
Every business needs its finances closely monitored, which is why accounting is such a popular career path. If you think that a career as an accountant is right for you, consider completing an accounting degree. If you are already an accountant, consider pursuing a master’s in accounting.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook estimates job growth for accountants and auditors to increase by about 4% from 2019 to 2029, as fast as average, accounting for the addition of an estimated 61,700 jobs in the field.1 Keeping this promising job outlook in mind, here are some things to consider when pursuing a career in accounting.
What Is an Accountant?
An accountant is primarily responsible for maintaining and analyzing the financial records of a company, ensuring that the organization is managing its money effectively. Because dealing with finances is a large task, various accounting subfields have developed to manage different processes and keep things running smoothly. For example, some accountants specialize in handling a business’s taxes while others focus on international accounting.
Important Accounting Skills
If you are considering this career path, it is important to know what makes a great accountant. Some of the valuable skills that accountants need include:
- Basic Math: Most people think that accountants must be math experts, but this is not entirely true. Accountants typically need only basic math skills to handle responsibilities like analyzing and comparing numbers.
- Attentiveness: Accounting is all about the details, which is why good accountants are attentive. Because accountants are responsible for financial data, they must pay close attention to every detail to avoid making any mistakes that could impact a company’s cash flow.
- Analytical Focus: Accountants do not just keep track of financial data; they also analyze data to help their clients make the best decisions for their success and growth.
- Organization: Staying organized is important in many different careers, and accounting is no exception. Accountants must be highly organized so that they can handle multiple clients, meet deadlines and follow proper reporting guidelines. Each client comes with substantial documentation that an accountant must keep track of. A disorganized accountant will struggle to keep track of important paperwork.
- Communication: A key requirement for any accounting job is sharing data with clients. That is why it is important for accountants to have good communication skills. The ability to communicate well allows accountants to share information in a way that clients can understand.
- Auditing: Audit accountants perform audits on companies — internally or externally — to ensure that proper financial and accounting practices are being performed. It is important for accountants to have solid auditing skills to succeed in these jobs.
Is Accounting Hard?
While accounting can be difficult at times, graduates can succeed by cultivating good time management skills and taking their classes seriously. Students who love math will find that accounting is a great field in which to use their skills. By taking extensive notes, accounting majors will be able to handle complex work when the time comes.
Common Accounting Responsibilities
While there is no set list of responsibilities that every accountant will encounter during their career, there are a few common responsibilities that many accountants handle, which include:
- Compiling Financial Data: Accountants are typically responsible for compiling and organizing financial data. This data can include purchase receipts, sales records and other statements. Along with compiling data, accountants must ensure that all figures are accurate and all documents comply with current laws and regulations.
- Creating Financial Reports: Clients rely on accountants to help them figure out how to achieve growth. Accountants are responsible for using the information that they have gathered to create financial reports. These reports help clients understand their current financial situations and determine if they should make changes within their company.
- Issuing Invoices: All companies need to make money, which is why they need to charge customers in a timely and organized manner. Accountants often shoulder this responsibility. In addition to issuing invoices, accountants must also keep track of who has or has not paid their invoices.
- Managing Payroll: Accountants can also take on the responsibility of managing payroll for their clients. This responsibility includes keeping track of how many hours each employee works and how much each employee should be paid.
Different Types of Accounting Jobs
Accounting plays an important role in every industry, which is why there are many different types of accounting jobs available. After earning an accounting degree, graduates can pursue a variety of accounting-related careers, including:
- Entry-level or Junior Accountants: These entry level accounting jobs are great for those starting off in the field. Graduates may begin by updating various financial statements, assisting with payroll management or helping draft financial reports for the company.
- Financial Accountants: These accountants typically work for a company and handle all the responsibilities discussed above. Financial accountants are foundational for businesses and corporations because they handle all financial transactions.
- Tax Accountants: Accountants with expertise in taxes typically handle state and federal tax returns for both individuals and businesses. These professionals assist with tax preparation and audits.
- Nonprofit Accountants: Unlike other types of accountants, these professionals are focused on minimizing costs for the nonprofit organizations that employ them. They also help nonprofits balance their revenue, budget and costs.
- International Accountants: Some businesses work internationally and need accountants that are familiar with international tax laws. These accountants ensure that their clients follow various international regulations and improve their overall growth.
- Forensic Accountants: These accountants provide litigation support and investigative services. They work with law enforcement to uncover the truth about shady financial situations.
Earning a Master’s in Accounting
After earning a bachelor’s degree, aspiring accounts should consider earning their Master of Science in Accounting (MSA) degree or Master of Business Administration (MBA) with an Emphasis in Accounting as well as their certified public accountant (CPA) credential. This could be an important steppingstone to achieving your career goals.
Accounting graduates may pursue careers in these fields:
- Accountants and auditors
- Budget analyst
- Tax preparers
- Business teachers
- Credit analyst
- Financial examiners
- Appraisers of property
- Tax examiners
- Financial risk specialist
Are you interested in learning more about becoming an accountant? If so, the business degree and management degree programs at Grand Canyon University can help you on your academic journey. We can help you gain the skills needed to find a rewarding career in the accounting industry. You can learn more about what to expect from the Bachelor of Science in Accounting degree program on our website. If you have more questions about the accounting degree program, you can click the Request More Information button at the top of this page.
1 COVID-19 has adversely affected the global economy and data from 2020 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as well. Accordingly, data shown is based on 2020 to 2030, which can be found here: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Accountants and Auditors.
Approved by the Director of Academic Operations for the Colangelo College of Business on Sept. 30, 2022.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.
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