How To Become An Accountant
An accountant is a person whose profession is inspecting the financial accounts of businesses and individuals. They carefully monitor and record the revenue and expenses of a business. As businesses grow, their financial needs get more complicated. Many companies hire an accounting firm to take care of their financial duties.
This is a great job for somebody who is good at math, has good business skills, and is detail oriented. In order to become an accountant, you will need to be licensed and have a master’s degree in a field such as accounting, business administration, or a related program.
Why Become An Accountant
As businesses grow, they take on many more responsibilities and tasks, especially regarding their finances. Rather than handle these duties themselves, which can be complicated, many businesses choose to hire an accountant. Accountants are trained to perform a wide variety of duties.
Accountants handle payroll, processing the payroll for the employees at the company. They prepare budget reports for the company. They analyze and review budgets, revenue and expenses. They handle a general ledger and document business transactions. They interact with auditors when audits become necessary. The establish accounting control procedures for the company.
They use accounting software and maintain financial databases. They also resolve any discrepancies, such as outstanding debts that customers may have. They figure out ways to save their clients money, enhance revenue and increase profits.
Many accountants have a specialty in their career field, such as fraud, taxes, risk management, contract disputes, or many other kinds of specialties.
The financial matters involved with a business can be quite complex. A business owner may not know how to do their own payroll, or know all of the tax laws that apply to their company.
A business owner may not have the time to be involved with such tasks, and need to focus their attention on other tasks involved with their company. For these reasons, many entrepreneurs choose to hire accountants.
Accountants should possess the following qualities and skills:
- Great at math
- Detail oriented
- Good communicator
- Problem solver
- Time management skills
- Business skills
Accountant Work Environment
Accountants spend much of their time working alone. They spend time working in an office, looking information up on the computer. They have several pages of paperwork and reports that they must keep track of when working. Due to the nature of the job, most of this work is able to be done from home. Many accountants travel to their clients’ place of business in order to complete work there.
In this case, work requires a moderate amount of travel. Accountants typically work full time. The spring of each year is busiest for accountants, because taxes are due in April, and many clients are rushing to get these filed before the deadline.
The median annual salary for accountants was $68,150 in 2016, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Like many professions, salary can vary widely for accountants. One factor in determining salary is considering the industry that an accountant works within. Accountants can be found within many different industries.
Those who work for state or federal government tend to make lower amounts of money relatively speaking — $65,000 annually. Meanwhile, those who work in finance made $73,000 annually in 2016.
Average Accountant Annual Salary
The average annual salary for accountants is $77,920 a year. Salaries start at $43,020 a year and go up to $122,220 a year.
Average Accountant Hourly Wage
The average hourly wage for a accountant is $37.46. Hourly wages are between $20.68 and $58.76 an hour.
Stats were based out of 1,241,000 employed accountants in the United States.
Highest Paying States For Accountants
- 1. District of Columbia $46.58 / hr $96,880 / yr
- 2. New York $45.88 / hr $95,430 / yr
- 3. New Jersey $43.94 / hr $91,400 / yr
- 4. Virginia $40.74 / hr $84,740 / yr
- 5. California $40.16 / hr $83,540 / yr
Top Paying Cities For Accountants
- 1. San Rafael, CA $50.99 / hr$106,050 / yr
- 2. New York, NY $48.81 / hr$101,520 / yr
- 3. San Jose, CA $47.07 / hr$97,910 / yr
- 4. Fairbanks, AK $45.52 / hr$94,680 / yr
- 5. Washington, DC $45.14 / hr$93,900 / yr
Data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Accountant Career Outlook
Employment for accountants is expected to grow by 10 percent from 2016 to 2026, which is faster than many other professions within the United States.
Accountants check an organization’s financial records to determine if it is in accordance with state and federal regulations and accepted accounting standards. As corporations and organizations seek to comply with the more stringent regulations now being imposed by government regulators, the need for auditors is expected to grow in the next few years. Although this can be a stressful occupation, accountants are financially well-compensated.
The increase of employment in this profession is caused by the healthy economic growth within the country. As industry sectors grow, businesses will increase their revenue. They will need to rely on the services provided by accountants to make sure they are completing taxes correctly.
As businesses expand, their taxes and other business requirements become more complicated. It is important for companies to seek out the help of an accountant who can help keep company owners on track with their finances.
If you would like to become an accountant, read more about this profession below.
Step 1: Undergraduate education. If you want to become an accountant, you are going to need at least a bachelor’s degree. Programs such as accounting, business administration, finance, economics, and similar programs will help give you insight into the profession. This is a good way to figure out if this is the right profession for you. It takes four years to earn a bachelor’s degree.
Step 2: Graduate education. A master’s degree is not required, but it is strongly encouraged. A graduate degree will help you stand out in a crowd of applications and find jobs more easily. It will better prepare you for this field. Courses will be more advanced, focusing on auditing, taxes, finance, and business law.
Step 3: Licensure. Every accountant is required by law to be licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). In order to become a Certified Public Accountant, a person must pass a national exam. Candidates are required to complete 150 hours of coursework in college. During most four-year undergraduate programs, students will complete only 120 hours of coursework; this is one reason why many people opt to complete a master’s degree. Once licensed, all certified public accountants must take continuing education classes in order to maintain their license.
Below are a few examples of classes that accountants will take during their program of study.
Tax Policy: This course will introduce the concepts of taxes, deductions, credits, exemptions, and the role that accountants play in helping businesses and individuals with their taxes.
Internal Auditing: Internal auditing involves self-evaluation of a company’s accounting practices. In this class, students learn to uncover irregularities and report them. Auditing is an important component of an accountant’s work.
Financial Reporting: Students learn the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and their importance in the field of accounting. Students learn about ledgers, balance sheets, inventory methods, and other concepts that are important in this field.
Accountant Career Path
|Forensic Accountant||Forensic accountants focus on fraud of companies.||Accountants work closely with state and federal law enforcement, examining claims that companies are not paying taxes or are otherwise committing fraud. Forensic accountants deals with external investigations.||Certified fraud examiner||Great pay working for the government and many opportunities for growth|
|Internal Auditor||Internal auditors work with companies to evaluate their accounting practices.||Audit companies on a regular basis, teaching them how they can better keep track of their financial activities.||Certified internal auditor||Many different clients, get to travel as part of job.|
Related Accountant Careers
If you want to be an accountant, here are some other careers you may be interested in.
Bookkeeper: Bookkeepers record financial transactions, check financial records for accuracy, produce reports, balance sheets, and other statements for companies.
Personal Financial Advisor: These individuals help people plan for the future. They give advice on investments, mortgages, estate planning, and retirement, amongst other things.
Financial Analyst: Financial analysts study current and historic economic trends and make recommendations in the areas of stocks, bonds, and other types of investments.