What Are The Different Types Of Accountants?

"Accounting looks like a great field to get into. It’s appealing to me to have a job where I’m going to feel secure, and accounting looks like a very secure field. I was wondering though if there is more than one type of accountant. Is an auditor a type of accountant? And what about specialties, like tax accountants? I want to know what I should specialize in, if anything."

asked by Rose from Colorado Springs, CO

It is great that you are thinking about becoming an accountant. Accountants are always needed in every sector, and yes, there are a number of different types of accountants. Auditors are sometimes considered a type of accountant, but in many ways, auditing is a unique profession. More on that after we go over the most common types of accountants.

Public Accountants

Most people are thinking of public accountants when they think of accounting. Public accountants provide a wide variety of tax services including general accounting, auditing, tax preparation, and consulting. They may work for companies or individuals, and may also provide their services to government departments or nonprofit organizations. This is a great starting place if you are not sure exactly what you want to do. Public accountants work with a wide range of clients and in all different types of companies. As a public accountant, you would find plenty of doors open to you.

Some public accountants may specialize in a particular field, such as tax preparation or forensic accounting. Tax preparers do exactly what you would guess. These are accountants like those that work for companies like H&R Block and other tax preparation services. Taxes are by themselves such a complex area of accounting that it takes a real expert to be able to prepare taxes without errors. Some tax preparers even take specialization a step further and prepare taxes for specific types of businesses (like investing firms or day traders).

What is forensic accounting? This is a subset of accounting which deals primarily with accounting issues related to legal disputes. Litigations are costly for everybody involved, and the expenses and legalities surrounding them can be quite complex. Forensic accountants work with parties involved in litigation to assure that payments due are rendered. They may perform calculations for economic damages in situations of breach of contract, or may be involved with bankruptcy proceedings for troubled businesses. They may work with families which are undergoing divorces, or may assist with aftermath in cases of fraud. If you have an interest in law and a passion for numbers, you may love working as a forensic accountant.

Management Accountants

These types of accountants usually work in-house, as opposed to for a separate accounting firm (as many public accountants do). They are company employees who handle accounting tasks from within, usually as part of a department dedicated to the task. As the name implies, they are usually considered to be managerial staff members. They are essential members of the organization, because the company relies on them to help guide the organization each day in making sound financial decisions.

If you work as a management accountant, you may put yourself in a great position for eventual promotion to the senior company staff. This is a great role if you enjoy working closely with others and are passionate about making a difference for the company you work for.

Government Accountants

As you might guess, the government also employs a large number of accountants. Some work with government bureaus to keep spending within prescribed bounds. Others may work for the IRS with the responsibility of ensuring that tax payers are properly paying the money which is due to the government. State governments also provide many jobs to accountants.

Auditors

Auditors are considered a type of accountant, but their job is a bit different; many companies work with both accountants and auditors. Auditors do similar tasks, but typically on a quarterly or annual basis instead of on a daily basis, and they may check the work of a company’s accountants. Often they are contracted from third party firms to provide an independent check of a company’s own internal accounting procedures.

If you love working with financial data and you have great attention to detail, you may make an excellent accountant.

The setting where you work (a government body, a company, an accounting firm, or on your own) will depend largely on the type of accounting you decide to go into. Whether you become a government accountant, managerial accountant, or public accountant, you will earn the highest wages if you become certified. So make sure you enroll in a program that will allow you to earn an accounting degree and pass the certification requirements.

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