What Is Accounting?

"I am really interested in working with quantitative data. I love making sure everything “adds up” in my life. For both those reasons, I’m thinking that I’d be interested in becoming an accountant. But it seems like a really complicated job, and I’m not entirely sure what my duties would consist of or whether it’s something I could handle. ‘Accounting’ is a pretty intimidating word to a lot of people. What is accounting? How do I know if I have what it takes? Thank you."

asked by John from Topeka, KS

To answer your question, I’d like to tell you not only about the duties of an accountant, but also the role of an auditor. The two professions are regularly confused, and telling you about both should give you a better idea of what you’d be doing if you became an accountant.

You also might find that you’re interested in becoming an auditor instead. The skill sets and mindsets needed for both jobs are quite similar.

An accountant is a professional who takes care of the daily financial work of a company, whether as an employee or as a contractor. You might be responsible for billing, payments, payroll information, tax deductions, expenses, and other aspects of business.

It would be your job at the end of the year to make sure all the books add up, and to figure out what is causing discrepancies. Ultimately, as an account it is your job to save the company money and increase revenue by maximizing the efficiency of financial transactions in the workplace.

If you decide instead to go into auditing, you will be doing a similar process, but in a way you’ll be the accountant for an accountant. Auditors review the work that a company’s accountants have already done.

Sometimes a company will have an auditor on its own staff, while other times they will hire out to a contractor. The goal of the auditing procedure is to check the accuracy of the accounting procedures which were used throughout the year. Some companies audit annually while others will do it more often.

The words “accounting” and “auditing” are often used interchangeably, but they are two different careers. Auditing supersedes accounting. Accounting is also done on a daily basis, whereas auditing is a larger, more complex task which is generally done quarterly or annually.

Even companies sometimes use the words interchangeably, however, so note that some accounting jobs are referred to as auditing jobs and vice versa. You have to learn the job details to figure out which it really is.

Either of these professions may be of interest to you since you like working with numbers and making things “add up.” Both accountants and auditors need similar skills and personality traits in order to successfully complete their separate, but related tasks.

How do you decide which job to do? One great thing about accounting and auditing is the skills you use for one work for both, so if you go into this field, opportunities in both arenas should open up to you.

You can then decide what you want to do as you move forward with your career.

Career Spotlight: 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 g[...]

Join The Discussion - 1 Comment

  1. Matthew Marsh says:

    I thought this was a great article and will be sharing with my LinkedIn network. New graduates and those considering the Accounting/Audit fields should definitely check this one out.

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