What does an accountant do?

Looking at what an accountant does on a daily basis gives you an idea of whether the profession is right for you and if you want to spend time in school to become one. Accountants need to have a strong understanding of state, federal, and local laws to ensure that the financial documents they create meet those laws. Employers may ask accountants to examine the documents that others created to make sure they do not violate any laws. Accountants can specialize in tax records, which will make them responsible for creating and preparing the documents that individuals and companies use to file their taxes.

Some of the other duties of an accountant can include:

- Attending conferences and events to stay up to date about accounting principles

- Checking the financial operations of a business to find ways to save money and reduce costs

- Looking for ways to improve profits

- Determining the amount due when a client files their taxes and helping them find deductions

- Organizing and keeping track of financial records

View Jobs
1

What is the average salary of an accountant?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary of a working accountant today is $73,560 per year or $35.37 per hour. This means that half of all accountants earn more or less than this amount. Those who make the highest amount in this profession are those who work in insurance and finance. They earn $78,600 a year. Accountants who work in enterprise and management positions earn $76,230 a year, while those who work in bookkeeping and tax preparation positions usually earn $73,180 a year. Government accountants often earn less than other accountants do but still make a median annual wage of more than $72,000. The Bureau of Labor Statistics includes auditors in these figures.

male_accountant
2

Working as an accountant

Working as an accountant allows you to work a set schedule every week and know the total number of hours you will work. You have the freedom to take time off for a vacation; many employers offer paid time off. Accountants usually receive health insurance through their employers and often get contributions to their retirement accountants. 

What are the responsibilities of an accountant?

The duties and responsibilities that you face as an accountant depend on the industry you choose. Government accountants help individuals and companies that owe taxes. They can work out payment plans that allow those individuals and companies to pay off their past-due taxes over several years. Government accountants also work in government departments to ensure that businesses follow federal and state financial regulations.

Management accountants work for private companies. Also called corporate or cost accountants, they prepare financial documents. The documents often show the losses and profits that the company recorded in the last quarter. Corporate accountants can also help an employer make smart financial decisions and organize records.

Another type of accountant is a public accountant, which you may hear some call a certified public accountant, or CPA. A CPA is responsible for preparing the financial documents that both an employer and others need. They may make copies of records for the government or shareholders. As a CPA, you can also advise clients on financial decisions and help them file their taxes. 

A newer form of accounting is forensic accounting where you can find evidence of crimes and fraud through examination of financial documents and records.

What type of equipment do accountants use?

The most important equipment that accountants use is accounting software. This software lets you keep track of the records you create and examine. Though many employers will provide the software that you need, you may need to purchase different programs on your own, especially if you work from home. You also need a good computer that can connect to the internet and has enough space for your software. Many accountants use cloud tools because they can log in from different spaces and access all of their work. You also need software that helps you manage and keep track of documents to cut down on your paperwork along with tax prep software.

What is the work environment of an accountant?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are roughly 1.4 million accountants working in the United States today. Of those accountants, 25% work in payroll services and tax preparation along with general accounting positions. Another 9% work in finance and insurance with 8% working for government agencies. The remaining accountants in the field work in management positions or are self-employed.

You generally work the same hours each week as an accountant, with your day beginning at 8 or 9 a.m. and ending at 5 p.m. or later. During tax preparation season and the end of each quarter, you can expect to spend long hours in the office as your clients will need more help to meet financial reporting deadlines. Though accountants do not usually travel, they may attend weekend conferences and professional events where you network with other accountants. While some employers cover your travel costs, others ask that you pay these costs yourself to further your career.

Who are your colleagues as an accountant?

Accountants usually interact with both agencies and individuals. Public accountants spend more time with their clients who can include both individual people along with the heads of companies. Management and government accountants spend more time working with others. They may have meetings with people from different departments or groups every day. You have the choice of holding meetings in your office or out in public as well as in the offices of your clients. Accountants often work with other financial specialists. If you are self-employed, you may only see one client a day and spend more time on your own. Self-employed accountants can spend 20 hours or more working on their own each week.

What is the work schedule of an accountant?

You can work full-time or part-time as an accountant as well as on a seasonal basis. Large financial assistance companies like H&R Block hire accountants to work part-time during the busy tax prep season. Be advised that you might work 50+ hours a week from January through April and then cut down on your hours for the rest of the year or work in a different position. Full-time accountants spend a minimum of 40 hours a week in an office setting and will often work 50 hours or more. Though you may occasionally work at night during busy seasons, you usually have weekends off. Many companies that hire accountants also give them paid time off they can use for vacations.

3

What is the career outlook for an accountant?

The job outlook for accountants is similar to those found in other financial industries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, all business and financial jobs should grow at a rate of 8% in the coming years. The need for accountants will grow at a rate of 7%, which equates to an increase of 96,000 jobs in the accounting field. Management and public accounting fields will have a higher growth rate as many professionals in this sector are either retiring or nearing retirement age. The need for other financial specialists will only grow by 5% through 2030.

What are the advantages of working with Spherion as an accountant?

Working as an accountant with Spherion gives you many benefits that you won't find anywhere else. For example: 

  • You can look for accounting jobs and similar open positions in the financial sector.
  • You're not limited to just the city where you live right now.
  • You can find an accounting job that pays you every week or every two weeks.
  • Spherion has accounting positions that offer more flexibility.
  • Every person who submits their resume and contact information on Spherion.com gets partnered with a contact person to help them with anything they need.
  • You can look for similar jobs and training opportunities in any city.
4

What education and skills do you need as an accountant?

Education

The minimum education that you need to become an accountant is a bachelor's degree. Many colleges offer degree programs in accounting along with business degree programs with an emphasis on accounting. During your time in college, you have the chance to take classes in various areas that range from tax and forensic accounting to auditing and bookkeeping. You may need a graduate degree to work in some fields.

Becoming a CPA requires that you take the CPA license exam. The requirements you must meet before taking this test depend on your state. Becker found that you need to complete between 120 and 150 credit hours of finance and accounting classes, including any you take as a postgraduate. You must be at least 18 or 21 years old. Some states require that you live there for a minimum of six months before you apply to take the exam.

Skills & competencies

While a bachelor's degree qualifies you to work in some accounting positions, you need specialized skills and competencies to advance within this career field. You must have strong critical thinking skills as you often need to make decisions that impact a large group of people or an entire organization. Accountants need analytical skills, which they use to analyze and create financial documents. As you work with others on the job, it's helpful to have strong communication skills, both in person and online. Accountants must also be competent in their organizational and math skills.

5

FAQs

Accountants prepare financial documents and examine those documents as needed. Find answers to common questions about how to become an accountant below.

thank you for subscribing to your personalised job alerts.