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An accountant examines financial records to check for accuracy and make sure individuals and organizations are abiding by laws and regulations. He or she calculates taxes, prepares tax returns, and makes sure taxes are paid correctly and by the designated deadlines. Other duties include organizing financial records and recommending ways to decrease costs, boost revenues, and increase profits. An accountant regularly meets with clients and prepares written reports to explain their findings and suggestions.
Types of Accounting
In general, there are four types of accounting: public, government, management, and internal auditing. There are also various subfields within each area. Public accounting is the most extensive field and public accountants complete a wide range of accounting, tax, auditing, and consulting activities for individuals, corporations, and government organizations. Government accounting handles the records of government organizations and completes auditing tasks for individuals and businesses that are subject to government regulation. Management accounting focuses on the analysis of financial data for companies and assist in planning and budgeting. Management accountants prepare information for internal use. Internal auditors inspect for the misconduct of the funds of an entity. They recognize ways to improve ways for identifying and removing waste and fraud.
In general, a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in accounting or related area is necessary to work as an accountant. A Bachelor of Arts in Accounting is a common degree and it provides a solid understanding of intermediate and advanced accounting practices. The degree prepares students to enter the field at an entry or mid-level position. Some employers seek individuals who have a master’s degree in an accounting related field. Two common master’s degree programs are the Master in Accounting and the Master of Business Administration with concentration in accounting.
Many accountants become certified to improve job opportunities. For example, numerous accountants decide to become Certified Public Accountants, or CPA, to increase job prospects or to obtain a large clientele. To become a CPA, an individual must receive a passing score on a national examination. Additional requirements include a minimum of 150 semester hours of college coursework. Nearly all states require CPAs to complete regular continuing education to maintain their certifications. Other certifications include Certified Management Accountant, or CMA, and Certified Internal Auditor, or CIA. If an accountant files reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission, he or she must have the Certified Public Accountant credential.
An accountant must possess a variety of skills such as an aptitude for mathematics and close attention to detail. He or she must be able to analyze and synthesize large amounts of data. Other desirable skills include effective oral and written communication and excellent computer skills.