Accounting Careers and Job Outlook

Accounting is the process of recording, summarizing, reporting and analyzing financial transactions. Accounting is important in essentially every industry because it is the universal language used in all business practices. It makes sense of what's really happening in a company and makes this data understandable to the general public, shareholders and also the employees.

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What do accountants do?

Accountants keep track of numbers, make sense of numbers, and ensure that companies are run efficiently. In today's society, accountants are usually employed in public accounting firms, for-profit or non-profit organizations, government agencies or in their own firms. Accountants who work at a public accounting firm are generally referred to as public accountants. Their main responsibilities include auditing, tax services and management consulting. Accountants who work in corporations make sure the finances and operations of their particular companies are in order, and their companies' practices comply with company policies and government regulations. Government agencies also hire a lot of accountants. Some accountants employed by the government perform similar duties as their counterparts employed in public accounting firms and private corporations. However, government agencies also hire forensic accountants, who use their accounting skills to investigate into potential thefts and fraud. Some accountants, after passing the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam, open their own practices and provide their services to small companies and their communities.

How much do accountants make? What is the job outlook?

According to the website of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary of accountants was $61,690 in May 2010. In the same survey, statistics showed that the lowest 10 percent earned less than $38,940 and then top 10 percent earned more than $106,880. Compared with the average for all occupations, employment of accountants is expected to be about as fast as average. The accounting field is projected to have a 16 percent growth between 2010 and 2020. The increased focus on accounting in response to corporate scandals, financial crises and continued globalization of business is expected to lead to a steady demand of competent accountants in the upcoming years.

How can you become an accountant?

In order to secure an entry-level position in the field of accounting, the applicant needs at least a bachelor's degree in accounting or finance. Some employers may prefer applicants with an advanced degree, either a master's in accounting or a master's in business administration with a specialization in accounting. In some cases, an applicant with high-school diploma or associate's degree can enter the accounting field by becoming a bookkeeper or accounting clerk. A bookkeeper or accounting clerk with adequate working experience may be able to advance to an accounting position under the discretion of the employer.

In the accounting profession, many accountants eventually take the standardized exams to become CPAs, and hence work experience is extremely important. Before a college graduate with a background in accounting can sit for the exams and apply for a CPA license, the candidate is required to have a few years of internship or work experience under his belt.