Accounting is a profession that has been around for centuries, and people who have trained as accountants are still in high demand as businesses around the world require certified, qualified professionals to audit their finances. To act as an accountant, you need both certain personal characteristics and extensive training, but it is a field that pays well and delivers job security.
What accountants do on a daily basis
Financial transactions need to be logged correctly, and the financial performance of businesses need to be reported on at regular intervals. These are the classic duties of an accountant, ensuring that businesses keep accurate records, taxes are paid, and the financial statements are reviewed and interpreted. Accountants also provide similar services to individuals who are wealthy or have more complex financial affairs.
Yet accountants do more than merely keep records – accountants are key players in setting business strategy. Trained accountants can help management teams to interpret financial statements, giving advice on financing objectives and potential exposure to risks. Accountants are key advisors when businesses come to the point of setting goals and advise throughout the planning involved in achieving these goals.
The different accounting roles
As businesses have become more complex, the different roles in accountancy have also multiplied. Accountancy roles vary from the reasonably simple and straightforward, such as the job performed by a bookkeeper or accountancy assistant, to the much more complex. Large businesses will employ certified public accountants, or CPAs, who have extensive knowledge of intricate accounting laws and regulations. A CPA has the authority to sign off on a company’s accounts, certifying to the public that they are valid and correct.
Specialist tax accountants look after the tax affairs of a business and provide advice on how to structure the financial operations of a company in a way that minimizes its tax exposure. Internal auditors are accountants who have further specialized in scrutinizing the internal affairs of corporate financial systems.
Important skills that every accountant needs
First and foremost, accountants need to be detail oriented, and need to have reasonable aptitude for numbers. The mathematics involved in accountancy is not at a high level, but you do need to be comfortable with numbers. Good computer skills are also essential, as accountancy as a profession rarely makes use of paper records in modern businesses.
Accountants also need to be good at teamwork, and especially in larger corporate environments where information needs to be collated from a wide variety of sources. Communications skills are also important because an accountant needs to be able to explain the conclusions that they draw from financial statements to people who do not have an accountancy background.
How to train as an accountant
Depending on the level of accountancy expertise that you want to achieve, the training required can vary from a very short period to almost a decade. Basic bookkeeping skills can be gained relatively easily via short courses that explain simple accounting concepts. This will allow you to assist businesses in recordkeeping, but you won’t be able to sign off and certify accounts or be able to contribute much to management discussion around business performance.
On the other hand, completing a bachelor’s degree and many years of work-based study leads to qualifying as a CPA. CPAs are high earners due to the difficulty and amount of studying required to reach their level of expertise. If you are already in an accountancy position and would like to improve your job prospects, you should visit university websites and learn more about their online masters in accounting, as a postgraduate degree of this type can be a stepping stone to improved employment, or provide exemptions in the CPA qualification process.
The job prospects of an accountant
Accountancy remains a very popular study route for school-leaving students due to the excellent job prospects for individuals who take up the subject as their field of expertise. If you are prepared to sit through many years of exams to qualify as a CPA, you will be among the top earners in the country, with qualified CPAs often employed at the very top of the corporate hierarchy.
Another appealing aspect of accountancy as a career is the flexibility of it. Depending on your desire for a work-life balance and the amount of time that you want to spend building your career, accountancy can offer a middle-of-the-road compromise. Spending less time studying will still leave you working in a highly paid field, but enjoying more hours for leisure and family time.