Accountant or Auditor
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Salary Range: $60,000 to $79,999
Average Hourly: $35.37
Education: Bachelor's degree
Number of Jobs: 1,392,200
Jobs Added to 2029: 96,000
Growth: As fast as average
Go here to see salary and job data specific to the United Kingdom.
What Accountants and Auditors Do
Accountants and auditors typically do the following:
- Examine financial statements to ensure that they are accurate and comply with laws and regulations
- Compute taxes owed, prepare tax returns, and ensure that taxes are paid properly and on time
- Inspect account books and accounting systems for efficiency and use of accepted accounting procedures and identify potential risks for fraud
- Organize, analyze, and maintain financial records
- Assess financial operations, identify risks and challenges, and make best-practices recommendations to management
- Suggest ways to reduce costs, enhance revenues, and improve profits
Accountants and auditors may use technology, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics process automation, to increase their productivity. Automating some routine tasks makes these workers more efficient by allowing them to focus on analysis and other high-level responsibilities.
In addition to examining and preparing financial documents, accountants and auditors must explain their findings. This includes preparing written reports and meeting face-to-face with organization managers and individual clients.
Many accountants and auditors specialize, depending on their employer. Some work for organizations that specialize in assurance services (improving the quality or context of information for decision makers) or risk management (determining the probability of a misstatement on financial documents). Other organizations specialize in specific industries, such as finance, insurance, or healthcare.
The following are examples of types of accountants and auditors:
Government accountants maintain and examine the records of government agencies and audit private businesses and individuals whose activities are subject to government regulations or taxation. Accountants employed by federal, state, and local governments ensure that revenues are received and spent according to laws and regulations. Their responsibilities include auditing, financial reporting, and management accounting.
Management accountants are also called cost, corporate, industrial, managerial, or private accountants. They combine accounting and financial information to guide business decision making. They also understand financial and nonfinancial data and how to integrate information. The information that management accountants prepare is intended for internal use by business managers, not for the public.
Management accountants often prepare budgets and evaluate performance. They also may help organizations plan the cost of doing business. Some work with financial managers on asset management, which involves planning and selecting financial investments such as stocks, bonds, and real estate.
Public accountants have a broad range of accounting, auditing, tax, and consulting tasks. Their clients include corporations, governments, individuals, and nonprofits.
Public accountants work with financial documents that clients are required by law to disclose, such as tax forms and financial statements that corporations must provide to current and potential investors. Some public accountants concentrate on tax matters, advising corporations about the tax advantages of certain business decisions or preparing individual income tax returns.
Other public accountants specialize in forensic accounting, investigating financial crimes such as securities fraud and embezzlement, bankruptcies and contract disputes, and other complex and potentially criminal financial transactions. Forensic accountants combine their knowledge of accounting and finance with law and investigative techniques to determine if an activity is illegal. Many forensic accountants work closely with law enforcement personnel and lawyers during investigations and often appear as expert witnesses during trials.
Still others work with individuals, advising them on important personal financial matters. These public accountants combine their expertise in data management, economics, financial planning, and tax law to develop strategies for their clients. Advisory services cover topics including cash flow, insurance, investment, retirement, and wealth transfer planning to help clients meet financial goals, such as retirement, paying for a child’s education, or buying a home.
Public accountants, many of whom are Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), generally have their own businesses or work for public accounting firms. Publicly traded companies are required to have CPAs sign documents they submit to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), including annual and quarterly reports.
External auditors check for proper management of an organization’s funds, sources of revenue, and internal controls, such as financial data preparation or managing risks to cybersecurity or the supply chain. They are employed by an outside organization, rather than the one they are auditing. They review clients’ financial statements and inform authorities, investors, and regulators that the statements have been correctly prepared and reported with no material misstatements.
Information technology (IT) auditors review controls for their organization’s IT systems to ensure that both financial and nonfinancial data come from a reliable source.
Internal auditors have duties that are similar to external auditors, but these workers are employed by the organization they are auditing. They identify ways to improve the processes for finding and eliminating waste, fraud, and other financial risks to the organization. The practice of internal auditing is not regulated, but the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) provides generally accepted standards.
|Accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll services||25%|
|Finance and insurance||9|
|Management of companies and enterprises||7|
Most accountants and auditors work in offices, but some work from home. Although accountants and auditors usually work in teams, some work alone. Accountants and auditors may travel to their clients’ places of business.
Most accountants and auditors work full time. Longer periods of work are typical at certain times of the year, such as for quarterly audits or during tax season.
Employment of accountants and auditors is projected to grow 7 percent from 2020 to 2030, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
About 135,000 openings for accountants and auditors are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
How to Become an Accountant or Auditor
Accountants and auditors typically need a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field, such as business. Some employers prefer to hire applicants who have a master’s degree, either in accounting or in business administration with a concentration in accounting.
Some universities and colleges offer specialized programs for a bachelor’s or master’s degree, such as in accounting, forensic accounting, internal auditing, or tax accounting. In some cases, those with an associate’s degree, as well as bookkeepers, accounting, and auditing clerks who meet the education and experience requirements set by their employers, may get junior accounting positions and advance by showing their accounting skills on the job.
Students may gain practical experience through internships with public accounting or business firms.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Any accountant who files a report with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is required to be a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Other accountants choose to become a CPA to enhance their job prospects or to gain clients. Employers may pay the costs associated with the CPA exam.
CPAs are licensed by their state’s Board of Accountancy. Becoming a CPA requires passing a national exam and meeting other state requirements. All states require CPA candidates to complete 150 semester hours of college coursework to be licensed, which is 30 hours more than the usual 4-year bachelor’s degree. Many schools offer a 5-year combined bachelor’s and master’s degree to meet the 150-hour requirement, but a master’s degree is not required.
A few states allow a number of years of public accounting experience to substitute for a college degree.
All states use the four-part Uniform CPA Examination from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). Candidates do not have to pass all four parts at once, but most states require that candidates pass all four parts within 18 months of passing their first part.
All states require CPAs to take continuing education courses, including ethics, to maintain their license.
Certification provides an advantage in the job market because it shows professional competence in a specialized field of accounting and auditing. Accountants and auditors seek certifications from a variety of professional societies. Some of the most common certifications are listed below:
The AICPA offers several designations. For accountants with a CPA, the AICPA offers the Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV), Certified Financial Forensics (CFF), Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP), and Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) certifications. All of these credentials require experience in the related area, continuing education, and passing an exam.
AICPA and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) developed the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation as an internationally recognized professional credential. Candidates must complete a program, pass an exam, and meet a requirement for work experience.
The Association of Government Accountants (AGA) offers the Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM) credential to accountants or auditors working with federal, state, or local government. To earn this certification, candidates must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university, pass examinations, and have professional-level experience in government financial management. To keep the certification, CGFMs must complete continuing professional education.
The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) offers the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) credential to graduates from accredited colleges and universities who have work experience as internal auditors and have passed an exam. The IIA also offers the Certified in Control Self-Assessment (CCSA), Certified Government Auditing Professional (CGAP), Certified Financial Services Auditor (CFSA), and Certification in Risk Management Assurance (CRMA) to those who pass the exams and meet educational and experience requirements.
The Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) offers the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) to applicants who complete a bachelor’s degree. Applicants must have work experience in management accounting, pass an exam, agree to meet continuing education requirements, and comply with standards of professional conduct.
ISACA offers the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) to candidates who pass an exam and have work experience auditing information systems. Information systems experience, financial or operational auditing experience, or related college credit hours may be substituted for some of the experience required in information systems auditing, control, or security.
Some top executives and financial managers have a background in accounting, internal auditing, or finance.
Entry-level public accountants may advance to senior positions as they gain experience and take on more responsibility. Those who excel may become supervisors, managers, or partners; open their own public accounting firm; or transfer to executive positions in management accounting or internal auditing in private firms.
Management accountants often start as cost accountants, junior internal auditors, or trainees for other accounting positions. As they rise through the organization, they may advance to become accounting managers, budget directors, chief cost accountants, or managers of internal auditing. Some become controllers, treasurers, financial vice presidents, chief financial officers, or corporation presidents.
Public accountants, management accountants, and internal auditors may move from one type of accounting and auditing to another. Public accountants often move into management accounting or internal auditing. Management accountants may become internal auditors, and internal auditors may become management accountants. However, it is less common for management accountants or internal auditors to move into public accounting.
Analytical and critical-thinking skills. Accountants and auditors must be able to critically evaluate data, identify issues in documentation, and suggest solutions. For example, internal auditors might detect fraudulent use of funds, and public accountants may work to minimize tax liability.
Communication skills. Accountants and auditors must be able to listen to and discuss facts and concerns from clients, managers, and other stakeholders. They must also be able to discuss the results of their work both in meetings and in written reports.
Detail oriented. Accountants and auditors must pay attention to detail when compiling and examining documents.
Math skills. Accountants and auditors must be able to analyze, compare, and interpret facts and figures. They may use advanced math skills, such as calculus and statistical analysis, for these tasks.
Organizational skills. Strong organizational skills are important for accountants and auditors, who often work with a range of financial documents for a variety of clients.