Opportunities in Accounting
Did you know that the field of accounting offers opportunities for careers in many varied areas? For instance, some of the major
employers of accountants are:
Public Accounting Firms
Public accounting work is performed by four types of groups: National CPA
firms, Local CPA firms, Small local CPA firms, and Individual practitioners.
The work done by accountants varies significantly depending on what type of firm
they work for and their specialized field. Public accountants work with
their clients in the following areas:
- Accounting Compilations/Reviews: Compilations include the preparation of
monthly, quarterly, and/or yearly financial statements. They are
non-audited statements, primarily intended for internal use by management.
Accounting reviews, on the other hand, provide some assurance that a company’s
financial statements are in accordance with GAAP, including appropriate
- Auditing: An audit determines whether a financial statement “fairly
represents” the financial condition of an organization and the results of its
operations for a yearly period. This process is more complicated and
requires more time and accounting knowledge than compilations and reviews.
- Taxes: Accountants prepare individual and business tax returns for clients.
They also provide tax planning advice so firms plan their business activities to
minimize their tax liability and maximize profits
- Management and Special Services: Accounting firms consult in areas
that fall within their expertise and which the client firms themselves are not
equipped to handle adequately. specialization areas include ElderCare, Business
Valuation, Litigation Support, Human Resource Consulting Services, Financial
Companies and Corporations
Management accounting is a bit different than public accounting.
Business and industry employ more accountants than do accounting firms, since
all companies maintain accountants on their payroll. So, because there are
far more corporations than accounting firms, the opportunities for accountants
in industry are very good and constantly increasing. Plus, in general,
industry does not demand or require that an accountant be certified. There
are a number of different positions in the ranks of management accounting,
including staff accountant, accounting manager, controller, and vice-president
- Staff Accountant: The duties of a staff accountant vary with their company’s
size. One can be a cost analyst, or in charge of general accounting, or
even involved with computerizing accounting procedures. Since it is an
entry-level position, a staff accountant need only have a bachelor’s degree.
- Accounting Manager: After three to five years of accounting experience, it is
most likely that the staff accountant will be promoted to accounting manager.
As manager, one assumes administrative functions over staff accounts, and
usually eight to thirty subordinates.
- Controller: With more experience, one may be promoted to controller.
The controller administers the functions of the accounting department and
assures an adequate level of internal accounting controls and administrative
- Vice-President of Finance: The highest career level within management
accounting in industry is that of vice-president of finance or chief financial
officer (CFO). This is an executive position that requires coordination
with other corporate subdivisions, which compels one to communicate effectively.
Naturally, this executive must be fully grounded in accounting to administer the
accounting functions and sufficiently well-rounded to do the same for the
non-accounting aspects of the corporation.
Federal and Local Government Agencies
The various levels of government, from the federal government down to the
municipal level, all employ great numbers of accountants. Local government
agencies have numerous opportunities for accountants that vary across the
nation, which makes it hard to describe them. Conversely, the federal
government hires accountants for virtually all of its agencies in charge of
handling the federal government’s finances – the Federal Bureau of Investigation
(FBI), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), General Accounting Office (GAO), and the
Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA).
- The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI): Thousands of dedicated
professionals work together to fulfill the mission of the FBI, including
accountants. Highly trained Special Agents are responsible for enforcing the
federal statutes. FBI activities include investigations into organized
crime, white-collar crime, public corruption, financial crime, fraud against the
government, bribery, copy-right matters, bank robbery, extortion, and other
violations of federal statutes.
- The Internal Revenue Service (IRS): Personnel working for the IRS are
usually referred to as tax agents and generally perform the same broad spectrum
of tasks performed by those in public accounting. Special agents, on the
other hand, assume a special role in the Criminal Investigation branch of the
IRS. They are highly specialized and expertly trained financial
investigators, who also duly serve as sworn law enforcement officers.
In particular, they investigate white-collar crimes and track criminal
transactions internationally and through cyberspace.
- The General Accounting Office (GAO): The GAO is an audit arm of the U.S.
Congress that oversees the spending of federal funds and the administration of
governmental contracts. This covers an extremely broad scope of
activities, including such specialties as the handling of mortgage monies coming
from the government.
- The Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA): This agency is in charge of
auditing all defense-oriented federally funded contracts. Thus, work for
this agency is closely related to work for a large national CPA firm,
emphasizing on cost accounting and operational accounting.
Internal Audit Departments
An internal auditor generally reports functionally to an audit committee or board of directors. The internal auditor position is
highly independent and is considered as a separate position, which functions separately from the company. The function of an internal
auditor is different from that of an external auditor employed at a public accounting firm, as described previously. An internal auditor
tours the company and works in the general office to ensure that accounting controls are followed, that records are accurate, and that
company procedures are being followed.