Accountancy refers to the measurement, processing and proper communication of financial information of economic entities like corporations and businesses. Accountancy was also dubbed the language of business as it measures the results of economic activities of an organization and conveys this relevant information to various users such as the management, investors, regulators, and creditors. Practitioners of accounting are known as accountants worldwide. In the United States only, there are more than 1.1 million accountants and auditors employed. Accountants prepare, analyze, verify and compile financial records such as balance sheets, profit and loss statements, tax reports and cost studies. Accountants may specialize in areas such as assurance, tax work, auditing, cost accounting, information technology procedures and systems, consulting or budgeting and control. Accountants may also specialize in a particular field or business. For instance, agricultural accountants may specialize in analyzing and drawing up financial statements for farm equipment companies and farmers while some may end up being hired by accounting writing services to aid students majoring in accounting with their innumerable projects.
For one to become a certified accountant and have a robust accounting career, there are quite a number of education and training requirements needed. To start with the high school level, one should focus on taking a strong business and math course load. Accountancy needs someone that is proficient in arithmetic and basic algebra. Course work in English and communications is equally important. Familiarity with computers and computer applications is also beneficial in accountancy. Attending as many classes as possible on business and accounting play a substantial role in one becoming a competent accountant. Learning a foreign language for those who plan to work a broad is also a good idea. For post-secondary training, accounting can be obtained in various institutions including junior colleges, private business schools, correspondence schools and universities.
A bachelor’s degree (four years) with a major in accounting or a related field like business, finance or economics is a necessity by all states before sitting for a licensing exam. Professional associations also highly recommend this for those entering the field. Large public accounting firms often prefer employing people with a master’s degree in accounting, business or taxation. They are also inclined to individuals who have earned a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) with a concentration in accounting. Accountants can also earn master’s degrees in taxation among other specialized fields.
Collegiate Schools of Business accredits business programs and postsecondary accounting. The school’s information can be found on their site.
Apart from the above mentioned educational requirements, additional certifications after training will yield credentials necessary for one to become more employable or advance in the accounting career. It’s essential for all accountants even those who have obtained a college degree earned a CPA certificate or garnered experience to continue studying accounting and related areas during their spare time. Many hours of study helps one keep up with new industry developments. Many practicing accountants enroll in formal courses offered by professional associations and universities so as to broaden, sharpen and update their professional skills, specialize in particular areas of accounting, and become eligible for promotion and advancement. Numerous professional accounting associations exist to offer continuing-education opportunities.
One good example is the AICPA that offers webinars, seminars at educational conferences and self-study programs. Topics include financial reporting, accounting industry trends, technology, and analytical procedures. Other organizations include; ISACA, CFA Institute, Institute of Management Accountants, Association of Financial Professionals, Association of Government Accountants, National Society of Accountants, Institute of professionals in taxation and Financial Executives International among others.
A large percentage of accountants are certified. For one to become a certified public accountant (CPA), they have to pass a qualifying examination and hold a certificate that is issued by the state they wish to practice. The uniform CPA examination used by all states is administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). Almost all states require one to have had at least two years of experience in public accounting or the equivalent before earning a CPA certificate. Most states require a college degree to admit candidates to the CPA examinations.
A few states, however, allow candidates to substitute several years of public accounting experience for the college degree requirement. At the moment, the District of Columbia and almost all states have made it a requirement for all CPA candidates to have 150 hours of education which is over 30 hours what a standard bachelor’s degree requires. The AICPA, state accounting associations and the board of accountancy in different states provide requirements and regulations for one to become a licensed, certified accountant. The AICPA also offers other credentialing programs (which involve additional requirements and involve a test) for members who have valid CPA certificates. These designations include certified in financial forensics, accredited in business valuation, personal financial specialist and certified information technology professional. These credentials show that a certified public accountant (CPA) has developed skills in non-traditional areas that accountants are starting to play substantial roles.
It’s mandatory for all accountants who work as tax preparers to be licensed. The licensing requirements, however, vary from one state to another and therefore one should be well conversant with the requirements in the state they wish to practice. Tax preparers are offered an examination by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Candidates who successfully complete this test are usually called enrolled agents. According to the U.S Department of Labor (DOL) in May 2014, accountants were receiving median annual earnings of $65,940. The highest paid 10 percent of accountants earned more than $115,950 while the lowest paid 10 percent of accountants earned less than $40,850. By May 2015, the annual wage for an accountant was estimated to be $67,190.The DOL reports the following mean annual salaries for accountants by the employment area:
- Accounting, tax preparation, payroll services providers, bookkeeping, $77,510
- Federal government, $ 93,430
- State government, $58,100
- Local government, $62, 890
- Management of enterprises and companies $74,430
What fascinates me about accounting is its stability, diversity, and compensation. Accounting is a career that offers a stable rate of employment even during economic fluctuations. Other professions take a beating during economic fluctuations but accounting does not. In business, accounting is a necessity. All organizations deem it necessary to keep track of their operations so as to find ways of surviving economic plunges. They need to pay taxes and report their earnings to the state regardless of the economic situation. Moreover, managers in organizations need to furnish quarterly or monthly reports to the board regularly. Therefore, an accountant can never be jobless. Accounting also embraces diversity and is a career that has vast opportunities. Accountants have a wide selection of areas and fields of practice to choose from. An accountant can work on routine tasks and steady shifts if they opt to. With sufficient qualifications, one can freelance and have his/ her own clients.
Business firms need the expertise of an accountant in preparing, analyzing or auditing financial statements. One can also work become a book author, fraud investors, an information systems specialist or an instructor in the academic sector. One other intriguing thing is the lucrative compensation. Accounting professionals enjoy a decent remuneration. The salary range typically varies according to the level of experience, location, job description, educational background among other factors. Accountants receive various benefits such as paid sick days and vacations, insurance, pension plans, performance bonuses, fitness club memberships, promotion bonuses, tickets to cultural events among others. However, what is somehow frustrating about accounting is that it’s a bit boring and stressful.
The work-life balance is difficult as it’s a standard 9 to 5 job with a cyclical pattern of heavy workloads. Too much study so as to get certified is also a turn-off. Employment of accountants is projected to grow by 11 percent from the year 2014 to 2024. This career growth rate is faster than the average for all occupations. In general, employment growth of accountants is expected to be closely tied to the overall economy’s health. More workers will be on demand to prepare and examine financial records. Accountants can specialize in the budget, forensic, property, environmental, systems or tax accounting.