How to become an Accountant
Accountant Job Duties
Skills and Qualities needed to become an Accountant
Accountant Salaries
Influential Accountants
Leading Organizations in this field
Top Cities for Accounting Jobs
Other Careers of Interest

How to become an Accountant.

Accountants get their name from the type of work they do - keeping accounts in order. The field of accounting is probably an ancient one, dating back to the first time humans needed to keep records of inventory or transactions. Accountants are still in high demand today, working in every conceivable field in private and public life.

Most accountant jobs require a minimum of a bachelor's degree in a field related to accounting, but job prospects are generally better for those who either have a master's degree or become a Certified Public Accountant. Although accountants do not necessarily have to become certified, many do choose to pursue certification.

Junior accounting positions are available to candidates who have a two-year community college degree and accounting or bookkeeping experience. These junior accountants often have the chance to take advantage of on the job training and advance to become full accountants.

To become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), accountants much take an arduous examination, which is offered eight months out of the year. The CPA examination is difficult to pass, with less than a 50 percent pass rate each year. Although it is not required that prospective accountants pass all four parts at once, many areas do require that those taking the test pass all four sections within an 18 month period, or they must restart the examination process.

Depending on the state, experience in the accounting field may be necessary before becoming a CPA. In addition, accountants must generally complete a certain amount of professional development or continuing education to renew their licenses.

What does an Accountant do?

Accountants work in many different settings. They can be self-employed and working as freelance accountants, or can work in private firms, for non-profit organizations, or for government entities. Accountants may specifically be employed in tax preparation firms, bookkeeping or accounting firms, or in the payroll or accounting department of any business or organization.

Public accountants can work for any of the types of clients mentioned above, and often focus on one area. For example a public accountant may choose to focus on tax preparation or accounting systems, or even audit financial records, either as an internal or external auditor. Many public accountants are CPAs.

Government accountants obviously work for the government, and work specifically with the financial records of government agencies and contractors hired by the government. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is just one government agency employing a significant number of accountants.

Management accountants are sometimes called corporate or private accountants and work for private companies. They may have the responsibility of creating or maintaining budgets, creating cost/benefit analyses, and influencing business decisions.

Accountants may also work with individuals to help prepare taxes, create budgets, or give financial advice. Many private individuals turn to accountants for help in managing small businesses, investments, or even household budgets.

What skills or qualities are needed to excel at a Career in Accounting?

If you are thinking about becoming an accountant, it helps to have a strong math background, and to be extremely detail-oriented, as that is the nature of accounting. Computer literacy is also essential, as most accounting is done on computers, and knowledge of specific types of accounting software can also be helpful as well.

Although it is not always the first quality that comes to mind when you think about accountants, communication and interpersonal skills are also important qualities for anyone entering this field. Accountants must effectively communicate information to their clients, and sometimes help clients make decisions using this information. Because finance is a difficult subject for many people, accountants need to be able to use discretion and have wisdom in how best to approach issues that need to be addressed.

Although accountants do not necessarily have to be CPAs, it may help them find employment, depending upon the employer.

How much do Accountants make?

Accountants, like any other professionals, make different salaries depending upon their place of employment, geographical area, and applicable skills. The median salary for accountants in the United States, as of May 2006 was $54,630. The middle 50 percent of American accountants made between $42,520 and $71,960 in the same year. Accountants who work for private firms tend to make more money than those working for non-profits or for the government. Firm owners or partners in Accounting firms can earn significantly more as responsibilities increase.

Who are some influential Accountants?

The leaders of the Big Four auditing and accounting firms are extremely influential in the field of accounting. Samuel DiPiazza, Jr. is the CEO of Pricewaterhouse Coopers, after working with Coopers & Lybrand, moving up in that firm, and becoming chairman of Pricewaterhouse Coopers U.S. Barry Salzberg is the CEO and John P. Connolly the chairman of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, based in New York City. The leader of Ernst & Young is Jim S. Turley, who has both the title of Chief Executive Officer and Global Chairman. KPMG is headed up by Tim Flynn, the firm's chairman and CEO.

Who are some leading organizations in this field?

The Big Four Auditors are the largest accounting firms in the world, and are internationally known. Although this group was originally referred to as the "Big Eight", several mergers and the Enron scandal in 2001 - involving the Arthur Andersen firm - brought the number down to four. These four firms are Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC), formed from a merger between Coopers & Lybrand and Price Waterhouse; Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu (also referred to as Deloitte or Deloitte & Touche); Ernst & Young; and and KPMG. All four firms have headquarters in New York City, with KPMG having an additional headquarters in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

What are the top cities for Accounting Jobs?

Job prospects for accountants are predicted to be better than average for all occupations, as many new jobs are expected to be created in the next decade. In addition, the United States Congress has recently passed legislation regarding accountability for corporate financial records, also increasing the need for accountants.

As may be expected, New York City is the top city in the United States for accountant jobs, with all four of the top global accounting firms located in that city. Chicago Illinois comes in at a distant second place, followed by Houston Texas.

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