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Accounting Careers

Career Description

Accountants perform a range of duties for their clients, which can be organizations or private citizens. These duties include:

  • Preparing profit and loss statements and cost accounting reports
  • Compiling and analyzing financial information to prepare ledger accounts and document business transactions
  • Analyze and review budgets
  • Monitor and review accounting and related system reports for accuracy and completeness
  • Prepare and review revenue, expense, payroll entries, invoices, and other accounting documents
  • Explain billing invoices and accounting policies to staff, vendors, and clients
  • Resolve accounting problems
  • Complete audits

Common Work Tasks

  • Prepare  budgetary and accounting policies
  • Prepare financial statements
  • Conduct financial investigations
  • Perform audits and prepare reports
  • Provide financial advice on business plans and operations
  • Examine operating costs and expenditures
  • Maintain account records and books
  • Prepare tax reports and returns
  • Verify bank or financial transactions
  • Write employee manuals

Other Job Titles

Accountants are also known by other titles, including:

  • Tax Examiner
  • Tax Collector
  • Revenue Agent
  • Actuary
  • Budget Analyst

Education, Training, and Experience

Education and Training
Most positions in accounting require at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field. Entry-level positions usually require a 4-year degree or the equivalent combination of education and work experience. Some employers prefer a Master’s degree in accounting, or a Master’s degreein business administration with a concentration in accounting.

Certification and Licensure
Accountants filing reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are required to be Certified Public Accountants (CPA). CPA licensure is issued by the State Board of Accountancy, and the candidate must pass the CPA exam in order to receive this certification. As of 2007, 42 states required CPA candidates to have completed at least 150 semester hours of college coursework to sit for the exam. The only states that do not have this requirement are Colorado, New Hampshire, Delaware and Vermont.

Prior work experience in accounting can help in acquiring a job in this field. Many businesses and accounting firms offer internships and part-time jobs for students to gain the necessary experience to find a job after graduation. People who want a career in accounting have to be good at math and be able to analyze, compare, and interpret facts quickly. They also must be good at working with other people, business systems and computers.


The median annual salary of accountants is $55,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $94,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $34,000. Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of accountants were:

  • Accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll services - $57,020
  • Company Management - $55,560
  • Local Government - $50,120
  • Depository Credit Intermediation - $49,380
  • State Government - $47,200

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  18%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 226,000
  • Employment 2006 : 1,274,000
  • Employment 2016:  1,500,000
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