Accounting is well-known to be a lucrative profession, but for those interested in business, it can be unclear what the role actually entails. Broadly speaking, an accountant helps ensure that financial operations run smoothly and that financial documents are accurate and reliable. This role is crucial in all types of organizations, from small local businesses to large financial and government institutions.

Because of factors like globalization, a growing overall economy, and an increasingly complex tax and regulatory environment, demand is high for accountants. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment of accountants and auditors will grow 11 percent by 2024.

What Does an Accountant Do?

An accountant typically performs the following tasks:

  • Organizes and maintains financial records
  • Makes sure financial statements are verifiable, accurate, and comply with laws and regulations
  • Reviews general ledger and accounting systems to ensure efficiency and compliance with accepted accounting procedures
  • Determines taxes owed, prepares tax returns and ensures taxes are paid properly and on time
  • Proposes ways to enhance revenues, reduce costs and improve profits
  • Shares findings by preparing written reports and meeting with organization managers and individual clients

Accounting Specializations

It is common for accountants to further specialize within the profession or organization with which they work. For instance, an accountant may 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 documentation). An accountant may also specialize in a particular industry, such as healthcare, governments or education.

The BLS also notes that there are various types of accountants who work in certain areas.

  • Public accountants work with financial documents that must be reviewed and audited to meet regulatory requirements. These documents include tax forms and financial forms that organizations provide to external stakeholders. Many public accountants are Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) and have their own businesses or work for public accounting firms, while other public accountants specialize in forensic accounting, where they detect and investigate white-collar crimes.
  • Management accountants record and analyze financial information for the organizations where they work for the purpose of understanding the relationship between operational and financial operations. They prepare information for internal stakeholders, typically upper management, and concentrate on budgeting, projections, and performance or production evaluations.
  • Internal auditors work to help organizations achieve their operational objectives through a systematic approach to understanding functional, operational and financial operations. They also work to minimize internal risk for organizations while assisting them in meeting control and regulatory processes.
  • Government accountants maintain and examine records of government agencies and audit private businesses and individuals subject to government regulations or taxation.

How to Become an Accountant

According to the BLS, most accounting positions require at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field to enter the accounting profession. Jefferson’s online bachelor’s in accounting can help graduates enter various accounting roles such as a business analyst, auditor, tax specialist, controller and treasurer.

To enhance job prospects or to gain clients, accountants can become certified as a CPA. Because most states have a 150 semester-hour educational requirement to become eligible to sit for the CPA exam, which is 30 hours more than a typical four-year bachelor’s degree, most candidates go on to pursue a master’s degree. Jefferson’s online MBA is a versatile degree that helps prepare graduates for the CPA exam as well as for advanced positions in accounting, finance, management and more.

How Much Do Accountants Make?

Annual wages range from $42,140 to more than $120,910, with a median annual wage for accountants and auditors of $68,150, according to the BLS.

In common industries, the median annual wage for accountants and auditors is:

  • Finance and insurance: $72,950
  • Management of companies and enterprises: $70,790
  • Manufacturing: $69,040
  • Accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping and payroll services: $68,130
  • Government: $65,820

Jefferson’s online accounting degree can help you develop the skills needed to enter the accounting profession, one of the most stable and lucrative fields in the United States. Jefferson’s curriculum is focused on core accounting fundamentals while incorporating the latest curricula involving accounting technology, tax law changes and government regulations in efforts to prepare graduates for the challenges of the business world and to achieve success in their chosen profession.