Accounting Professions

Individuals who earn a masters degree in accounting might have opportunities to pursue a wide variety of potential career opportunities.  This article explores some of the careers an accounting professional might have the opportunity to pursue.

Accounting - General/Other

Those in working accounting may deal directly with accounts, analyze financial information, work with balance sheets and/or prepare financial reports depending on their level of experience. At least an associate’s degree is typically preferred. Those in accounting should have attention to detail and an analytical eye.

Accounts Payable/Receivable

This position handles the payment of outgoing company bills as well as incoming payments. Education-wise, at least an associates’ degree (typically in finance or accounting) is usually required for this position. An AP/AR job requires an individual who can work independently, has superior communication skills, and is trustworthy.

Auditor

In public accounting, staff auditors perform the meat of an audit, engaging in the often mentioned “ticking and tying” activities, i.e., analyzing and verifying the information contained in the myriad ledgers and statements provided by the client. Under the supervision of an audit senior, they will work with the client to obtain information and determine the validity and accuracy of the accounting records. It is the staff accountant’s responsibility to investigate specific accounts assigned to them and to identify, resolve and document any material issues. Staff auditors will often start to direct small audits (and will be referred to as the “acting senior” on the engagement) in their second years.Audit seniors are the glue that holds the audit together. They supervise the audit fieldwork of staff auditors and review their work products to ensure the audit is thorough and properly documented. They are responsible for resolving any accounting issues as they arise. Seniors are also responsible for identifying and documenting audit risks, creating and managing client relationships, administering budget issues and ensuring that the audit manager and partner are adequately informed of all relevant items. Specific senior auditor activities could include client meetings, partner and manager meetings, research on the relevant accounting standards and conversations with company headquarters.In private accounting, internal audit staff works under the direction of seniors and managers in conducting compliance audits and tests internal controls and information systems.Internal audit seniors supervise the testing of internal control and accounting information systems. They often conduct statistical samples of document approval, perform tests to uncover and perform operational audits for profit improvement recommendations.

Bookkeeping

A bookkeeper is required to keep records of financial transactions for a company, along with reconciling and balancing accounts. An associate’s degree in accounting or business is favored for this position, though a high school diploma may be all that is required. Bookkeepers should be detail-oriented, discreet and organized.

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

To become a Certified Public Accountant, one has to pass the CPA exam and have a certain amount of public accounting experience (usually two years) that varies from state to state. A bachelor’s degree is required. CPAs must have a keen eye for detail and the ability to work independently.

Chief Financial Officer

A chief financial officer supervises all accounting practices within a company, including tax and auditing, budgets and finance reports. CFOs usually have at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance or business and extensive experience in the field. CFOs require strong decision-making and communication skills—and of course, an affinity and skill with numbers.

Collections

A collections officer collects debts owed to a company and may conduct investigations into certain collection-related cases. At minimum, a high school diploma is required, although an associate’s degree is preferred. Those working in collections should have the ability to work under pressure and work as a team.

Controller

A company’s controller oversees a firm’s financial planning and makes sure accounting procedures within an organization follow generally accepted accounting principles. A master’s degree in accounting or an MBA is preferred, though not necessarily required. Controllers should be able to demonstrate a mastery for accounting principles, have attention to detail and an ability to supervise.

Corporate Accountant

Private accountants work for businesses, the government or nonprofit agencies. Most corporations have an internal accounting group that prepares the financial information (both tax and audit) for the public accountants, tracks company performance for internal evaluation and works with management on issues related to acquisitions, international transactions and any other operational issues that arise in the running of the company.Government accountants can work at the federal, state or local level. Many government organizations have large accounting departments to analyze the performance and allocation of their funds. The Department of Defense (DOD), the General Accounting Office (GAO), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) typically hire large numbers of accountants for services and evaluations within the organization. Accountants at the IRS typically review individual and corporate tax returns. The SEC hires experienced accountants to evaluate filings made by public companies. These accountants ensure that firms are complying with SEC regulations. Accounting for nonprofits is very similar to for profit accounting; they both follow Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).

Financial Planning and Reporting

Individuals working in this role prepare financial statements, compile budgets and help analyze organizations’ overall finances. Depending on the level of position desired, candidates should possess at least an associate’s degree in a related field. Workers in this field should be thorough, have decision-making skills and be strong communicators.

Internal Auditor

Internal auditors evaluate the efficiency of an organization’s internal controls and constantly test internal structures to make sure that suitable controls are in place. A bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance or a related field is usually required. Internal auditors should be very detail-oriented, have the ability to analyze facts and figures quickly and possess good communication skills.

Management Accountant

Management accountants cultivate and take care of financial systems for the business for which they are working. A four-year degree in accounting is usually required for this position. Management accountants should pride themselves on accuracy and attention to detail in their work.

Payroll Clerk

Payroll clerks collect payroll data and compute wages, all while keeping careful records. A high school diploma is required, but an associate’s degree is often preferred. Must have an eye for detail.

Private Accountant

A private accountant is an in-house accountant retained by a company in order to oversee the firm’s accounting system. Usually, a four-year degree is preferred for this position. Private accountants must be trustworthy and able to work independently.

Public Accounting

Public accountants work on everything from auditing and tax services to (of course) accounting and consulting activities. Typically, accounting positions require at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related financial field. Accountants should have an talent for mathematics and good communication skills.

Purchasing

As a purchaser, you will be required to process requests, manage vendor information, keep financial records and organize invoices and inventory reports. Usually, a two-year degree is required for this position, but a bachelor’s degree is preferred. Those working in purchasing should have keen organizational skills and the ability to work on a team as well as independently.

Tax Accountant

Tax accountants prepare tax returns, examine accounts for taxes owed and may do tax research. At least an associate’s degree is required, though a bachelor’s degree in accounting or finance is preferred. Tax accountants should have an affinity for working with finances and attention to detail.

Treasurer

A treasurer is in charge of financial planning and investments for a business or an organization. A bachelor’s degree is usually required. A treasurer should have strong critical thinking skills and initiative.

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