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Auditing and Accounting Career Advancement and Education

Job Descriptions March 8, 2013

Auditors and accountants ensure that organizations are running efficiently by providing them with accurate record keeping and valuable financial information. Daily responsibilities of accountants include paying bills, payroll, bookkeeping and keeping track of income and expenditure. Additional responsibilities of accountants may include preparing profit and lost statements, balance sheets, and other financial reports, and they may also analyze obligations, financial commitments, revenues, costs, and trends to predict future expenses and revenues.

Accountants are increasingly becoming an essential part of successful business teams because no other employees within the company understand the firm’s complex financial structure and the language of money better than them. These professionals not only report finances to management, but also offer suggestions regarding tax strategies and resource utilization; in addition to assumptions made with regard to budget forecasts. The financial and accounting data and procedures are examined by auditors to ensure that they are accurate and comply with government laws and guidelines. Auditors work to identify improper documentation or accounting and research issues in order to make recommendations to enhance procedures and policies accordingly.

Accountants and auditors are required to be detail-oriented and critical thinkers. Individuals need to have mathematical aptitude and in-depth understanding of factors influencing financial performance. Individuals who are not interested in performing analyses and solve detailed problems should not consider either of these professions. Additionally, exceptional verbal and written communication skills are becoming increasingly essential for both professions because accountants and auditors usually work and interact with various professionals or departments.

What it is Like to be an Accountant and Auditor?

On average, auditors and accountants work around 40-45 hours a week; self-employed professionals and those dealing with tax matters usually work longer hours, especially during the tax season. Accountants usually spend a majority of their time working in the office, but auditors in the other hand spend a lot of time meeting, traveling, or on the phone with business partners and clients.

Typically, the level of satisfaction in these professions are relatively high, but sometimes there are unexpected downside to these professions and it is usually when accountants or auditors find themselves being the bearer of unpleasant news when it comes to individuals or companies who have mishandled their finances or run into financial issues.

Auditors and accountants work in many different areas throughout government and private industries. About a fourth of accountants work for bookkeeping, auditing, and accounting firms and approximately three out of twenty-five auditors and accountants are self-employed. Individuals with auditing and accounting backgrounds will work as full-time faculty at universities or colleges or part-time while still working professionally. A majority of them are unlicensed, but a large number are Certified Public Accountant (CPAs). Accountants and auditors usually work in urban areas where corporate headquarters and public accounting firms tend to be located.

Training and Education

Candidates who want an auditing and accounting position are usually required to hold a minimum of an undergraduate degree in a related discipline such as finance or accounting. Individuals who want to pursue entry-level positions with the federal government will be required to complete four years of college, which includes twenty-four semester hours in auditing and accounting, or an equivalent amount of experience. Several employers may prefer candidates to hold a master degree in finance, business administration, or accounting. Once candidates are hired, a majority of them earn their Certified Public Accountant certificate. Each state has its own requirements; candidates who want to obtain information on licensing standards and requirements for their state should contact the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy.

The Institute of Internal Auditors awards a Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) designation to auditors who graduated from a certified school with two years of work experience as internal auditors, as well as passing the four-part auditor examination. Additionally, auditors with five years of experience in auditing electronic data processing systems may earn the designation of Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) once they pass the required exams.

Certified public accountants are required to continue professional education in order to renew their licenses. Each state has its own CPE requirements, but always involves completion of a specific amount of credit hours in applicable continuing education courses.

Employment outlook

In 2010, job growth for accountants and auditors was projected at the same rate as other occupations (source: Bureau of Labor Statistics), with greater preference shown by employers for individuals with certification or licensure. CPAs in particular are likely to enjoy a better job outlook with 150 hours of college coursework mandatory in more states. Individuals with graduate degrees and accounting certifications are heavily sought after by employers.

Associated careers

Auditors and accountants often hold additional degrees in areas such as law, advertising and marketing. They will move into related areas such as brokerage, banking, financial analysis, consulting, management analysis, and even Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) where auditors and accountants work in hidden asset recovery. Oftentimes, accountants will start their own business, using their knowledge in finances to manage the start-up. Occupations in which auditing and accounting backgrounds are useful, and in certain cases required, include tax examiners, revenue agents, personal financial advisors, loan officers, cost estimators, collectors, and budget analysts.

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