Due to the enormous diversity of accounting jobs available within the state and federal government agencies, your job description will depend on the department to which you were assigned. While the skill sets may be different and expectations may be different for each agency, there are guidelines and a minimum standard for financial accounting and reporting for all government accounting jobs, known as the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). The GAAP guidelines apply to all state governments, including government run colleges, universities and health care providers.
What Can You Expect in This Job Field?
One of the Government GAAP requirements is funds accounting. Governments make use of various types of funds, as well as individual funds in their financial reporting. Unlike private enterprise, which may have a single entity handling funds accounting, government units are separated according to the nature of the operation and exercised within established restrictions, regulations and limitations. All funds established by the government may be classified into one of seven categories. There are the Special Revenue Funds that are used for revenue that may be legally expended for specific purposes. The Capital Projects Funds are used for major capital acquisition or construction purposes. Debt service funds are used to account for the accumulation of resources for the purpose of paying on principal or interest of long term debt. The General Fund is used to account for any funds that do not fill one of the other categories. In addition, there are non-expendable trust funds, pension trust funds and agency funds. Funds accounting involves preparing financial statements and reports of financial position, operating results and other pertinent information.
Within the Federal Government, there are numerous jobs available with the IRS. The accounting positions include Internal Auditing, Revenue Agent and Special Agent. The Internal Auditor monitors and audits the internal records of the agency, safeguarding its assets in compliance with federal laws. Revenue Agents examine and audit the tax records of individuals and corporate entities to insure that taxpayers pay the appropriate amount owed and comply with federal laws. Special Agents do investigative and surveillance work, with a job description that usually requires knowledge in forensics accounting.
Among the various types of accounting jobs available with the General Accounting Office are Evaluators and Financial Auditors. The job description for Financial Auditors is extremely similar to those of other public auditors since they evaluate internal controls, test the information recorded in financial statements, and analyze financial data. Both Evaluators and Auditors evaluate the data for compliance with federal laws and regulations. The GAO requires an average of 80 hours in continuing education every two years.
The Work Environment and Job Description
Accountants working for the Armed Forces have similar duties to those who work in the private sector. Auditors evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of the operations, determine if the agency is in compliance with federal law and analyze the results of the financial implementations. There are also cost accountants who monitor facility operations, employee pay and their benefits. The job description of cost accountants also includes developing policies and procedures related to interagency communications and their compliance with federal laws.
The goal of environmental accountants is to analyze the expenses involved in pollution prevention within the industrial and manufacturing sector. They use the information to compare with alternatives and to account for fines and missed tax credit.
There is a growing interest among the FBI and other special agencies for the specialized field of forensic accountants. Forensic accountants may be required to travel a great deal and to carry a gun. Their duties are to uncover financial fraud and put the perpetrators in prison. Because of the degree of white collar crime, which costs both companies and the public sector millions of dollars each year, forensic accounting is one of the fastest growing fields.