Accountants design, install, maintain and use general accounting systems to prepare, analyze and verify financial reports and related economic information. Accountants in all business, industrial and governmental organizations furnish this financial information to managers, who use this up-to-date material to make important decisions for the organization.
Accountants may work alone in small businesses or with other accountants in larger businesses and accounting firms. Accountants generally work in offices that are comfortable, well-lighted and well-ventilated. Some accountants may work in the client's office where they have direct access to company records. Self-employed accountants may be able to do much of their work at home. Most accountants and auditors work 40-hours per week, but many work 50 or more hours per week, particularly if they are self-employed and free to take on the work of as many clients as they choose. Income tax season, especially for tax specialists, includes long work hours and heavy pressure. Accountants and auditors employed by large firms and government agencies may be required to travel frequently to perform audits at other branches of their firm, government facilities or clients' places of business.
Earnings and Advancement
Earnings depend upon the accountant's experience, level of education and certification as a public accountant. While larger firms usually pay higher starting salaries than small or medium-sized firms, the small and medium-sized firms usually offer the well-qualified employee an opportunity for more rapid advancement. Generally, certified public accountants (CPAs) and those with graduate degrees earn a higher beginning salary.
According to a salary survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, graduates with a Bachelor's degree in accounting received average annual starting salaries of $56,748 in 2014; graduates with a Master's degree in accounting earned $57,667 annually.
Median annual earnings of accountants were $67,363 in 2014. The lowest ten percent earned less than $42,326, and the highest ten percent earned more than $118,201.
Accountants may receive paid vacations, holidays, and sick days; life and health insurance; and retirement benefits. These are usually paid by the employer.
Employment and Outlook : Accountant
Accountants and auditors held about 1.3 million jobs in 2012. Employment is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through the year 2022, which means employment is projected to increase 8 percent to 14 percent. Stricter financial laws and regulations, recent financial crises, and increased scrutiny of company finances will drive job growth. In addition, the need to replace accountants and auditors who retire or transfer to other occupations will produce thousands of additional job openings annually, reflecting the large size of this occupation. The changing role of accountants and auditors will also spur job growth. In response to market demand, accountants and auditors will offer more financial management and consulting services. By focusing on analyzing operations, rather than simply providing financial data, accountants will help to boost demand for their services.
Opportunities are expected to be favorable for college graduates seeking accounting and auditing jobs who have worked part-time in a business or accounting firm while in school. In fact, experience has become so important that some employers in business and industry seek persons with one or two years experience for beginning positions.
Related Career Pathways/Majors
Each occupation is included in one or more career clusters. Each cluster is then divided into two or more career pathways/majors to illustrate the areas of specialization that are available for each occupation. This occupation is found in the following career