January 16, 2015
The accounting profession encompasses a wide range of fields, careers, and industries. Accountants can perform a wide range of tasks for their clients or undertake more specialized work requiring very specific skillsets. Education in the accounting profession prepares the future accountant for certification and licensure in their field while numerous organizations cooperate to define standards and ethical practices. In this paper, several different types of accountants will be discussed along with the respective industries in which they might be employed. In addition, the educational requirements for an accounting career will be outlined including the certifications for which a prospective accountant must prepare. Finally, the role of governing institutions and organizations in accounting as well as the code of ethics they help determine will be discussed.
There are three primary types of accountants that work in this field. Public accountants work for accounting firms or are self-employed. They typically handle multiple clients and perform numerous task. Some of these tasks include: preparing taxes, tax planning, auditing financial records, and financial planning (Careers in Accounting, 2014). A tax preparer at the local H&R Block would be an example of a public accountant. This accountant would handle multiple clients and be responsible for managing their tax returns. Management accountants are employed by a single organization that retains their services exclusively. These professionals are responsible for managing the financial performance of their respective employers. They might be tasked with preparing financial reports detailing investments or returns. Management accountants may also be in charge of preparing budgets or financial forecasts. Internal auditors, forensic accountants, and chief financial officers would fall into this category. A forensic accountant, for example, would work for a specific company and trace suspicious transactions that may indicate fraudulent activity within the company (Dabrowski, 2008). Internal auditors keep financial records in order and make sure the company is compliant with laws and regulations (Nelson, 2014). Government accountants work at the local, state, and federal levels dealing primarily with tax accounting. An IRS revenue agent, as an example, audits the tax records of those subject to paying taxes to ensure the accuracy of government documents (Careers in Accounting, 2014).
In order to work in the accounting profession, several educational requirements must first be completed. All candidates seeking a position in the field of accounting must have earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting at the college level. Though a degree is all that is required to attain an entry-level position, most elevated job offering require one of many available certifications. Certified Public Accountant (CPA) accreditation is arguably the most valuable and important of these certifications. CPA certification requires at least one hundred and fifty hours of college credit earned towards an accounting degree. State certification boards vary in their practices but most also require at least two years of experience in the field to qualify for certification (Educational Requirements, 2012). Certifying in CMA typically requires one hundred and twenty hours of credit with some universities offering programs allowing applicants to sit the examination while still enrolled in their respective institution (Beaudoin, 2012, pp. 56-58). Though the CPA and CMA certifications are most common, there are numerous specialized certifications offered by a number of different accounting organizations. The AICPA, for instance, offers Personal Financial Specialist (PFS), Certified in Financial Forensics (CFF), and Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV) among others (Boyle, Lawrence, & Mahoney, 2013, pp. 65-67). The American Institute for