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What do accountants do?

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Last editedFeb 20212 min read

You probably already know that accountants help prepare taxes, but what do accountants do when it’s not tax season? Keep reading to learn more about this financial field of specialty, including an accountant’s responsibilities and skills.

What is an accountant?

An accountant might work as an individual professional consultant or part of a larger accounting team. They’re responsible for preparing and analysing financial statements, as well as ensuring compliance with all government regulatory standards. Accountants also assist with financial analysis and business consultation.

What does an accountant do?

There are a few different types of accountants, each of which perform slightly different functions within their typical day on the job.

  1. Management: Management accountants are hired by businesses to prepare financial information to be used internally.

  2. Public: Public accountants are either self-employed or work as part of a larger accounting firm. They prepare tax forms and accompanying financial documentation. Public accountants can also perform audits or prepare you for the auditing process.

  3. Government: A government accountant works within a government agency to organise financial statements, but they might also audit external businesses and individuals as part of government activities. For example, the IRS hires government accountants to perform audits.

What are an accountant’s responsibilities?

An accountant’s responsibilities will depend on the type of company they work for. In general, accountants maintain and verify financial statements. However, there are many specific responsibilities that could fall under an accountant’s job description. Examples include:

  • Perform cash flow forecasts

  • Identify operating and launch costs for start-up businesses

  • Assist with goal setting to create and track key performance indicators (KPIs)

  • Set up accounting software to monitor KPIs

  • Help set up a budget for improved cash flow

  • Advise on borrowing strategies and debt management

  • Write loan applications

  • Create and monitor invoice systems

  • Deal with late invoice payments

  • Track cost of managing inventory for more efficient storage systems

  • Audit financial statements for compliance

  • Improve record-keeping procedures

  • Reduce tax exposure

  • Prepare and file business taxes

As you can see, an average day for an accountant could be quite varied depending on whether they’re assisting a start-up business or an established corporation.

How to be an accountant

If you’re wondering how to be an accountant, the answer is a blend of formal education and soft skills. It doesn’t hurt to have a head for numbers, but good communication skills are also essential.

How to be an accountant: education and qualifications

Accountants hold a bachelor’s degree at a minimum, but many will pursue graduate-level degrees and additional certifications. Some employers look for accountants holding a master’s degree in accounting. A master’s degree in business with a concentration in accounting is another possible education track to take.

In addition to a college degree from an accredited university, accountants often go on to become a certified public accountant (CPA). This requires passing the Uniform CPA Examination. Specific licensing requirements will depend on the state, as each has its own regulations for practicing accountants.

How to be an accountant: soft skills

A common misconception about accountants is that they spend their workdays shut in a back office doing equations. While this is part of the job, when you really examine the answer to “what do accountants do” you’ll see that there’s a wide range of soft skills involved as well. Accountants often have customer-facing roles or collaborate with multiple departments within a large organisation. To that end, the following soft skills are involved:

  1. Problem-solving skills: Accountants help clients solve financial problems.

  2. Customer service skills: Accountants must assess client needs by listening closely to issues and conversing to work out a solution.

  3. Computer skills: Many businesses hire accountants specifically to set up cloud-based accounting software. Apart from this, accountants must be handy with spreadsheet applications like Excel.

  4. Organisational skills: It’s essential for an accountant to be highly organised, since the job requires the ability to organise and track financial data.

Becoming an accountant can be a fulfilling career path for anyone who enjoys helping businesses grow. In return, businesses benefit from balanced books and accurate returns.

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