Managers must have
up-to-date financial information to make important decisions.
Accountants and auditors prepare, analyze, and verify financial
reports that furnish this kind of information to managers in all
business, industrial, and government organizations.
Four major fields
are public, management, and government accounting, and internal
auditing. Public accountants have their own businesses or work
for accounting firms. Management accountants, also called industrial
or private accountants, handle the financial records of their
company. Government accountants and auditors maintain and examine
the records of government agencies and audit private businesses
and individuals whose dealings are subject to government regulations.
Internal auditors verify the accuracy of their firm's financial
records and check for waste or fraud.
Within each field,
accountants often concentrate on one phase of accounting. For
example, many public accountants are employed primarily in financial
auditing (examining a client's financial records and reports and
attesting that they are in conformity with standards of preparation
and reporting). Others concentrate on tax matters, such as preparing
income tax forms and advising clients of the tax advantages and
disadvantages of certain business decisions. Still others concentrate
on consulting and offer advice on a variety of matters. They might
develop or revise an accounting system to serve the needs of clients
more effectively or give advice about how to manage cash resources
the largest group of accountants and auditors, provide the financial
information executives need to make sound business decisions.
They may work in areas such as taxation, budgeting, costs, or
is rapidly growing in importance as top management must increasingly
base its decisions on reports and records rather than personal
observation. Internal auditors examine and evaluate their firm's
financial and information systems, management procedures, and
internal controls to ensure that records are accurate and controls
are adequate to protect against fraud and waste. They also review
company operations--evaluating their efficiency, effectiveness,
and compliance with corporate policies and procedures, laws, and
Accountants and auditors
also work for Federal, State, and local governments. Many persons
with accounting backgrounds work for the Federal Government as
Internal Revenue Service agents or in financial management, financial
institution examination, and budget administration.
In addition, a small
number of persons trained as accountants staff the faculties of
business and professional schools as accounting teachers, researchers,
or administrators. Some work part time as accountants or consultants.
Computers are increasingly
being used in accounting and auditing. With the aid of special
computer software systems, accountants summarize transactions
in standard formats for financial records, put the data in special
formats that aid in financial or management analysis, and prepare
income tax returns. Controls are placed in systems to enable auditors
to ensure the reliability of the systems and the integrity of
data. Software systems coming into use in accounting and auditing
generally are easily learned and require few specialized computer
skills, but greatly reduce the amount of tedious manual work with
figures and records. Newer, less expensive personal computers
are enabling accountants and auditors in all fields--even those
who work independently--to use these special software systems
and extract information from large mainframe computers. A few
accountants and auditors have extensive computer skills and specialize
in correcting problems with software systems or developing special
software programs to meet unique data needs.
and auditors work in offices and have regular hours. Self-employed
accountants, who may set up offices at home, work as many hours
as the business requires.
Tax accountants work
long hours under heavy pressure during the tax season. Accountants
employed by large firms may travel extensively to audit or work
for clients or branches of the firm.
Accountants and auditors
held about 962,000 jobs in 2008. They worked throughout private
industry and government, but nearly one-third worked for accounting,
auditing, and bookkeeping firms, or were self-employed. Many accountants
and auditors were unlicensed management accountants, internal
auditors, or government accountants and auditors. However, in
2002 there were 501,000 State-licensed Certified Public Accountants
(CPAs), Public Accountants (PAs), Registered Public Accountants
(RPAs), and Accounting Practitioners (APs). Many accountants and
auditors have voluntarily earned professional designations that
certify their professional competence in fields of accounting
and auditing that are not State regulated: About 16,500 were Certified
Internal Auditors, over 8,500 were Certified Management Accountants,
about 5,800 were Certified Information Systems Auditors, and about
4,300 held certificates of accreditation in accounting or taxation
awarded by the Accreditation Council for Accountancy.
and auditors work in urban areas where public accounting firms
and central or regional offices of businesses are concentrated.
About 10 percent of all accountants were self-employed and fewer
than 10 percent worked part time.
Qualifications, and Advancement
Most public accounting
and business firms require applicants for accountant and internal
auditor positions to have at least a bachelor's degree in accounting
or a closely related field. Many employers prefer those with a
masters degree in accounting or a master's degree in business
administration with a concentration in accounting. A growing number
of employers prefer applicants who are familiar with computers
and their applications in accounting and internal auditing.
For beginning accounting
and auditing positions, the Federal Government requires 4 years
of college (including 24 semester hours in accounting or auditing)
or an equivalent combination of education and experience. However,
applicants face competition for the limited number of openings
in the Federal Government.
in accounting or auditing can help an applicant to get a job.
Many colleges offer students an opportunity to gain experience
through summer or part-time internship programs conducted by public
accounting or business firms. Such training is invaluable in gaining
permanent employment in the field.
through certification or licensure also is extremely valuable.
Anyone working as a Certified Public Accountant must have a certificate
and a license issued by a State board of accountancy. The vast
majority of States require CPA candidates to be college graduates,
but some states substitute a certain number of years of public
accounting experience for the educational requirement. Based on
recommendations made by the American Institute of Certified Public
Accountants, a few States require or are considering requiring
CPA candidates to have training beyond the usual 4-year bachelor's
degree--for example, a 5-year bachelor's degree or a master's
degree. This requirement may become more common in the coming
All States use the
four-part Uniform CPA Examination, prepared by the American Institute
of Certified Public Accountants, to establish eligibility for
certification. The CPA examination is rigorous, and candidates
are not required to pass all four parts at once. However, most
States require candidates to pass at least two parts for partial
credit. Many States require all sections of the test to be passed
within a certain period of time. Most States require applicants
for a CPA certificate to have some public accounting experience.
For example, bachelor's degree holders most often need 2 years
of experience, while master's degree holders often need no more
than 1 year.
To become a licensed
public accountant (LPA) or "accounting practitioner,"
some States require only a high school diploma; others require
college training. However, with dramatic growth in the number
of CPA's, some States no longer offer the LPA designation. Information
on requirements may be obtained directly from individual State
boards of accountancy or from the National Society of Public Accountants
grant other forms of certification on a voluntary basis. The Institute
of Internal Auditors, Inc., confers the designation Certified
Internal Auditor (CIA) upon graduates from accredited colleges
and universities who have completed 2 years' experience in internal
auditing and who have passed a four-part examination. The EDP
Auditors Association confers the designation Certified Information
Systems Auditor (CISA) upon candidates who pass an examination
and who have completed 5 years' experience in auditing, of which
at least 2 involved auditing electronic data processing systems.
The National Association of Accountants (NAA) confers the Certificate
in Management Accounting (CMA) upon candidates who pass a series
of uniform examinations and meet specific educational and professional
standards. The Accreditation Council for Accountancy awards accreditation
in accountancy and taxation to persons who have passed a comprehensive
examination. Accreditation is maintained by competing mandatory
a career in accounting should have an aptitude for mathematics,
be able to analyze, compare, and interpret facts and figures quickly,
and make sound judgments based on this knowledge. They must question
how and why things are done and be able to clearly communicate
the results of their work, orally and in writing, to clients and
Accountants and auditors
must be patient and able to concentrate for long periods of time.
They must be good at working with business systems and computers
as well as with people. Accuracy and the ability to handle responsibility
with limited supervision are important.
Perhaps most important,
because millions of financial statement users rely on their services,
accountants and auditors should have high standards of integrity.
A growing number
of States require both CPA's and licensed public accountants to
complete a certain number of hours of continuing education before
licenses can be renewed. The professional associations representing
accountants sponsor numerous courses, seminars, group study programs,
and other forms of continuing education. Increasingly, accountants
and auditors are learning how to operate computers so they can
use accounting software packages that enable raw transactions
data to be quickly transformed into a variety of specialized reports
and auditors should advance rapidly; those having inadequate academic
preparation may be assigned routine jobs and find promotion difficult.
Many graduates of junior colleges and business and correspondence
schools, as well as outstanding bookkeepers and accounting clerks
who meet the education and experience requirements set by their
employers, are successful in landing junior accounting positions.
accountants usually start by assisting with auditing work for
several clients. They may advance to intermediate positions with
more responsibility in 1 or 2 years and to senior positions within
another few years. Those who deal successfully with top industry
executives often become supervisors, managers, or partners, or
transfer to executive positions in private firms. Some open their
own public accounting offices.
accountants often start as ledger accountants, junior internal
auditors, or as trainees for technical accounting positions. They
may advance to chief plant accountant, chief cost accountant,
budget director, or manager of internal auditing. Some become
controllers, treasurers, financial vice-presidents, or corporation
presidents. Many corporation executives have backgrounds in accounting,
internal auditing, and finance.
Employment of accountants
and auditors is expected to grow as fast as the average for all
occupations through the year 2010 due to the key role these workers
play in the management of all types of businesses. Although increased
demand will generate many new jobs, most openings will result
from the need to replace workers who leave the occupation, retire,
or die. While accountants and auditors tend to leave the profession
at a lower rate than members of most other occupations, replacement
needs will be substantial because the occupation is large.
As the economy grows,
the number of business establishments increases, requiring more
accountants and auditors to set up their books, prepare their
taxes, and provide management advice. As these businesses grow,
the volume and complexity of information on costs, expenditures,
and taxes will grow as well. Plant expansion, mergers, or foreign
investments may depend upon the financial condition of the firm,
tax implications of the proposed action, and other financial considerations.
Also, growing international competition is forcing many businesses
to develop more cost information to help make their operations
more efficient. Requirements may also be affected by changes in
legislation related to taxes, financial reporting standards, business
investment, and other financial matters. In addition, increases
in investment and lending associated with general economic growth
also should spur demand for accountants and auditors. Growth in
demand for management advisory services and personal financial
planning assistance may also contribute to growth in requirements
for public accountants.
expected to be favorable for college graduates seeking accounting
and auditing jobs. Certified accountants, particularly CPA's,
should have a wider range of job opportunities than other accountants.
However, competition for jobs with prestigious accounting firms
will remain keen; a master's degree in accounting should be an
asset. Opportunities for accountants without a college degree
will occur mainly in small businesses and accounting firms.
Many employers prefer
graduates 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
1 or 2 years' experience for beginning positions.
lose their jobs when other workers are laid off during hard economic
times. Financial information must be developed regardless of the
state of the economy.
According to a survey
conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers,
bachelor's degree candidates in accounting received offers averaging
$27,900 a year; inexperienced master's degree candidates, $31,500.
accountants employed by public accounting firms averaged $25,400
a year in 1993, according to a national survey. The middle 50
percent had starting salaries ranging from $23,000 to $28,200.
Salaries of junior public accountants who were not owners or partners
of their firms averaged $28,100, but some had salaries of more
than $39,500. Many owners and partners of firms earned considerably
more. The starting salary of management accountants in private
industry averaged $23,100 in 1990, according to the same survey.
The middle 50 percent had starting annual salaries ranging from
$20,800 to $25,300. Salaries of non-supervisory management accountants
averaged $34,850, and some of the most experienced had salaries
of over $78,000. Chief management accountants who direct the accounting
program of a company or one of its establishments averaged $55,450
a year. Their salaries ranged from $39,525 to more than $100,900,
depending upon the scope of their authority and the size of their
According to the
same survey, beginning trainee internal auditors averaged $24,500
a year in 1990. The middle 50 percent had annual starting salaries
ranging from $21,8500 to $26,000. Internal auditors averaged $34,225,
but some of the most experienced had salaries of more than $48,900.
In the Federal Government,
the starting annual salary for junior accountants and auditors
was about $18,700 in 1995. Candidates who had a superior academic
record could begin at $23,200. Applicants with a master's degree
or 2 years'
began at $28,300. Accountants in the Federal Government averaged
about $50,500 a year in 1995; auditors, about $53,600.
Accountants and auditors
design internal control systems and analyze financial data. Others
for whom training in accounting is invaluable include appraisers,
budget officers, loan officers, financial analysts, bank officers,
actuaries, underwriters, tax collectors and revenue agents, FBI
special agents, securities sales workers, and purchasing agents.
Sources of Additional
careers in public accounting and about competency tests administered
in colleges and public accounting firms may be obtained from:
of Certified Public Accountants, 1211 Avenue of the Americas,
New York, N.Y. 10036.
Information on specialized
fields of accounting and auditing is available from:
of Accountants, P.O. Box 433, 10 Paragon Dr., Montvale, N.J.
of Public Accountants and Accreditation Council for Accountancy,
1010 North Fairfax St., Alexandria, Va. 22314.
The Institute of
Internal Auditors, 249 Maitland Ave., P.O. Box 1119, Altamonte
Springs, Fla. 32701.
The EDP Auditors
Association, 373 South Schmale Rd., Carol Stream, Ill. 60188.
For information on accredited
accounting programs and educational institutions offering a specialization
in accounting, contact
of Collegiate Schools of Business, 605 Old Ballas Rd., Suite 220,
St. Louis, Mo. 63141.
After taking the Career Test, the Career Reports are an excellent
way to educate yourself on what to expect in a specific career.
Take the Career Test first so you know what careers to research.