Accountant Career Description

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Accountants and auditors prepare and examine financial records.


What they do

Accountants and auditors ensure that financial records are accurate and that taxes are paid properly and on time. Accountants and auditors assess financial operations and work to help ensure that organizations run efficiently.

Accountants and auditors typically do the following:

  • Examine financial statements to ensure that they are accurate and comply with laws and regulations
  • Compute taxes owed, prepare tax returns, and ensure that taxes are paid properly and on time
  • Inspect account books and accounting systems for efficiency and use of accepted accounting procedures
  • Organize and maintain financial records
  • Assess financial operations and make best-practices recommendations to management
  • Suggest ways to reduce costs, enhance revenues, and improve profits


Work Environment

Most accountants and auditors work in offices, but some work from home. Although they complete much of their work alone, they sometimes work in teams with other accountants and auditors. Accountants and auditors may travel to their clients’ places of business.

Most accountants and auditors work full time. Some work more than 40 hours per week. Longer periods of work are typical at certain times of the year, such as at the end of the budget year or during tax season.


How to become an Accountant or Auditor

Most accountants and auditors need at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field. Certification, including the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) credential, can improve job prospects.

Most accountant and auditor positions require at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field. Some employers prefer to hire applicants who have a master’s degree, either in accounting or in business administration with a concentration in accounting.

A few universities and colleges offer specialized programs, such as a bachelor’s degree in internal auditing. In some cases, those with associate’s degrees, as well as bookkeepers and accounting clerks who meet the education and experience requirements set by their employers, get junior accounting positions and advance to accountant positions by showing their accounting skills on the job.

Many colleges help students gain practical experience through summer or part-time internships with public accounting or business firms.

Every accountant filing a report with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is required by law to be a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Many other accountants choose to become a CPA to enhance their job prospects or to gain clients. Many employers will pay the costs associated with the CPA exam.  Certification provides an advantage in the job market because it shows professional competence in a specialized field of accounting and auditing. Accountants and auditors seek certifications from a variety of professional societies.



The median annual wage for accountants and auditors was $71,550 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $44,480, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $124,450.


Job Outlook

Employment of accountants and auditors is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Globalization, a growing economy, and a complex tax and regulatory environment are expected to continue to lead to strong demand for accountants and auditors.

Demand for accountants may lead to good prospects for entry-level positions. However, competition will be stronger for jobs with the most prestigious accounting and business firms.

Accountants and auditors who have earned professional recognition, especially as Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), should have the best prospects. Job applicants who have a master’s degree in accounting or a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) with a concentration in accounting also may have an advantage.


Similar Job Titles

Accountant, Accounting Manager, Accounting Officer, Accounting Supervisor, Business Analyst, Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Cost Accountant, General Accountant, Project Accountant, Staff Accountant, Assurance Manager, Assurance Senior, Audit Manager, Audit Partner, Auditor, Auditor-in-Charge, Financial Auditor, Internal Audit Director, Internal Auditor, Revenue Tax Specialist, Compliance Auditor


Related Occupations

Compensation and Benefits Managers, Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists, Financial Analysts, Risk Management Specialists


Apprenticeships in Accounting

Registered Apprenticeships in Accounting are under development, some apprenticeship programs in bookkeeping are currently available.


More Information

The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field.  Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas.  As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.

  • American Accounting Association - With an emphasis on thought leadership, this organization seeks to shape the future of accounting through teaching, research and a powerful network, ensuring our position as thought leaders in accounting.
  • American Institute of CPAs - Membership in this organization will connect you to a professional network 400,000 strong. Support and guidance for the work you do every day is emphasized along with the challenge to seize that next career milestone.
  • Association of Certified Fraud Examiners - With more than 85,000 members, the ACFE is the world's largest anti-fraud organization and premier provider of anti-fraud training and education. An informative webpage on career paths is available along with scholarship information.
  • The Institute of Internal Auditors - With over 200,000 members worldwide, members of this organization work in internal auditing, risk management, governance, internal control, information technology audit, education, and security.


What's the difference between an accountant and an auditor? Basically, accountants keep track of an organization’s money, and auditors check their work. But there's much more to the work than simply balancing the books. These financial professionals make sure the organization’s finances operate properly. They are involved in analyzing financial information and records, and preparing reports related to budgeting, cost control, employee compensation, new product development, and of course... calculating taxes. If money's involved, accountants and auditors are too. In fact, so many areas need accounting and auditing services that many professionals opt to specialize. Some become tax specialists. Others become employee benefits experts, while still others concentrate on preparing the income statements and balance sheets every publicly-held corporation must file. Auditors and accountants work in a wide range of industries – from accounting companies to hospitals, insurance firms to manufacturing. To take full advantage of the many opportunities for accountants and auditors, you need to have at least a bachelor's degree in accounting. To become a "Certified Public Accountant" or "CPA," in many states you will need 150 hours of college coursework to qualify to take the state licensing exam. And, as long as there is money to spend, accountants and auditors will be needed to make sure it’s accurately recorded.

Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics, CareerOneStop, O*Net Online.