Accounting and Auditing

Accountants and auditors maintain accurate public records, make sure an organization's taxes are paid in full, on time, and help supervise its operations. They analyze company financial information and communicate with people, other companies, and government representatives needing information about a company's finances. Aside from providing financial information to clients, accountants and auditors provide financial planning services, budget analysis, limited legal services, and information technology services.

Accountant and auditor specialists depend on the field they work in. The majority of accountants and auditors work in public, management, internal auditing, and government accounting.

Public accountants provide a variety of tax, auditing, and consulting services for individuals, governments, corporations, or nonprofit organizations. Public accountants, for example, consult their clients about tax advantages and disadvantages related to business choices, and they prepare income tax returns. Other accountants consult their clients about compensation or employee health care benefits, the development of accounting and data-processing systems, and implementing asset protection controls. External auditors audit financial statements and notify investors and legal authorities the statements have been properly prepared and reported. Many public accountants are also Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) who work for accounting firms or run their own.

Forensic accountants investigate white collar crimes such as embezzlement, securities fraud, complicated financial transactions that could be illegal, bankruptcy and contract complications, and money laundering conducted by organized crime. Forensic accountants use their accounting, finance, and legal knowledge to investigate possible criminal conduct. They work with law enforcement agencies and attorneys to investigate financial crimes and provide expert testimony.

New federal laws in response to accounting scandals restrict non-auditing services public accountants are permitted to provide. For example, firms that audit financial statements and advise on tax issues cannot consult the same company on investment issues, legal questions, human resource problems, or technology issues. However, firms may consult clients they do not provide auditing services for, as well as provide services within their organization.

Management accountants, also known as cost, managerial, corporate, industrial, or private accountants, analyze and document their clients' financial information. They are responsible for budgeting, cost and asset management, and evaluating the company's performance. Management accountants, many of whom work in upper management, participate in new product development and company planning. Management accountants analyze financial statements to provide upper management with the information they need to make business decisions, and provide creditors, stockholders, tax authorities, and regulatory agencies with financial reports. Management accountants in accounting departments work in cost accounting, budget a company's finances, and provide management with financial analysis.

Government accountants and auditors record and examine financial records for government agencies and provide auditing services to companies and people whose business practices are subject to taxes and government regulations. Accountants working for local, state, or federal government agencies are responsible to make sure agencies receive the money allocated to them and the money is spent in accordance with legislative decisions. Accountants working for the federal government could work in financial management, financial statement examination, administration, or work as Internal Revenue Service agents.

Internal auditors monitor waste, fraud, and mismanagement, as well as ensure a company's internal controls are working effectively. Internal auditors evaluate financial and information systems, management policies, and internal controls meant to maintain accurate records. They also evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of company operations, as well as determine whether the company is complying with government regulations. Since computers automate financial transactions instantly, auditors can use real time data to advise management on effective controls. They supervise computer systems to make sure data are reliable.

Internal auditors may specialize as information technology, compliance, and environmental auditors.

The responsibilities of accountants are changing because of technology changes. Using special software, accountants summarize and organize transactions listed in standard formats, reducing the time it takes to record and manage data. Accountants and auditors can use modern technology to extract information from their clients' computers and be more accessible. Many accountants develop and maintain data management and analysis software, and work as auditing computer system specialists, developing technology plans.

Accountants provide advisory services. Accountants advise clients on preparing budgets, asset management, risk reduction, and retirement planning. People depend on trustworthy accountants to provide financial advice, but accountants who prepare financial statements for a client cannot provide other consulting services to the same client.

Work Environment
Most accountants work in offices, but some work at home. Those working for government agencies, public accounting firms, or companies with multiple branches, may have to frequently travel to perform their work.

Most accountants work 40 hour weeks, but many with a lot of clients work long hours. Tax accountants work long hours during tax season.

Training, Education and Qualifications
Most accountants and auditors are required to earn a minimum a bachelor's degree in accounting or in a related career field. Many accountants and auditors, in addition to earning a bachelor's degree, will obtain a career specific certification to help advance their accounting careers, such as earning the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation.

Education and training. Most accountant and auditor career positions require an associate's or bachelor's degree in accounting or a related career field, however, many employers today prefer applicants with a master's degree in accounting, or with an MBA in accounting. Some colleges and universities are now offering finance, business, and accounting programs to prepare students to work in new specialty professions such as internal auditing. Many professional associations offer a variety of continuing professional education courses, classes, and certifications.

Some graduates of junior colleges, community colleges, business colleges or correspondence schools, as well as bookkeepers and accounting clerks who meet the experience and education requirements set by their employers, can obtain entry-level accounting positions and advance to more senior accountant positions by demonstrating their accounting skills, knowledge, and prowess on the job.

Most entry-level accountants and auditors work under the supervision an experienced accountant or auditor before achieving more independence and responsibility.

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For those who work in the accountant and auditing field, median wages were $63,550 for May 2012. For top earners, the wage is listed at $111,510 and the lowest 10 percent is at $39,930.

Job Outlook
The employment news for accountants and auditors is that their numbers are expected to grow as much as 13 percent from 2012-2022. That’s about par with growth for other occupations. That growth is influenced on a large scale by the overall health of the nation’s economy. With economic growth comes the need for more accountants and auditors to fill roles.

Due to corporate scandals and other financial crises, businesses are responding by hiring more accountants and auditors to ensure their records comply with new laws and regulations. Businesses need to be credit worthy to obtain loans for growth, and this also will increase the need for auditors and their abilities.

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