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Become An Accountant

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Working As An Accountant

  • Interacting With Computers
  • Processing Information
  • Getting Information
  • Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards
  • Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work
  • Mostly Sitting

  • Repetitive

  • $54,000

    Average Salary

What Does An Accountant Do

Accountants and auditors prepare and examine financial records. They 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

In addition to examining and preparing financial documentation, accountants and auditors must explain their findings. This includes preparing written reports and meeting face-to-face with organization managers and individual clients.

Many accountants and auditors specialize, depending on the particular organization that they work for. Some work for organizations that specialize in assurance services (improving the quality or context of information for decisionmakers) or risk management (determining the probability of a misstatement on financial documentation). Other organizations specialize in specific industries, such as healthcare.

Some workers with a background in accounting and auditing teach in colleges and universities. For more information, see the profile on postsecondary teachers.

The following are examples of types of accountants and auditors:

Public accountants perform a broad range of accounting, auditing, tax, and consulting tasks. Their clients include corporations, governments, and individuals.

Public accountants work with financial documents that clients are required by law to disclose. These include tax forms and balance sheet statements that corporations must provide potential investors. For example, some public accountants concentrate on tax matters, advising corporations about the tax advantages of certain business decisions or preparing individual income tax returns.

Public accountants, many of whom are Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), generally have their own businesses or work for public accounting firms. Publicly traded companies are required to have CPAs sign documents they submit to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), including annual and quarterly reports.

Some public accountants specialize in forensic accounting, investigating financial crimes such as securities fraud and embezzlement, bankruptcies and contract disputes, and other complex and possibly criminal financial transactions. Forensic accountants combine their knowledge of accounting and finance with law and investigative techniques to determine if an activity is illegal. Many forensic accountants work closely with law enforcement personnel and lawyers during investigations and often appear as expert witnesses during trials.

Management accountants, also called cost, managerial, industrial, corporate, or private accountants, record and analyze the financial information of the organizations for which they work. The information that management accountants prepare is intended for internal use by business managers, not by the general public.

Management accountants often work on budgeting and performance evaluation. They also may help organizations plan the cost of doing business. Some may work with financial managers on asset management, which involves planning and selecting financial investments such as stocks, bonds, and real estate.

Government accountants maintain and examine the records of government agencies and audit private businesses and individuals whose activities are subject to government regulations or taxation. Accountants employed by federal, state, and local governments ensure that revenues are received and spent in accordance with laws and regulations.

Internal auditors check for mismanagement of an organization’s funds. They identify ways to improve the processes for finding and eliminating waste and fraud. The practice of internal auditing is not regulated, but The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) provides generally accepted standards.

External auditors perform similar duties as internal auditors, but are employed by an outside organization, rather than the one they are auditing. They review clients’ financial statements and inform investors and authorities that the statements have been correctly prepared and reported.

Information technology auditors are internal auditors who review controls for their organization’s computer systems, to ensure that the financial data comes from a reliable source.

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How To Become An Accountant

Most accountants and auditors need at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field. Certification within a specific field of accounting improves job prospects. For example, many accountants become Certified Public Accountants (CPAs).  


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.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

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 often pay the costs associated with the CPA exam.

CPAs are licensed by their state’s Board of Accountancy. Becoming a CPA requires passing a national exam and meeting other state requirements. Almost all states require CPA candidates to complete 150 semester hours of college coursework to be certified, which is 30 hours more than the usual 4-year bachelor’s degree. Many schools offer a 5-year combined bachelor’s and master’s degree to meet the 150-hour requirement, but a master’s degree is not required.

A few states allow a number of years of public accounting experience to substitute for a college degree.

All states use the four-part Uniform CPA Examination from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). Candidates do not have to pass all four parts at once, but most states require that they pass all four parts within 18 months of passing their first part.

Almost all states require CPAs to take continuing education to keep their license.

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. Some of the most common certifications are listed below:

The Institute of Management Accountants offers the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) to applicants who complete a bachelor’s degree. Applicants must have worked at least 2 years in management accounting, pass a two-part exam, agree to meet continuing education requirements, and comply with standards of professional conduct. The exam covers areas such as financial statement analysis, working-capital policy, capital structure, valuation issues, and risk management. 

The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) offers the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) to graduates from accredited colleges and universities who have worked for 2 years as internal auditors and have passed a four-part exam. The IIA also offers the Certified in Control Self-Assessment (CCSA), Certified Government Auditing Professional (CGAP), Certified Financial Services Auditor (CFSA), and Certification in Risk Management Assurance (CRMA) to those who pass the exams and meet educational and experience requirements.

ISACA offers the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) to candidates who pass an exam and have 5 years of experience auditing information systems. Information systems experience, financial or operational auditing experience, or related college credit hours can be substituted for up to 3 years of experience in information systems auditing, control, or security.

For accountants with a CPA, the AICPA offers the option to receive any or all of the Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV), Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP), or Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) certifications. The ABV requires a written exam, completion of at least six business valuation projects, and 75 hours of continuing education. The CITP requires 1,000 hours of business technology experience and 75 hours of continuing education. Candidates for the PFS also must complete a certain amount of work experience and continuing education, and pass a written exam.


Some top executives and financial managers have a background in accounting, internal auditing, or finance.

Beginning public accountants often advance to positions with more responsibility in 1 or 2 years and to senior positions within another few years. Those who excel may become supervisors, managers, or partners; open their own public accounting firm; or transfer to executive positions in management accounting or internal auditing in private firms.

Management accountants often start as cost accountants, junior internal auditors, or trainees for other accounting positions. As they rise through the organization, they may advance to accounting manager, chief cost accountant, budget director, or manager of internal auditing. Some become controllers, treasurers, financial vice presidents, chief financial officers, or corporation presidents.

Public accountants, management accountants, and internal auditors can move from one aspect of accounting and auditing to another. Public accountants often move into management accounting or internal auditing. Management accountants may become internal auditors, and internal auditors may become management accountants. However, it is less common for management accountants or internal auditors to move into public accounting.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Accountants and auditors must be able to identify issues in documentation and suggest solutions. For example, public accountants use analytical skills in their work to minimize tax liability, and internal auditors use these skills to detect fraudulent use of funds.  

Communication skills. Accountants and auditors must be able to listen carefully to facts and concerns from clients, managers, and others. They must also be able to discuss the results of their work in both meetings and written reports.

Detail oriented. Accountants and auditors must pay attention to detail when compiling and examining documentation.

Math skills. Accountants and auditors must be able to analyze, compare, and interpret facts and figures, although complex math skills are not necessary.

Organizational skills. Strong organizational skills are important for accountants and auditors who often work with a range of financial documents for a variety of clients.

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Average Length of Employment
Public Accountant 4.4 years
Control Accountant 4.2 years
Accountant 4.0 years
Senior Accountant 3.9 years
General Accountant 3.5 years
Finance Officer 3.5 years
Staff Accountant 3.0 years
Accounting Staff 2.8 years
Cash Accountant 2.6 years
Junior Accountant 2.4 years
Top Careers Before Accountant
Bookkeeper 7.0%
Controller 5.4%
Auditor 2.8%
Internship 2.8%
Cashier 2.7%
Top Careers After Accountant
Controller 9.8%
Bookkeeper 4.6%
Consultant 2.8%
Manager 2.3%
Cashier 2.2%
Owner 2.1%

Do you work as an Accountant?

Average Yearly Salary
Show Salaries
Min 10%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Highest Paying City
Washington, DC
Highest Paying State
District of Columbia
Avg Experience Level
3.7 years
How much does an Accountant make at top companies?
The national average salary for an Accountant in the United States is $54,076 per year or $26 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $39,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $74,000.

Real Accountant Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Accountant Global Hardware Sourcing, LLC North Miami Beach, FL Sep 11, 2015 $180,000
Accountant EMBY International Inc. New York, NY May 04, 2015 $180,000
Accountant Accounting and Tax Planning Inc. Garden City, NY Oct 01, 2015 $170,000
Accountant Bay Area Traffic Solutions, Inc. Fremont, CA Jan 08, 2016 $166,800
Financial Accountant Envent Corporation Long Beach, CA Aug 15, 2016 $155,500
Accountant Nasary Development Corp. New York, NY Nov 18, 2016 $147,805
Accountant (Cost) Siegel & Stockman Inc. New York, NY Mar 23, 2016 $146,000
Accountant Cargo Solutions Inc. Fontana, CA Oct 30, 2015 $143,000
Accountant Atlantic Region Food Corporation Gibbsboro, NJ May 27, 2015 $137,654
Accountant Am Architectural Metal & Glass Inc. Gainesville, NY Sep 23, 2015 $137,000
Accountant Vocera Communications, Inc. San Jose, CA Aug 04, 2016 $135,000 -
Accountant Google Inc. Sunnyvale, CA May 18, 2016 $130,600
Accountant Lord Securities Corporation New York, NY Jan 05, 2016 $130,000
Accountant EEC, LLC Boca Raton, FL Sep 26, 2016 $57,387
Accountant III City of Chicago, Department of Finance Chicago, IL Apr 16, 2015 $57,384
Accountant Eastern Accounting & Tax Inc. NY Nov 09, 2016 $57,330
Accountant Eric & Young LLC Englewood Cliffs, NJ Aug 09, 2016 $57,330
Accountant Eye Brow Queen Inc. San Francisco, CA Sep 20, 2016 $57,304
Accountant Julie A. Pearl APC San Francisco, CA Jan 04, 2016 $57,304 -
Accountant Huafa Industrial (Us) Co., Ltd. San Francisco, CA Jun 09, 2016 $57,304
Accountant Atieva USA, Inc. Menlo Park, CA Feb 09, 2016 $57,304
Accountant Interventional Pain Management Associates, LLC Hamilton, NJ May 18, 2016 $52,166
Accountant S&B Industry, Inc. Fort Worth, TX Jul 09, 2016 $52,138
Accountant Glasshouse Balloon Company Inc. Anaheim, CA Apr 25, 2015 $52,097
Accountant Atlantic Region Food Group Gibbsboro, NJ Aug 15, 2016 $52,062
Accountant Ghanshyam Donut Corporation Glendora, NJ Dec 02, 2015 $52,062
Accountant Shajandand Donuts LLC Lumberton, NJ Oct 28, 2015 $52,062
Accountant Shanjandand Donuts LLC Lumberton, NJ Sep 28, 2015 $52,062
Accountant Archtech Electronics Corp. Dayton, NJ Dec 09, 2016 $52,029

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Top Skills for An Accountant

  1. Financial Statements
  2. General Ledger Accounts
  3. Income Tax Returns
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Prepare monthly and annual financial statements for properties, including account reconciliations.
  • Maintain all general ledger accounts and overall corporate structuring of financial statements including indirect pool structuring.
  • Prepared individual and business income tax returns.
  • Processed and recorded Journal Entries providing full documentation to ensure account completeness, accuracy and compliance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.
  • Oversee the management and coordination of all fiscal reporting activities for the organization including: organizational revenue/expense and balance sheet reports.


Average Salary:

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Top 10 Best States for Accountants

  1. District of Columbia
  2. Connecticut
  3. New York
  4. Rhode Island
  5. New Jersey
  6. Massachusetts
  7. Texas
  8. Illinois
  9. Delaware
  10. Colorado
  • (309 jobs)
  • (408 jobs)
  • (1,467 jobs)
  • (102 jobs)
  • (855 jobs)
  • (949 jobs)
  • (2,410 jobs)
  • (1,432 jobs)
  • (97 jobs)
  • (655 jobs)

Accountant Resume Examples And Tips

The average resume reviewer spends between 5 to 7 seconds looking at a single resume, which leaves the average job applier with roughly six seconds to make a killer first impression. Thanks to this, a single typo or error on your resume can disqualify you right out of the gate. At Zippia, we went through over 107,439 Accountant resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

Learn How To Create A Top Notch Accountant Resume

View Resume Examples

Accountant Demographics










Hispanic or Latino




Black or African American



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Foreign Languages Spoken








































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Accountant Education


University of Phoenix


Strayer University


University of Houston


University of Maryland - University College


Southern New Hampshire University


San Jose State University


University of Texas at Dallas


Kaplan University


DePaul University


George Mason University


Liberty University


Georgia State University


Texas A&M University


Pace University - New York


Webster University


Northeastern University


Arizona State University


Florida International University


Florida State University


Baruch College of the City University of New York

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Accounting And Computer Science




Human Resources Management




Computer Science


Health Care Administration






Computer Information Systems


Criminal Justice








Legal Research And Advanced Professional Studies

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What Is It Like To Work As An Accountant


Certified Public Accountant

August 26, 2019 on Zippia

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Accountant.. Show More

What do you like the most about working as Accountant?

I like when the numbers fall in to place. I enjoy helping clients reach their financial goals. I am great with client consultations. I appreciate the chance to help plan for a client's needs... Show More

What do you NOT like?

I dislike situations where no planning had been done. I am bothered when a client has an accounting problem that could have been avoided by proper planning... Show More

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