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What is an Accountant

When you think of accounting, do you immediately associate the job title with taxes? Well, that's what some accountants do, but there are other types of accountants.

From preparing an audit to looking over financial records, accoutants have a busy schedule. Some of the year, they will work 40 hours a week, but other times they'll work a lot of overtime. So if you like money more than having a work-life balance, considering accounting.

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. 

Learn more about what an Accountant does

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).  

Education

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.

Advancement

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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  1. Google Jobs (153)
  2. JPMorgan Chase & Co. Jobs (70)
  3. Deloitte Jobs (75)
  4. American International Group Jobs (112)
  5. IBM Jobs (76)
Average Salary
$52,965
Average Salary
Job Growth Rate
6%
Job Growth Rate
Job Openings
75,943
Job Openings
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Average Salary for an Accountant

Accountants in America make an average salary of $52,965 per year or $25 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $69,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $40,000 per year.
Average Salary
$52,965
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12 Accountant Resume Examples

Learn How To Write an Accountant Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless Accountant resumes and compiled some information about how to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

View Accountant Resume Examples And Templates

And if you’re looking for a job, here are the five top employers hiring now:

  1. Google Jobs (153)
  2. JPMorgan Chase & Co. Jobs (70)
  3. Deloitte Jobs (75)
  4. American International Group Jobs (112)
  5. IBM Jobs (76)

Choose From 10+ Customizable Accountant Resume templates

Zippia allows you to choose from different easy-to-use Accountant templates, and provides you with expert advice. Using the templates, you can rest assured that the structure and format of your Accountant resume is top notch. Choose a template with the colors, fonts & text sizes that are appropriate for your industry.

Accountant Resume
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Accountant Resume
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Accountant Resume
Accountant Resume
Accountant Resume
Accountant Resume
Accountant Resume
Accountant Resume
Accountant Resume
Accountant Resume
Accountant Resume
Accountant Resume

Accountant Demographics

Accountant Gender Distribution

Male
Male
38%
Female
Female
62%

After extensive research and analysis, Zippia's data science team found that:

  • Among Accountants, 61.8% of them are women, while 38.2% are men.

  • The most common race/ethnicity among Accountants is White, which makes up 64.6% of all Accountants.

  • The most common foreign language among Accountants is Spanish at 35.5%.

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Accountant Education

Accountant Majors

24.2 %
7.3 %

Accountant Degrees

Bachelors

71.2 %

Associate

12.5 %

Masters

11.5 %

Top Colleges for Accountants

1. University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA • Private

In-State Tuition
$55,584
Enrollment
10,764

2. Northwestern University

Evanston, IL • Private

In-State Tuition
$54,568
Enrollment
8,451

3. University of Southern California

Los Angeles, CA • Private

In-State Tuition
$56,225
Enrollment
19,548

4. SUNY at Binghamton

Vestal, NY • Private

In-State Tuition
$9,808
Enrollment
13,990

5. Villanova University

Villanova, PA • Private

In-State Tuition
$53,308
Enrollment
6,819

6. San Diego State University

San Diego, CA • Private

In-State Tuition
$7,488
Enrollment
30,018

7. Bentley University

Waltham, MA • Private

In-State Tuition
$49,880
Enrollment
4,177

8. Boston University

Boston, MA • Private

In-State Tuition
$53,948
Enrollment
17,238

9. SUNY Stony Brook

Stony Brook, NY • Private

In-State Tuition
$9,625
Enrollment
17,407

10. New York University

New York, NY • Private

In-State Tuition
$51,828
Enrollment
26,339
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Online Courses For Accountant That You May Like

Financial Accounting Subsidiary Ledgers & Special Journals
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Top Skills For an Accountant

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 18.3% of Accountants listed General Ledger Accounts on their resume, but soft skills such as Analytical skills and Communication skills are important as well.

  • General Ledger Accounts, 18.3%
  • Financial Statements, 15.1%
  • Gaap, 5.3%
  • Payroll, 5.3%
  • Special Projects, 5.1%
  • Other Skills, 50.9%

Best States For an Accountant

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as an Accountant. The best states for people in this position are New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. Accountants make the most in New York with an average salary of $67,065. Whereas in New Jersey and Connecticut, they would average $66,172 and $60,936, respectively. While Accountants would only make an average of $59,547 in Massachusetts, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. District of Columbia

Total Accountant Jobs:
317
Highest 10% Earn:
$89,000
Location Quotient:
1.92
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. New York

Total Accountant Jobs:
1,468
Highest 10% Earn:
$88,000
Location Quotient:
1.16
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Connecticut

Total Accountant Jobs:
392
Highest 10% Earn:
$79,000
Location Quotient:
1.2
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
Full List Of Best States For Accountants

How Do Accountant Rate Their Jobs?

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1.0

Accountant in GreeceFebruary 2020

1.0

Zippia Official LogoAccountant in GreeceFebruary 2020

What do you like the most about working as Accountant?

It's an office job. Show More

What do you NOT like?

Everything else. Too much anxiety, debts, low sallary (€700/month). Show More

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5.0

5.0

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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Top Accountant Employers

We've made finding a great employer to work for easy by doing the hard work for you. We looked into employers that employ Accountants and discovered their number of Accountant opportunities and average salary. Through our research, we concluded that Robert Half International was the best, especially with an average salary of $53,758. Walmart follows up with an average salary of $42,492, and then comes usa.com with an average of $51,695. In addition, we know most people would rather work from home. So instead of having to change careers, we identified the best employers for remote work as an Accountant. The employers include DLA Piper, Tech Data, and Performance Food Group

Accountant Videos

Becoming an Accountant FAQs

Are accountants happy?

No, accountants are not happy.

Surveys on the subject report that accountants who are unhappy with their jobs are unsatisfied because they don't find their work fulfilling, their work environments are unpleasant, and the busy season (January-April, the time when everyone is filing their tax returns) is stressful.

Do accountants make good money?

Yes, accountants do make good money. The salary of an accountant has a wide range. Higher-earning accountants may earn more than $120,000 per year, while lower-earning accountants may earn less than $40,000 per year.

Do you have to be good at math to be an accountant?

Yes, you do need to be good at basic math to be an accountant. However, you don't necessarily need to be good at advanced math, since you'll mainly need to be comfortable with basic equations, math concepts, and accounting software.

How do I become an accountant without an accounting degree?

To become an accountant without an accounting degree, you need to get the proper certifications. There are a variety you can get, including Certified Management Accountant, Certified Information Systems Auditor, or a Certified Internal Auditor.

How long does it take to become an accountant?

It takes four years to become an accountant. Most entry-level positions require a bachelor's degree, which typically takes four years to complete.

This may take less time if you earned college credit in high school and can apply to your degree plan, or it may take more if you choose to add on additional classes. Generally, though, the time frame is four years.

How many years does it take to be an accountant?

It takes four years to become an accountant. Although, it may take longer than four years to obtain additional certifications or secure a more senior accounting role. To be an accountant at the entry-level, one only needs a bachelor's degree. This typically takes four years to complete.

Is accounting stressful?

Yes, accounting is stressful. Managing the finances for a large company can be stressful because the tiniest mistake can cause serious ramifications. Helping people file their tax returns can also be stressful because they all need it done within a four-month window, and a small mistake can affect both your client and your career.

Is it hard to become an accountant?

No, it is not hard to become an accountant. Becoming an accountant is, in theory, no more difficult than simply earning a bachelor's degree. Being an accountant, however, can be a bit more challenging.

What can a CPA do that an accountant cannot?

Qualified accountants can do almost any job that CPAs do, but they cannot prepare prepare and file audited financial statements with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or represent clients in front of the Internal Revenue Services (IRS).

What is the difference between an accountant and a senior accountant?

The difference between accounts and senior accountants relates to the level of responsibility. Senior accountants take ownership of reporting costs, productivity, and analysis for the companies they work for. Senior accountants are more likely overseeing the junior staff, leading a team of auditors, for example.

What qualifications do you need to be an accountant?

The qualification that you need to be an accountant is a bachelor's degree. At the entry-level, a bachelor's degree is the only requirement needed to become an accountant. Often, though, positions in accounting that pay higher salaries require additional qualifications.

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