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Become A General Accountant

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Working As A General Accountant

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

  • Repetitive

  • $56,000

    Average Salary

What Does A General 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. 

Duties

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 A General 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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General Accountant Career Paths

General Accountant
Accountant Senior Accountant Controller
Regional Controller
10 Yearsyrs
Accountant Senior Accountant Accounting Manager
Senior Accounting Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Accountant Cost Accountant
Cost Accounting Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Senior Accountant Senior Finance Analyst
Finance Planning Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Staff Accountant Finance Analyst Accounting Manager
Division Controller
9 Yearsyrs
Staff Accountant Finance Analyst Senior Finance Analyst
Manager, Finance Analysis
8 Yearsyrs
Staff Accountant Senior Finance Analyst Accounting Manager
Corporate Accounting Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Finance Analyst Finance Manager Controller
Director Of Accounting & Finance
11 Yearsyrs
Cost Accountant Controller
Group Controller
11 Yearsyrs
Cost Accountant Assistant Controller Finance Manager
Regional Finance Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Payroll Administrator Office Manager Human Resources Manager
Controller, Operations, And Human Resources Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Payroll Administrator Office Manager Assistant Controller
Divisional Controller
9 Yearsyrs
Payroll Administrator Accounting Supervisor
Manager, Accounting Operations
7 Yearsyrs
Accounts Payable Supervisor Office Manager Assistant Controller
Assistant Corporate Controller
9 Yearsyrs
Accounts Payable Supervisor Accounting Supervisor Plant Controller
Unit Controller
9 Yearsyrs
Accounts Payable Supervisor Accounts Payable Manager Credit Manager
Treasury Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Tax Accountant Finance Manager Division Controller
Controller General Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Finance Consultant Finance Officer Fiscal Officer
Fiscal Manager
8 Yearsyrs
General Ledger Accountant Project Accountant Accountant And Office Manager
Finance Account Manager
5 Yearsyrs
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Help others decide if this is a good career for them

Average Length of Employment
Senior Accountant 3.9 years
Cost Accountant 3.7 years
Accountant 3.7 years
Accounting Analyst 3.0 years
Staff Accountant 3.0 years
General Accountant 3.0 years
Revenue Accountant 2.8 years
Cash Accountant 2.6 years
Junior Accountant 2.4 years
Top Careers Before General Accountant
Accountant 15.6%
Bookkeeper 5.1%
Controller 2.4%
Auditor 2.2%
Cashier 2.2%
Internship 1.7%
Top Careers After General Accountant
Accountant 13.9%
Controller 8.5%
Bookkeeper 2.5%
Consultant 1.8%

Do you work as a General Accountant?

General Accountant Demographics

Gender

Female

51.0%

Male

39.2%

Unknown

9.9%
Ethnicity

White

56.5%

Hispanic or Latino

18.0%

Asian

11.2%

Black or African American

10.0%

Unknown

4.3%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

50.5%

Mandarin

9.2%

French

5.1%

Arabic

4.6%

Chinese

4.1%

Cantonese

4.1%

Russian

3.6%

Portuguese

3.1%

German

3.1%

Japanese

2.6%

Italian

2.0%

Vietnamese

1.5%

Polish

1.5%

Hindi

1.0%

Korean

1.0%

Ukrainian

1.0%

Turkish

0.5%

Gujarati

0.5%

Hungarian

0.5%

Lithuanian

0.5%
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General Accountant Education

Schools

University of Phoenix

26.3%

San Jose State University

6.3%

University of Houston

5.9%

Southern New Hampshire University

5.6%

Strayer University

5.2%

University of Maryland - University College

4.2%

Grand Valley State University

4.2%

University of Akron

4.0%

DePaul University

3.8%

Liberty University

3.8%

Michigan State University

3.3%

University of Texas at Dallas

3.3%

George Mason University

3.3%

Cleveland State University

3.3%

American University

3.3%

Wayne State University

3.1%

University of Toledo

2.8%

San Francisco State University

2.8%

Western Michigan University

2.8%

Davenport University

2.8%
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Majors

Accounting

54.0%

Business

27.0%

Finance

7.9%

Management

2.5%

Economics

0.8%

Human Resources Management

0.8%

Accounting And Computer Science

0.7%

Health Care Administration

0.6%

Marketing

0.6%

Business/Commerce

0.6%

English

0.6%

Education

0.5%

Taxation

0.5%

Communication

0.4%

Psychology

0.4%

Computer Information Systems

0.4%

Hospitality Management

0.4%

Legal Research And Advanced Professional Studies

0.4%

Computer Science

0.4%

Project Management

0.4%
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Degrees

Bachelors

53.9%

Masters

25.3%

Other

10.7%

Associate

5.6%

Certificate

3.0%

Diploma

0.8%

Doctorate

0.7%

License

0.2%
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Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary
Average Yearly Salary
$56,000
View Detailed Salary Report
$41,000
Min 10%
$56,000
Median 50%
$56,000
Median 50%
$56,000
Median 50%
$56,000
Median 50%
$56,000
Median 50%
$56,000
Median 50%
$56,000
Median 50%
$76,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Equifax
Highest Paying City
Santa Clara, CA
Highest Paying State
New Jersey
Avg Experience Level
3.5 years
How much does a General Accountant make at top companies?
The national average salary for a General Accountant in the United States is $56,707 per year or $27 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $41,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $76,000.

Real General Accountant Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
General Accountant Navarro Orthodontix, PC Dallas, TX Nov 28, 2011 $96,000
General Accountant Vobile, Inc. Santa Clara, CA May 23, 2016 $93,000
International General Accountant Equifax, Inc. Atlanta, GA Jan 28, 2016 $90,709
General Accountant Manila Sunset Grille Inc. National City, CA Apr 01, 2015 $88,566
General Accountant MV & Sons-Texas, L.P. Houston, TX Aug 22, 2016 $83,200
General Accountant Roman's Commercial Cleaning & Property Management West Warwick, RI Dec 11, 2015 $80,870
General Accountant Lapco Manufacturing Inc. Morgan City, LA Sep 16, 2015 $80,000
International General Accountant Equifax Inc. Atlanta, GA Oct 14, 2016 $79,900 -
$100,000
International General Accountant Equifax Inc. Atlanta, GA Oct 14, 2016 $79,000 -
$100,000
General Accountant Anritsu Company Morgan Hill, CA May 08, 2016 $74,849
Senior General Accountant Northside Center for Child Development, Inc. New York, NY Nov 10, 2010 $72,377
General Accountant Archcom Technology, Inc. South Plainfield, NJ Sep 03, 2013 $66,000
General Accountant Archcom Technology Inc. South Plainfield, NJ Feb 13, 2015 $63,440 -
$66,000
General Accountant II World Resources Institute Washington, DC May 21, 2015 $62,795 -
$75,000
General Accountant Galaxy Solution Group Inc. NY Sep 01, 2014 $54,825
General Accountant Care Worldwide, Inc. New York, NY Dec 15, 2009 $54,000
General Accountant Care Worldwide, Inc. New York, NY Dec 15, 2009 $53,200
General Accountant Dicon Fiberoptics, Inc. Richmond, CA Sep 01, 2010 $52,229 -
$65,000
General Accountant The Chugh Firm, AAC Iselin, NJ Sep 01, 2013 $51,584
General Accountant The Chugh Firm Santa Clara, CA Sep 30, 2010 $51,465
General Accountant Openband Multimedia, LLC Dulles Town Center, VA Oct 01, 2011 $51,397
General Accountant Group 1 Automotive, Inc. Houston, TX Sep 15, 2016 $49,109
General Accountant Heidmar Inc. Norwalk, CT May 15, 2010 $48,200
General Accountant Materia Inc. Pasadena, CA Mar 13, 2015 $48,027 -
$60,000
General Accountant Martin H. Chan, P.C. Philadelphia, PA Aug 01, 2014 $48,001
General Accountant Martin H. Chan, P.C. Philadelphia, PA Oct 01, 2014 $48,001
General Accountant Network Enhanced Technologies Inc. Los Angeles, CA Sep 18, 2013 $48,001 -
$62,610

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Top Skills for A General Accountant

  1. Financial Statements
  2. General Ledger Accounts
  3. Payroll
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Reviewed monthly financial statements of English and German subsidiaries; consolidated foreign and domestic financial statements.
  • Managed reconciliation of general ledger accounts with high volume transactions.
  • Prepared and implemented company wide payroll including distribution of departmental bonuses.
  • Collect necessary data to prepare journal entries for the general ledger, analyze and confirm the current data for the audits.
  • Managed a capital asset database of approximately 4000 assets.

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Top 10 Best States for General Accountants

  1. District of Columbia
  2. Rhode Island
  3. Connecticut
  4. New York
  5. New Jersey
  6. Texas
  7. Virginia
  8. Delaware
  9. Massachusetts
  10. Colorado
  • (235 jobs)
  • (91 jobs)
  • (325 jobs)
  • (1,101 jobs)
  • (593 jobs)
  • (1,786 jobs)
  • (835 jobs)
  • (75 jobs)
  • (724 jobs)
  • (576 jobs)

Top General Accountant Employers

Jobs From Top General Accountant Employers

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