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Accounting: It's All About The Money

By Kamilia Kaczor

There is something to be said for entering a profession where your services will be in demand by virtually every business, institution and government in existence.

Put simply , an accountant keeps track of money flowing in and out of an organization. In the United States alone there are approximately 2 million bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks in the workforce, according the U.S. Department of Labor. They can be found in every industry, at all levels of government, and their duties can range from basic record keeping to providing top-level strategic advice on business, investing and technology implementation.

Most accountants are hired to do auditing work, which involves verifying the accuracy of a client's books to determine whether or not an organization runs effectively, records are kept accurately, and taxes paid correctly and punctually. This involves tracking expenses, revenue, payroll, and more. Tax work is the next most popular occupation for accountants, which includes much of the same work that auditing does. Accountants will find their salaries and work hours to be fairly predictable; not many surprises in this rather conservative industry.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the demand for accountants and auditors is likely to keep pace with job growth in the larger economy in coming years as current employees move out of the profession, businesses expand and scrutiny of financial practices increases.

The basic requirement of the job is an ability to work with numbers. In fact at some small companies, the books may be "kept" by an employee with a good head for figures and a keen attention to details. More the norm, though, is a financial professional with a four-year business degree, who in a larger company might work in an accounting department and handle specific tasks, with a title reflective of their duties: accounts payable clerk accounts receivable clerk, etc.

So what educational path might lead to a job of "Bean Counter," as these number crunchers were once known?

With the exception of small companies with relatively modest bookkeeping needs, it is likely that an accountant or auditor will be required to have a business degree, usually with a concentration in accounting. The larger the firm and more complex the job, the more likely it is you'll feel the pressure to have or obtain an MBA. And, you can expect this trend to continue. Throughout this evolving industry, accountants and auditors are broadening the services they offer to include financial and investment planning, information-technology consulting, strategic-business counseling and even limited legal services. New accounting specialties are also emerging to fill the need for accountants with specialized knowledge to work in situations that require additional expertise.

"The successful entry-level accountant quickly learns that what was taught in school, the basic accounting theories and methodologies, is only a small part of the job, one audit supervisor at KPMG told Obviously, you need an accounting degree to have the basic principles, but most of the learning of how to be an auditor is acquired in the first three years on the job."

As technology has become increasingly pervasive in all businesses over the past few years, the nature of the accountant's and auditor's job has changed as well. Today, strong computer skills and a familiarity with powerful financial software products are basic requirements, along with critical thinking and strong communications skills.


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