Accountants are people who are responsible for accounting for and/or managing the money or finances of either an individual or business. In many cases, they will also be certified to file tax and other legal financial documents on behalf of their clients. Accountants can also act as auditors who actually go in and assess the work previously done by an accountant or by individuals themselves.
EDUCATION, LICENSING, AND CERTIFICATION
Many people may refer to a bookkeeper as an accountant or vice-versa but they are actually two very different things. Bookkeepers simply record whatever money comes in and whatever money goes out. Accountants, on the other hand, deal with concepts like depreciation, risk management and even assessing the real value of certain assets. Bookkeepers also cannot file your taxes on your behalf or other legal financial documents.
More often than not, accountants are required to have at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting and sometimes an advanced degree in accounting or business management with an emphasis in accounting. To file legal documents, most accountants must become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) by taking a national exam and meeting certain state requirements. Most states require a minimum of 150 hours of coursework to be completed in order to qualify as a CPA, which is about 30 hours more than is required to obtain most bachelor’s degrees. A few states will accept a certain number of years of accounting or bookkeeping experience in lieu of a college degree but most require both a degree and additional coursework. While a CPA is the most widely recognized certification, there are a few other organizations that offer other types of accounting certification, which include:
- The Institute of Management Accountants offers a Certified Management Accountant (CMA) certification, which is generally the second most common certification after CPA.
- The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) offers a Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) certification, Certified in Control Self-Assessment (CCSA) certification, Certified Government Auditing Professional (CGAP) certification, Certified Financial Services Auditor (CFSA) certification, and Certification in Risk Management Assurance (CRMA) certification.
- The AICPA also offer any current CPA’s the option to receive an Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV) certification, Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP) certification, or Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) certification.
Because accountants can have such a wide range of duties, responsibilities, and education, there is also a wide discrepancy between the lowest and highest paid accountant. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 10 percent lowest-paid accountants in 2018 made less than $43,000 annually while the highest 10 percent made closer to $125,000. The median income of accountants and auditors, however, was around $70,000.
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The demand for accountants and auditors is only expected to grow around 5% between 2018 and 2028, which is about average for all jobs in all sectors.