what is an accountant?

Being an accountant is a great job for those who like a practical, hands-on application of mathematics. If you become an accountant, you monitor the financial health of both individuals and businesses. Your job includes a blend of keeping records and considering what these numbers mean. You'll do things like help a company stay under a budget or identify when a business has made a mistake on their taxes. If you have a private practice, you can work on tax preparation, investment strategies, and wealth management. If you're employed by a business, you can play several roles in maintaining records, analyzing costs, and presenting financial reports. Accountants are a part of everything from fashion to science and construction. Since accountants are involved in just about every industry, it's easy to find a job in a field you like. This is a great way to support very interesting organizations with your mathematical and organizational skills. Especially in higher-level careers, your input has a direct impact on a company's goals and actions.

Would working in accounting and finance as an accountant suit your passion for logic, analysis, and math? Then read on to find out what competencies and qualifications you need to thrive in an accountant role.

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average accountant salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the annual salary of an accountant should be around $83,000 per year. Those who get paid an hourly wage usually make roughly $40 per hour. Keep in mind that this salary estimate is simply the average salary for all accountants in the United States. Accountant salaries cover a wide range based on the type of accountant and the role the employee plays in an organization. Those who participate in industries like government accounting, accounting for stockbrokers, tech industry accounting, and accounting for oil production make especially high salaries. If you work for a big business and handle massive accounts, your salary is larger. Accountants also make more in areas where competition for a good accountant is high. California, New York, Washington, and Colorado have a lot of very high-paying accountant jobs. Experience is also a factor in determining an accountant’s wages. An entry-level bookkeeper may make about $47,900. Meanwhile, an experienced certified public accountant (CPA) with a large company can receive $128,900 or more.

Would you like to know what an accountant earns? Where the highest salaries are paid for an accountant? Then check out this accountant salary page and find out all about the salary of an accountant in the USA.


types of accountant

When you scan an accountant's job description, you will often see a distinction between senior and junior accountants. The title refers to the duties of the employee. In this arrangement, junior accountants do more of the day-to-day data entry and book balancing. Senior accountants then analyze the work and present the reports to management. Experienced accountants can apply directly for senior positions. After a few years, a junior accountant could receive a promotion to a senior position. Some common positions for accountants include:

  • certified public accountant
  • cost accountant
  • tax accountant
  • forensic accountant
  • bookkeeper
  • investment accountant
  • auditor
  • ledger accountant
smiling woman, bookshelves in the background
smiling woman, bookshelves in the background

working as an accountant

Your duties depend on the size of the company and your level within it. However, some expectations are standard for accountants at all levels.


accountant skills and education

You cannot apply for a job as an accountant without some level of education and training. At a minimum, people who apply for an entry-level accounting position will need a bachelor’s degree. If your degree is not in accounting, you will need extra training in areas like financial reporting and tax preparation. You could also consider the benefits of getting a master’s degree in accounting. It is possible to take an entry-level bookkeeping position without a degree, but it will be difficult to advance your career without one. In addition to a college degree, you'll also need the following training options.

  • CPA training

Many accounting job descriptions either require or give preference to certified public accountants. The requirements for receiving your CPA vary from state to state. You will need some advanced training as well as practical experience in the accounting field. Once you have accomplished the base requirements, you must pass your state’s CPA exam. This test has a reputation for being challenging, so you'll need to study if you want to be in the 55% of people who pass each year.

  • continuing education

As a CPA, you are required to take a certain number of continuing education hours to maintain your certification. This ensures you stay up to date on tax laws, which can change every year. Other accountants will also require continuing studies to keep their skills relevant. An independent accountant will need to handle the cost of this additional education. If you're a staff accountant, your employer may cover the cost of these classes.

Female working behind glass windows
Female working behind glass windows

FAQs about working as an accountant

Here you will find answers to the most frequently asked questions about accountants

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