Anyone who has owned a business or faced a difficult tax situation knows how essential accountants are to avoid financial ruin. While I have no doubt you’re familiar with some of the services accountants perform, there’s a lot more that goes into accounting than filing taxes and bookkeeping. What follows is what it takes to become an accountant, what the day-to-day looks like and how we self-regulate in the industry. As our society increasingly demands openness and transparency, the role of accountants have come more to the forefront of modern business than ever before.
Becoming an Accountant
What does it take to become an accountant? At a minimum, a bachelor’s degree in accounting for an entry level position. Typically an entry-level role lives and dies by a superiors’ delegation — actually performing the tax returns, following up to collect forms, and ultimately, gaining experience.
Some people start with their masters’ degree, or work part-time while working towards their masters. While a formal education is the key to starting an accounting career, achieving accreditation as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) can be equally as necessary as college degrees for higher positions and other opportunities. The requirements to be certified are determined by the states and is usually a multi-day, four-part test and it’s quite rigorous. How rigorous? Less than half of the applicants pass all four parts on their first attempt. Completing the CPA process then enables accountants to set up their own business or even become a partner in a small firm.
The Day to Day of an Accountant
As a CPA working in a private practice, the typical day’s activity are dictated by on-season and off-season, i.e. January-April (tax season) and May-December (off-seasonn).
As in all business practices, end of the month activities includes the reconciling of work completed and revenues received, materials purchased and expended, payroll, accounting for work in progress and other facets particular to the business operation in question. Obviously, this is a busy time for those involved in accounting, who must take the financial information from the business operation and complete a long list of necessary actions, such as computing profit and loss, estimating taxes and maintaining the books according to accepted accounting practices. A larger version of this process occurs at the end of the business, or fiscal year, usually October through September. Then (again) January marks the dawn of a new tax season. The majority of accountants must conform their personal lives around these specific time periods as they’re usually small business owners as well.
When not specifically involved in these time-specific tasks, accountants must ensure they complete mandatory continuous training required to maintain their CPA accreditation. Training is also required to learn new critical knowledge in the areas of taxes, other federal and state regulations and accounting industry standards so they can continue to provide informed service to their clients.
Accountants have increasingly become important team members in a business operation’s strategy team. They are not only the source for financial information, but often have broad knowledge of industry practices, and state laws. They are key advisors necessary for the success of any business venture.