Accountant Job Description (Duties, Skills, Salary, Certifications & More)

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By Jeff Gillis

The accounting profession has been around for a long time, and it first gained a foothold in the United States in 1887. That was over 130 years ago. That makes it older than Mount Rushmore, if you can believe it.

In a way, being an accountant means joining a benchmark profession. It truly is a classic, and 1.26 million people think it deserves to be pursued.

Even with its strong roots in the United States, many people still don’t fully understand what an accountant does. Of course, they know it’s finance related and most accountants are math geniuses. But that really only scratches the surface of what these number geniuses do and know.

If you have any questions about the accountant’s job description, don’t worry anymore. We’ve got the answers you’re looking for.

What is an accountant?

In the simplest sense, an accountant manages, reconciles and reports financial information. However, there are actually several types of accountants. The precise way in which they use their talents may vary.

Some accountants work for companies and handle part of the financial side of the house. Others work with a range of external clients, helping them with their accounting needs. In some cases, accountants specialize in working for the government, helping agencies with their financial records.

Auditing can also be part of the accounting function. For these professionals, it is about reviewing files, identifying errors and ensuring that companies comply with various regulations.

What are the duties / responsibilities of an accountant?

Since there are many types of accountants, their exact duties and responsibilities may vary. Additionally, each organization may have different expectations of those working in these roles, which leads to even more variety.

At the heart of every accounting role are financial documents. That’s what brings them all together. But they can also have a lot more in common.

Here is an overview of some responsibilities an accountant may have:

    • Budget preparation
    • Recording of transactions
    • Reconciliation of accounts
    • Report creation
    • Send / receive invoices
    • Send / receive payments
    • Apply payment terms
    • Account Analysis
    • Audit and identification of errors
    • Compliance with tax and financial laws
    • Work with accounting or ERP software
    • Improve accounting processes and procedures

Accountants can also perform a significant amount of data analysis. For example, they can examine records to determine the financial health of an organization or to determine why the business may lose or increase its revenue. Likewise, they can use data analysis to make recommendations designed to help the business financially, such as measures that could reduce the organization’s tax burden.

If you are going to meet with a hiring manager and answer interview questions with an accountant, keep the above responsibilities in mind. However, also understand that this is not an exhaustive list. Along with these points, take a close look at the job description so you know exactly what the hiring manager wants to find.

What skills do accountants need?

As you can see, being an accountant isn’t just about doing math. This respected profession has been around for over a century and requires skills beyond arithmetic (although that’s certainly important, too.)

What Skills Do Accountants Really Need to Thrive? In most cases, it’s a mix of technical prowess and soft skills. Here is an overview of the more technical skill and knowledge areas:

    • Mathematics
    • Asset Management
    • Data analysis
    • Financial report
    • Accounting software
    • ERP and CRM software
    • Microsoft Excel
    • Regulatory conformity
    • Fiscal law
    • Business acumen
    • Collections
    • Collaborative software

But that’s not all a great accountant brings to the table. They also have a range of soft skills that help them excel. Here’s a look at which ones are critical:

    • Attention to detail
    • Organization
    • Management of time
    • Problem solving
    • Critical mind
    • Communication
    • Customer service
    • Team spirit

Other soft skills can also add value to employers, so it’s good to showcase your abilities in different areas as well. The ones above tend to be the most critical, so be sure to address them if you want to be successful as an accountant.

What accounting certification, education, training is required?

Many professions require a certain amount for formal education, and accounting is no different. Generally, accountants have at least a bachelor’s degree, usually in accounting or a related field, such as finance.

In some cases, those studying the field will be minors in a subject that can help them achieve their professional goals. For example, a minor in business can be a smart decision. On time, a technology-focused miner can also be beneficial.

However, those who really want to reach the top ranks don’t stop at a four-year degree. Instead of, they earn a master’s degree in accounting or earn an MBA with a specialization in accounting. If you want to reach the management ranks, this may end up being a job requirement, as some companies consider a master’s degree to be essential.

When it comes to certifications, technically you don’t need to have one to be an accountant. However, if you don’t choose one, you may stymie your career a bit.

With certification, you make yourself more credible. More, some organizations require specific certifications, typically including them in their accountant job description for opening. So if you don’t have the credentials, you can’t hold that position; it is so simple.

The certifications you will need depend on your area of ​​specialty. Here’s a look at some of the options worth considering:

    • Chartered Accountant (CPA)
    • Certified Financial Analyst (CFA)
    • Certified Global Management Accountant (CGMA)
    • Certified Management Accountant (CMA)
    • Certified in Financial Forensics (CFF)
    • Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)
    • Registered agent
    • Certified Government Auditing Professional (CGAP)
    • Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE)

There are also quite a few others. But those above affect almost every type of accountant a person can be, so this is a reasonable overview.

What are the salary expectations?

For accountants, the median annual salary is $ 70,500. However, those who are just starting out can start with a salary closer to the lowest 10 percent, which is $ 43,650. In contrast, an accountant with solid credentials and substantial experience can easily earn more. In fact, the richest 10 percent is close to $ 123,000.

But don’t go crazy and rush to put down a down payment on your dream vacation home by the beach. Assuming you’re going to be at the median or higher, especially early in your career, just isn’t a smart move.

The salary of an accountant is usually based on a ton of factors. The compensation equation can be surprisingly complicated, touching on details like a professional’s education, experience, skills, and area of ​​specialty.

The workplace also plays a role. After all, wages tend to be higher in cities like Los Angeles than in places like Mobile, Alabama.

Make sure you take this compensation information with a grain of salt. While you can get to the upper echelons, these types of pay levels take time. It’s almost guaranteed that this won’t happen immediately, so be patient and know that this is something you can work on, but likely won’t see it as an entry level candidate.

If you are interested, Here is a breakdown of the accounting sectors with the highest median salaries. (According to a study by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

Finance and Insurance $ 74,690
Management of companies and companies $ 73,180
Accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping and payroll services $ 70,640
Government $ 68,420
Source: Bls.gov

What you need to know for your job interview

If you’re preparing for a job interview and want to make sure you can answer all the questions and answers of an interview with an accountant, there’s one place you should always start: the accountant’s job description. It’s a wealth of information, including information on what the hiring manager is trying to find in a perfect candidate.

If you want to land the job, you have to clearly show that you are the best candidate. Use the job description to find the skills and qualities they highlight as a guide. Find ways to showcase these skills when speaking with the hiring manager. Choose examples from your past that you can incorporate into behavioral interview questions to have the greatest impact.

JEFF’S TIP: While you may want to use the STAR method and the personalization method for behavioral interview questions, you may be wondering what to do with yes / no interview questions. What if the hiring manager asks, “Do you have skill X?” You should just say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and move on, right? Of course not! Even if you are asked a yes or no question, you still want to expand. If your answer is “yes”, add a few details that show where you learned and honed this skill. If your answer is ‘no’, set it to ‘not yet’ and then discuss how you would go about it or your willingness to learn. Your answer will be more meaningful, and it works in your favor

It’s also a good idea to take the time to review key interview questions with an accountant. That way, you’ll know what’s likely on the horizon and can have your answers close at hand.

Put it all together

Accountants need a unique combination of skills, experience, education, and certifications to be successful. Whether you are working in the field or striving to become an accountant, keep the above information in mind. Then you can make sure that your efforts will genuinely help you to thrive professionally.

And as always, good luck!

Discover our others “Job description items” if you are exploring career options:

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