Accountants and auditors are business professionals who keep and analyze financial records. They record, report and examine financial information, and are valued for their ability to cut through legal jargon and complex information. Earning the four-year bachelor's degree plus a CPA license provides the technical skills you need to support your existing strengths.
Accountant and Auditor Schools and Courses
Accountants and auditors typically require a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field. Although much of the accountant's world is automated, workers still need to have a nuanced concept of tax laws, corporate accounting, business finance rules and more. Accountant and auditor schools may offer degree programs that specialize in one of the following categories:
- Public Accounting: Work for corporations or individuals. May specialize in forensic accounting
- Management Accounting: Work with companies on budgeting, cost management and accounting standards
- Government Accounting and Auditing: Work in the public sector, auditing businesses and monitoring government funds
- Internal Auditing: Work with companies to evaluate their internal controls, systems and management procedures to ensure that financial records are accurate
Because accountants often specialize within the field, accountant training programs offer a wide range of accounting training. Courses at accounting schools are also designed to help you find your ideal focus in the field as you try out different concepts and get a broader understanding of the industry. A bachelor's degree program at an accounting or auditing school might include the following coursework:
- Managerial Accounting
- Financial Accounting
- Cost Management
- Fraud Examination
Accounting courses are designed to give you the broad base of knowledge you need as they give you the power to specialize your knowledge in one aspect of the field. Ultimately, accountant training programs help prepare you for the CPA license examination.
Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Licensing
Accountants who will be filing reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are required to be Certified Public Accountants (CPAs). Accreditded accounting degree programs are widely available at a large number of colleges and universities across the U.S.
Nearly all states (42) require that a CPA:
- Complete 150 semester hours of college coursework, which is 30 semester hours beyond the typical bachelor's degree.
- Pass the Uniform CPA Examination prepared by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)
- Become licensed by their state board of accountancy
- Take continuing education for CPAs after licensing, referred to as continuing professional education (CPE)
The specific requirements to be licensed in a specific jurisdiction (state, territory etc.) vary. An individual who wishes to become a CPA in a specific jurisdiction should familiarize themselves with the specific requirements for that jurisdiction. The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy provides the Accountancy Licensing Library, which is an excellent resource for CPA licensing information.
Accountant and Auditor Certifications
Certification is not typically required to become an accountant or an auditor, but according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, certification is a great supplement to a bachelor's degree. There are a number of voluntary certifications for accountants, including:
- Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) - Certified Management Accountant (CMA)
- Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) - Certified Internal Auditor (CIA), Certified in Control Self-Assessment (CCSA), Certified Government Auditing Professional (CGAP), and Certified Financial Services Auditor (CFSA)
- ISACA (formerly the Information Systems Audit and Control Association) - Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
- Accreditation Council for Accountancy and Taxation (ACAT) - Accredited Business Accountant (ABA), Accredited Tax Advisor (ATA), Accredited Tax Preparer (ATP), and Elder Care Specialist (ECS) for accountants preparing their clients for retirement
- Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) - Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE)
- Association of Government Accountants (AGA) - Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM)
- AICPA - offers CPAs: Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV), Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP), and Personal Financial Specialist (PFS)
Resources for Accountants and Auditors
- Accounting Salaries, American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)
- Average Starting Salary for Accountants (PDF), Compiled by: The Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountants, 2008.
- Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board (FASAB)
- Governmental Accounting Standards Board
- International Accounting Standards Board (IASB)
- National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA)
- NASBAtools - Tools about accountancy licensing and CPE compliance from the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA)
- Steps to Become a CPA, American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)
- Uniform CPA Candidate Bulletin, American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)
- 10-K or Form 10-K - is an annual comprehensive report of a public company's performance that is required by the SEC. The 10-K contains audited financial statements for a public company.
- 10-Q or Form 10-Q - Similar to a 10-K but filed on a quarterly basis with the SEC. 10-Q's are generally less complete and not audited.
- CPA - Certified Public Accountant is an individual who has met the educational requirements and passed the 4-part Uniform CPA Examination to become licensed as a CPA within a specific jurisdiction (state, territory, etc.).
- CPE - Continuing Professional Education that is required of CPAs to maintain their status as a CPA.
- GAAP - Generally Accepted Accounting Principles is the the standard framework of guidelines for financial accounting that is used mainly in the United States.
- GAO - The Government Accountability Office is the audit, evaluation, and investigative arm of the U.S. Congress.
- FASB - The Financial Accounting Standards Board's main purpose is to develop generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) within the U.S.
- IASB - The International Accounting Standards Board is the developer of the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) accounting and financial reporting framework.
- IFRS - International Financial Reporting Standards is the accounting and financial reporting framework used by most of the world.
- PCAOB - Public Company Accounting Oversight Board was created by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 to oversee the auditors of public companies.
- SEC - The Securities and Exchange Commission is a U.S. government agency that is primarily responsible for enforcing federal securities laws.
- SOX - The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (Pub.L. 107-204, 116 Stat. 745, enacted 2002-07-30), which is also known as the Public Company Accounting Reform and Investor Protection Act of 2002, is a far-reaching set of reforms of U.S. business practices establishing new or enhanced standards for all U.S. public company boards, management, and public accounting firms.
- World Accounting Intelligence, http://www.worldaccountingintelligence.com/
- Accountants and Auditors, Occupational Outlook Handbook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/accountants-and-auditors.htm#tab-2