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Accountants and auditors are business professionals who keep and analyze financial records. They record, report and examine financial information. They are valued for their ability to translate complex financial information into useful business insights that can help a business stay strong financially. Aspiring accountants and auditors: Read on to learn about career information, accounting schools and licensing.

Day in the Life of an Accountant and Auditor

Auditors and accountants play a critical role in any organization, ensuring that sound financial accounting practices and regulatory compliance standards are met. Although much of the accountant's world is automated, workers still need to have a nuanced concept of tax laws, corporate accounting, business finance regulations and more. This profession offers a variety of specializations that may be carried out in many kinds of work environments.

Examples of accounting specialties include:

  • Public Accounting: Work for corporations or individuals, which may include specialization in forensic accounting.
  • Management Accounting: Work with companies on budgeting, cost management and accounting standards.
  • Government Accounting: Work in the public sector, auditing businesses and monitoring government funds.

Examples of auditing specialties include:

  • Government auditing: Examine the records of government agencies and of businesses and individuals subject to government regulation or taxation.
  • Internal auditing: Audit an organization's financial information and data systems. The focus may be on the financial, information systems or policy audit.

The work environment for an accountant and auditor varies depending on specialty and the size of the company or agency. A staff accountant at a large accounting firm may spend most of his time at his firm's corporate office, with clients coming to him for appointments. An auditor may be based in a corporate office but routinely conduct audits at the offices of various clients, sometimes for weeks at a time. And a self-employed CPA may work from a private office, with clients coming to him for appointments. Some accounting work is seasonal, particularly for tax accountants who work long hours in the months leading up to "Tax Day," with a more manageable workflow and routine the rest of the year.

Important Characteristics for Accountants and Auditors

What traits and talents make a good accountant and auditor? Being adept at math is critical, as is the ability to understand and analyze financial statements, tax codes and other complex financial records. A commitment to ethical business practices, persistence and keen attention to detail are also necessary. When working with government regulations, tolerance for bureaucracy is required. Finally, the ability to communicate financial concepts in layman's terms is key when dealing with clients and business executives.

Typical Steps for Becoming an Accountant and Auditor

Accountant schools and colleges teach accounting fundamentals first, followed by an array of specialized accounting programs designed to help students discover their individual interests. The typical steps for becoming an accountant and auditor may include earning an accounting degree, licensure and other education and training as follows:

  1. Start early: Prepare in high school. Take high school courses in mathematics, computer and IT training, as well as business, if it is available.
  2. Earn a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field. Accounting programs provide a broad understanding of the industry as well as areas of specialization. This is also the time to take any extra coursework required to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) after graduation. Build your practical skills by pursuing a summer or part-time internship alongside your education.
  3. Get licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). This is required of all accountants and auditors who will be filing reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Licensing requirements vary by jurisdiction (state, territory, etc.). Contact the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy for CPA licensing information.
  4. Apply for auditing certification. Apply for professional certification in an auditing specialty. These certifications are not required but can enhance one's credentials. For example, as a government auditor, you can earn recognition as a Certified Government Auditing Professional (CGAP). As an environmental auditor, you have access to the Certified Professional Environmental Auditor (CPEA) or Certified Energy Auditor designation. There are many other specialty certifications to consider as well.
  5. Earn a graduate professional degree. To advance your career, consider completing a Master's in Business Administration (MBA) in accounting or auditing. Opportunities to earn professional accounting degrees and complete training programs are widely available online.

Sources:

  • Accountants and Auditors, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,  https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/accountants-and-auditors.htm
  • Summary Report for Accountants and Auditors, O*Net OnLine,
    https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/13-2011.00

Metro Areas Sorted by Total Employment for
Accountant and Auditor

Listed below are the 10 largest metro areas based on the total number of people employed in Accountant and Auditor jobs , as of 2017

   
Metro AreaTotal EmploymentAnnual Mean Salary
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim60,960$81,620
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land37,990$89,900
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington37,960$81,120
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell27,500$79,070
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach25,820$71,030
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward25,790$90,230
Denver-Aurora-Lakewood22,910$80,360
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue19,340$74,300
Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale16,270$68,650
Detroit-Warren-Dearborn15,570$80,860

Compare Total Employment & Salaries for Accountants And Auditors

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Total employment and salary for professions similar to accountants and auditors

Source : 2017 Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, BLS.gov

Most Popular Industries for
Accountant and Auditor

These industries represent at least 1% of the total number of people employed in this occupation.

IndustryTotal EmploymentPercentAnnual Median Salary
Professional And Technical Services366,99033%$61,880
Government100,5509%$57,230
Business Management71,7906%$59,820
Office Services And Staffing47,3704%$55,640
Education38,1503%$51,940
Banking And Credit37,7003%$54,820
Insurance36,7703%$59,310
Durable Goods Wholesale32,2402%$62,070
Real Estate23,2802%$60,860
Non-durable Goods Wholesale18,3401%$62,150
Non-profit17,5901%$58,670
Construction Trades16,7701%$60,650
Hospital16,3401%$54,620
Medical Office16,0901%$53,480
Construction16,0101%$61,080
Electronics And Computer13,5501%$64,390
Social Service11,1601%$49,280
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We have some additional detailed pages at the state level for Accountant and Auditor.

Numbers in parentheses are counts of relevant campus-based schools in the state; online schools may also be available.

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