Accountants are often called “bean counters” or “number crunchers.” While it’s true that accountants do spend much of their time dealing with figures, their role extends far beyond basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. In fact, accountants perform many functions critical to the success of businesses.
Are you interested in becoming an accountant? Keep reading to find out more about the day-to-day responsibilities you can look forward to, as well as the necessary requirements to strive for to get you one step closer to your accounting career.
What Is the Role of a Business Accountant?
Accountants perform a wide range of duties. Their primary responsibility is to prepare, organize, and maintain the many financial statements and records that are necessary in a business environment — from balance sheets and income statements to cash flow statements and statements of changes in equity.
Other typical accountant job duties include:
- Computing taxes owed and preparing tax returns on behalf of the business.
- Managing the company’s payroll operations, ensuring employees are paid on time.
- Performing an internal auditing function to make sure financial records are accurate and comply with all applicable laws and regulations.
Your daily routines and responsibilities will vary depending on the type of accounting you specialize in. They’ll also depend on whether you work for external or internal use.
Internal accountants work with information specific to their company, like payroll or sales figures, to achieve business-specific goals. Comparatively, external accountants are stakeholder-focused, supplying the necessary information to stakeholders so they can make educated decisions about the accountant’s representing business.
1. Provide Valuable Financial Guidance to Management Personnel
It’s safe to say that no other organization members have a better understanding of the true financial picture than accountants. Management personnel rely heavily on the advice and guidance that accountants provide when plotting strategy or making critical business decisions.
By offering a realistic view of the company’s financial situation, accountants help business owners and managers avoid costly mistakes that could have disastrous consequences.
Through careful analysis of the many financial records and statements at their disposal, accountants also provide accurate forecasts of whether current or new business practices will result in a profitable operation. Accountants should have a keen eye for detail and reliable intuition to identify historical trends and patterns, aiding them in these forecast decision-making skills.
2. Possess a Strong Sense Ethics and Moral Integrity
The direct involvement of accountants with an organization’s finances means they must perform their duties with honesty and integrity. Accountants must serve as the organizational “watchdog” to ensure the business’s operating practices do not step over the line.
Accountants must also have the integrity to resist pressure from management to implement “creative” accounting procedures, such as those that ultimately led to the downfall of Enron in 2001 — which accountants and businesses are still learning from as we enter the 2020s.
The Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) acts as a backbone to these standards, in partnership with the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) for international companies. Accountants require a solid understanding of these standards in addition to their natural sense of ethics and moral integrity.
3. Ensure the Quality of Financial Reports
In the wake of Enron and other corporate accounting scandals that followed, companies are now placed under heavier scrutiny in terms of financial reporting.
In 2002, Congress enacted the Sarbanes-Oxley Act — also referenced as the Corporate and Auditing Accountability and Responsibility Act or the Public Company Accounting Reform and Investor Protection Act — which raised the bar regarding the accuracy of the financial information reported by companies and public accounting firms.
As a result, accountants must play an even larger role in ensuring a business’s financial practices adhere to these high standards.
Every Type of Accountant Plays a Crucial Role in Business Success
Because the field of accounting is so vast, many accountants choose to specialize in one particular area. If you’re a current or aspiring accountant, consider strengthening your skills in a niche area by becoming a:
- Management accountant:Also known as a cost accountant, your primary role as a management accountant will be to record and analyze financial information and then present your findings to management.
- Auditor: An audit is a third-party review of financial statements. An auditor can specialize in internal or external audits. Internal auditors review a business’s management and accounting practices with the goal of eliminating waste and preventing fraud. External auditors work for a public accounting firm to prepare tax returns for stakeholders in accordance with strict — and frequently changing — annual tax codes.
- Forensic accountant: Sometimes, accountants are faced with the task of missing or inaccurate financial documents. Forensic accountants gather available information and create an accurate, comprehensive record of credit, debit, and cash transactions.
There are other types of accountants, too, like public and government accountants. The best way to find an accounting position that works best for you is by taking specialized courses when obtaining your accounting degree.
Get Started With the Right Training
Perhaps the most attractive quality of an accounting career is the growth potential. Currently, accountant jobs are equivalent to the position’s peak in 2012, with just under 1.3 million positions.
To become an accountant and perform your duties with a high degree of accuracy and proficiency, you need the right training. The best degree you can acquire for this career is an Associate of Applied Science in Business Management – Accounting. This degree can be acquired in as little as 70 weeks, depending on your lifestyle and academic institution.
Upon earning your degree, you will be fully prepared to execute the various accountant job duties required for entry-level positions, such as a:
- Billing clerk
- Accounts receivable clerk
- Accounting representative
- Staff accountant
You’ll also develop valuable skills in areas such as taxation, financial accounting, and computerized accounting practices — skills coveted by hiring managers across a wide range of industries.
By obtaining the right education and receiving your degree, you’ll be ready to play the important role of an accountant, ensuring financial accuracy and success for your future employer.
Learn About the Business Programs Offered at Vista College Today
We have a saying at Vista College — our mission is your success. We tailor our academics to accommodate all of our student’s needs, which is why we offer our students two ways to learn — online and on-campus.
Vista College offers fast-paced programs and access to career services so you can launch yourself into your aspiring career as soon as possible.
If you’re an aspiring accountant and would like more information about launching a rewarding career, contact a friendly and knowledgeable Vista College Admissions Representative about our online Business Administration Diploma or our online Business Administration Associate Degree.