Accounting is defined as “the measurement, processing, and communication of financial information about economic entities such as businesses and corporations”. Despite this narrow definition, everything generates numbers, which can be translated into financial information. By studying Accounting, you are introducing yourself to a wide variety of fields and positions that go beyond telling someone they’re spending too much money.
* Note that all positions require a Bachelor’s in Accounting, with a preference for a Master’s. Most also require a CPA. Any exceptions in education, experience, and certification will be noted.
This is the job most people think of when they think of an accountant. Strict, rules-based, and they don’t take anything at face value. Truth is, that’s every accounting job ever, but I digress. Auditors can be external, they work for a public accounting firm which is contracted to present an opinion about a company’s financial opinions, or internal, they evaluate and improve a company’s internal control system. Due to constraints, an auditor only needs to provide reasonable assurance that the statements are free from material error. They do this by testing the “significant accounts” and do further investigation if those tests fail.
Tax accountants: the age-old rivals of auditors. To use an old quote, “No one likes seeing the audit guy because he’s gonna tell them everything they’ve done wrong. Everyone is happy to see the tax guy because they know he’s going to save them money.” Tax accounting focuses on taxes rather than the appearance of the financial statements. In the US, the IRS dictates the rules that companies and individuals must follow when filing their tax returns. These rules/principles often differ from US GAAP.
Despite its name, a forensic accountant isn’t an accountant that fights crime. “Forensic” simply means “suitable for use in a court of law”. To that standard, forensic accountants often have to give expert evidence at a trial. Financial forensics engagements may fall into the following categories: economic damages calculations, post-acquisition disputes, bankruptcy, insolvency, & reorganization, securities fraud, tax fraud, etc.
Cost accounting is the process of collecting, recording, classifying, analyzing, summarizing, allocating, and evaluating various alternative courses of action and control of costs. The goal of a cost accountant is to advise management on the appropriate course of action based on cost efficiency and capability. This information will help management figure out how to control current operations and plan for the future. Since managers are only using this information for their organization, it does not need to be comparable to information from similar organizations.
Governmental accounting is different from private sector accounting. Public entities have specific goals that go beyond making a profit. Also, the public entity has the responsibility of fiscal accountability and, as such, must adhere to a budget. In the private sector, the budget is more of a planning tool and is not meant to be restrictive.
A treasury analyst is in charge of an organization’s financial activity, managing cash flow, credit, income, asset levels, and liability obligations. The specific job duties vary from organization to organization. Treasury analysts may also be tasked with analyzing financial patterns and making projections for income and expenses, as well as assisting with investment strategies. The position of treasury analyst usually requires a bachelor’s degree in business administration or a related field. Also, it is preferred that the employee have a professional certification such as the CTP (Certified Treasury Professional), which requires at least two years of experience in corporate finance and a passing grade on the certification exam.
Budget analysts help companies and organizations keep their finances on track. They prepare budgets and develop forecasts based on past spending and economic trends. They are often required to ensure that budgets, bookkeeping, and other finances are in compliance with regulations, laws, and company standards. Also, they make recommendations to management and other stakeholders regarding efficient use of funds. The position of budget typically requires a bachelor’s degree but a master’s is preferred.
Managerial accountants work within one specific company. Their role is to perform tasks to ensure a company’s financial security, handling essentially all financial matters and thus helping to drive the business’s overall management and strategy. Some managerial accountants choose to become a Certified Management Accountant (CMA), which is similar to a CPA but has a greater focus on cost accounting, financial planning, and management issues.
A financial advisor (or adviser) is a professional who provides financial services to a client. While often used interchangeably, an advisor and an adviser are two different things. “Adviser” is generally used when referring to legislative acts and their requirements and “advisor” is used when referring to a practitioner. The responsibilities typically include providing clients/customers with financial products or services, depending on the licenses they hold or the training they’ve had. You will need a bachelor’s degree in certain fields, including economics, accounting, or finance. Usually, a license is needed to work in this job. Certified Financial Planner is the most common credential.
That’s right. You heard me. You can join the FBI if you’re an accounting major. In order to apply to be a special agent, you need to qualify for a special entry program. In order to enter the FBI Special Agent Accounting Entry Program, at the minimum, you need to have been a certified CPA or hold a Bachelor’s degree or higher in Accounting, along with a minimum of 3 years of functional accounting experience. Primarily, the FBI assigns those qualified to the position of forensic accountant. Even if you don’t want to go through the special agent process, you can still apply for investigative accounting jobs where you would assist special agents in investigating financial cases.
Accounting Software Developer
In today’s world, accounting software is almost essential for financial record keeping. Accounting software helps companies reduce errors, quickly file business taxes, and process figures faster. Accounting software developers help make these applications possible to boost company efficiency. Accounting software developers blend their accounting background with their programming language to develop these programs. Most software developers major in computer science, software engineering, information technology, computer programming, or a related technical field. Majors in these fields should take courses in accounting to fully understand a company’s financial computing needs.
Risk and Compliance Professionals
A risk and compliance professional is an individual who has been trained to protect data security, consumer privacy, and financial transparency. Most risk and compliance professionals receive certification through the International Association of Risk and Compliance Professionals (IARCP), which offers their popular Certified Risk and Compliance Management Professional (CRCMP) program. Risk and compliance professionals can either be financial, audit, operational, or legal.