What I Wish I Knew Before Becoming an Accountant

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Daymar College

Ready to become an accounting professional but what to knew more about it before attending a career college’s accounting program? Learn what an accountant does on a day-to-day basis, what the different specialties are that are available to accountants after working as an entry-level accountant for a few years, and the skills that make a successful accountant.

What an Accountant Does on a Day-To-Day Basis

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, accountants prepare, audit and report on financial records. The accountant ensures that financial records are accurate and taxes are paid properly and on time. Accountants assess financial operations and work to help ensure that organizations run within budget. Accountants typically do the following:

  • Examine financial statements to ensure that they are accurate and comply with local, state and federal laws and regulations
  • Compute taxes owed, prepare tax returns, and ensure that taxes are paid properly and on time
  • Inspect account books for efficiency
  • Organize and maintain financial records
  • Assess financial operations and make recommendations to management
  • Suggest ways to reduce costs, enhance revenues, and improve profits

Accounting Specialties

Once a student graduates from an accounting program, they have different options within the accounting field. After completing a few years as an entry-level accountant, there are different specialties available. They can become a staff accountant, tax accountant, forensic accountant, international accountant, cost accountant, project accountant or bookkeeper.

Public Accountant – responsible for accounting, auditing, tax and consulting. Public accountants work with clients’ financial documents as required by law to disclose. They submit tax forms and report on balance sheet statements. A public accountant may become certified as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) as a business owner or for a public accounting firm. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a CPA does the following on a day-to-day basis:

  • Maintains records of assets, liabilities, profit and loss, and tax liability.
  • Analyzes financial data to prepare financial reports.
  • Audit taxes, and consult on accounting questions
  • Ensures compliance with state and federal regulations.
  • Generates and interprets financial records and statements.

Staff Accountant – responsible for maintaining a balanced budget and prepare all financial statements. The staff accountant also must ensure that all state and federal laws and regulations are followed within the organization. A staff accountant does the following on a day-to-day basis:

  • Analyzes financial data to prepare financial reports.
  • Generates and explain financial records and statements to key stakeholders
  • Maintains records of assets, liabilities, profit and loss, tax liability, or other financial activities within an organization.
  • Maintains the general ledger.

Tax Accountant – entry-level tax accountants fill out tax returns. The tax accountant is responsible for calculating earnings, filing documentation and providing the client with statements of summary of their tax liabilities. Tax accountants do the following:

  • Prepares tax returns and reports to monitor accounts
  • Maintains records for clients
  • Researches tax issues for key stakeholders
  • Provides support during audits both internal and external.
  • Ensures compliance with all regulations.

Forensic Accountant – investigate financial crimes including securities fraud and embezzlement, bankruptcies and contract disputes and other criminal financial transactions.

  • Securities Fraud – a deceptive practice in the stock or commodities markets that manipulates investors into making purchases or sale decisions based on false information.
  • Embezzlement – the act of withholding assets for the purpose of theft of those assets which were entrusted to be held or used for a specific purpose.
  • Bankruptcies – a legal state of a person or entity that can’t repay the debts owed to creditors.
  • Contact Disputes – a breach of contract, a party failed to perform a duty or promise that they agreed upon in a contract.
  • Material Breach – when a party fails to perform a contractual duty and the breach is so crucial that the contract is irreparable.
  • Minor Breach – when the breach of a contract is very minor and does not disrupt the contract or agreement.

International Accountant – must understand the tax implications of both the domestic parent company and foreign subsidiaries. Every countries’ tax regulations will be unique and the international accountant must understand the differences. The international accountant must also manage currency exchanges of foreign business transactions by analyzing the exchange rates between the selling and collection dates. They also ensure compliance with local and financial regulations.

Cost Accountant – performs routine and specialized analysis to identify the type of operations and materials that are most cost effective. The cost accountant may also create a costing system to continuously evaluate the value of inventory. The cost accountant does the following:

  • Analyzes ledger activities for accuracy and completeness
  • Prepares financial audit schedules and reports for key stakeholders
  • Ensures processes are in compliance with account practices, laws and all regulatory requirements.

Project Accountant – responsible for managing the financials for a project within an organization. The project accountant keeps track of the project’s expenses and provides reports on the budget of the project. They are also responsible for drawing up proposals for new projects and the financials behind them. The project accountant does the following:

  • Generates and interprets financial records of a project for key stakeholders.
  • Reports on key financial variables.
  • Ensures the project financials comply with state and federal regulations.

Bookkeeping - calculate, record, and balance financial reports, including payroll. The bookkeeper creates reports for information pertaining to retirement and payroll, enters changes to employee payroll records and handles voluntary and involuntary deductions. A bookkeeper will work closely with managers to help ensure that smart decisions are made when evaluating company’s total revenue, profits, losses, and financial positions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the bookkeeper does the following on a day-to-day basis:

  • Uses bookkeeping software to manage accounts
  • Calculates, keys, totals, and balances substitute payrolls.
  • Handles voluntary and involuntary deductions.
  • Enters changes to employee payroll records.
  • Creates reports for retirement and payroll.
  • Communicates with employees regarding changes in salary, sick time, PTO hours and other employee benefits.

Skills that Make a Successful Accountant

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, an accountant must be highly knowledgeable of business concepts and government regulations, detail-oriented, and comfortable working with numbers and financial data. They must have great written and verbal communication skills. Superior customer service is also important. The accountant will work closely with computers and accounting programs, so computer literacy is a great skill to master.

Analytical skills. Accountants must be able to identify accounting issues and suggest timely solutions. They must be able to collect, gather, visualize and analyze accounting information in detail before making decisions in the most effective way.

Communication skills. Accountants must be able to listen carefully to facts and concerns. The accountant must also be able to discuss the results of their work in both meetings and written reports. The accountant will have proper body language, use appropriate hand gestures and use the right tone while communicating with colleagues, managers and in meetings.

Detail oriented. Accountants must pay attention to detail when compiling and examining documentation to understand the causes, not just the effects of accounting decisions.

Math skills. Accountants must be able to analyze, compare, and interpret facts and figures. They must be well versed in statistics and can work their way around an income statement or balance sheet.

Organizational skills. Strong organizational skills are important for accountants who often work with a range of financial documents for a variety of clients.

Customer Service skills. A great accountant has patience to listen before responding with a solution. They are very knowledgeable of accounting and able to answer questions that may arise. The accountant must also adapt to different characters in order to complete tasks or answer questions.

Computer Literate. The accountant must be literate in Microsoft Office including Excel, Quickbooks or similar computer accounting programs are important to the everyday tasks of an accountant.

Interested in one of the many accounting specialties? Have one or all of the skills that make a successful accountant? Daymar College's Accounting program in Kentucky and Tennessee offers an accounting curriculum with classes that are designed to prepare you for entry-level careers in the field of accounting. Call us today to learn how you can become an accountant.