Types of Accounting Careers: How to choose a career in accounting?

Accountants provide the data required to assess the present and future economic activities of individuals, businesses, not-for-profit organisations, and governmental bodies.

Accountants complete many tasks besides preparing financial statements and recording business transactions. They also calculate computing costs and efficiency gains for new technologies, participate in the set up for acquisitions and mergers, and develop IT systems to track financial performance, tax strategy, and employee benefits management.

When you first consider an accounting career, perhaps while in your final year of studies, you may think that this simply means you gain a qualification and become an accountant. While it's true that you can gain a degree in accounting and become a general accountant, this is just one of the options you can follow. There are quite simply tens if not hundreds of specialist areas you can pursue, such as auditing, management policy, information systems, taxation, computer operations, etc. Here are brief outlines of just a few.

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Key Areas for Accounting Careers

  • Audit: Audit is at the core of accounting work. Accounting auditing careers involve checking accounting ledgers and financial statements within businesses, public and not-for-profit organisations. Being increasingly computerised, this work can rely on random sampling methods. This provides a solid foundation to future specialist work, as it really enables you to understand how an organisation makes money.
  • Budget Analysis: A budget analyst develops and manages an organisation's financial plans. Many jobs exist in government and private industry. You'll require strong quantitative skills for this work, along with good people skills, because you'll be involved in negotiations.
  • Financial: Financial accountants draw information from the general ledgers to prepare financial statements. They also take part in the business's important financial decisions involving mergers and acquisitions, employee benefits planning and long-term financial projections. This work can very from week to week, so needs a combined understanding of accounting and finance.
  • Management Accounting: Management accountants work in companies and contribute to decisions about capital budgeting and business analysis. Major activities include cost analysis, contracts analysis, and participation in efforts to control expenses. Management accountants are now major contributors to business decisions, working alongside marketing and financial managers to develop new business.
  • Tax: Tax accountants prepare corporate and personal income tax statements. They also prepare strategies for deferring taxes, when to expense items, how to approach a merger or acquisition, etc. You need to have a thorough understanding of economics and the tax code. Many large firms now also look for legal knowledge.

Types of Accounting Careers

  • Public Accounting Firms: A group of accountants work in a partnership that provides accounting services to individuals, businesses and government. A number of major firms are dominant in this field. A public accounting career will give you a good start in your career, where you can gain foundation knowledge before moving into a specialist area.
  • Government: Government accountants may work at any level of government. They prepare budgets, track costs and analyse government initiatives. Prospects for advancement are generally good. Bureaucracy and political arguments are the downsides.
  • Corporations: Businesses of all sizes usually have an accountant or accounting department that prepares financial statements, tracks costs, handles tax returns, and works on major transactions. The work is more dynamic and prospects are good.
  • Independent: Working as a self-employed accountant means generating your own business. However, you benefit from good customer contact, independence, and - if you are proficient - good returns. Conversely, you are in a more vulnerable position when business is not so good.

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