Accountants perform a wide variety of tasks related to recording and using financial information. They are employees of companies, governments and non-profit organizations as well as accounting, bookkeeping and tax firms. They prepare, analyze, and verify financial documents including financial statements, budgets, 0perational reports and reports to agencies like the IRS and EPA. Some accountants provide financial and investment planning, information technology consulting, and tax services.
Accounting is broken down into a variety of specialties with different duties and required skills. Often accounting is divided into the fields of public accounting, auditing, forensic accounting, management accounting, government accounting, and internal auditing. This list isn’t exhaustive and there is some overlap between the specialties.
Public accountants provide auditing, tax, and consulting services for their clients, which range from individuals to corporations, governments and nonprofit organizations. Within public accounting the individual will often specialize in an area like tax preparation and advice or forensic accounting which is the area that investigates fraud and white-collar crime. Some specialize in a particular industry like health care or public utilities or in a particular area like employee benefits. All accountants use computer skills, especially spreadsheet and data base knowledge, but some develop an area of expertise in accounting and data processing systems. Public accountants are often licensed as CPA’s and work for a CPA firm or have their own business.
Other accountants work for companies doing things like budgeting, performance evaluation, cost management, projections and asset management. Management accountants on executive teams involved in strategic planning and product development. They analyze and interpret the financial information needed to make sound business decisions. Government accountants and auditors work in the public sector, either maintaining and examining the records of government agencies or auditing private businesses and individuals whose activities are subject to government regulations or taxation. Accountants employed by Federal, State, and local governments ensure that revenues are received and expenditures are made in accordance with laws and regulations. Internal auditors work in all types of organizations to verify the effectiveness of their organization’s internal controls and check for mismanagement, waste, or fraud.