What Does an Accountant Do?

With a keen eye for detail and a love of numbers, accountants are the braces which keep our financial world from collapse. The hours can be long and the responsibilities are great but these highly trained individuals are responsible for the fiscal health of individuals, corporations and government bodies across the globe. Granted, depending on what field or specialization you pursue your individual job duties can vary.

Public accountants are typically brought in as outside contractors to oversee the finances of companies or individuals. These expects typically own their own business or are members of a public firm that focuses on different aspects of the accounting field. Entire companies and careers can be based on just one or many areas of focus. Tax accountants guide business decisions based on the specific tax advantages or disadvantages of a given situation. Other firms or practices might specialize in advising companies regarding their internal financial policies or ensuring that financial statements and reports are filed correctly. Should financial irregularities occur another sector of the accounting field known as forensic accountants could be called in to analyze data alongside law enforcement professionals to help determine whether or not a white collar crime has taken place. Using their knowledge of accounting practices and legal statutes forensic accountants can help uncover nefarious practices like embezzlement, money laundering, securities fraud or even breach of contract.

Management Accountants are usually in-house accountants working within a company or non-profit organization to monitor and analyze the financial data of the entity which they represent. Always mindful of the bottom line, management accountants (sometimes also known as cost, managerial, industrial, corporate, or private accountants) help with budgeting concerns as well as performance evaluation and asset management. If a company is looking to spread its wings and grow beyond its current settings, a management accountant will help them determine the best, most cost-effective strategies for doing so. When it comes time to present reports to stock holders, creditors, investors or regulatory commissions, companies will often turn to their internal accountants to produce said reports and ensure their accuracy.

Government Accountants work within the Federal, State or Local government to examine and maintain all of the financial documents for that sector. Well versed in local and federal tax laws, these accountants make sure that all of the money coming in and going out of the government is above board. Also, any private business or individual whose activities are subject to government taxation or regulation may at some point find themselves audited by a government accountant. Some, but not all, will find work within the Federal Internal Revenue Service (IRS) though positions for accountants can be found at just about every level of the government in either analytical or administrative positions.

Internal Auditors work as a back-up for any firm or agency performing accounting tasks. Because any financial decision can always benefit from a second-look these individuals perform the helpful task of making sure that no errors have been made in the accounting process. By evaluating data in real-time using the cognitive abilities that only a human can possess, internal auditors are often times able to find errors and missteps that even the most advanced computing systems can overlook.  They are responsible for reviewing internal data and making sure that all reports are accurate and that the company is making the most prudent and responsible decisions possible with their money.

Most, if not all of these positions will be staffed within an office working a standard 40-hour work week. Though some accountants are able to accomplish some of their work from home and may even find themselves working extended hours, particularly if they work as an independent contractor. This holds especially true for tax specialists during the busy tax season.