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What Is an Accountant? How to Become One, Salary, Skills.

Accountants track and organize financial records for individuals and companies with the goal of supporting each client’s overall financial health. Here’s what to know about an accountant’s salary, needed skills and how to become one.


What Is an Accountant?

Accountants handle a company’s financial records, analyzing data to verify businesses are following financial laws and efficient practices.


What Do Accountants Do?

Accountants compile and analyze financial records to ensure organizations are in compliance with legal standards and are in a position to maximize profits.

Accountant Responsibilities

  • Find ways for a business to be more efficient and cost-effective.
  • Ensure businesses remain in compliance with legal standards and understand relevant laws and regulations. 
  • Organize financial reports to keep a pulse on a business’ overall health. 
  • Prepare a business’ tax returns with timeliness and accuracy. 
  • Handle payroll tasks, invoices, sales records and other financial areas that affect the costs and profits of a business.

Day-to-Day Responsibilities of an Accountant

  • Review company’s financial records and determine areas where teams can develop more efficient workflows and cut down on costs. 
  • Compile sales records, observing what inventory sells and how much profits they generate. 
  • Calculate employee salaries and estimate payroll expenses. 
  • Keep track of customer invoices, recording who’s paid and who hasn’t. 
  • Organize financial data to create financial reports and financial forecasts
  • Review the latest tax laws and regulations to ensure a business is in compliance when completing tax returns.

Accountants Within a Company

Accountants are often located within the accounting department of a company and report directly to an accounting manager.

Importance of Accountants

Accountants review all of a company’s financial records, making sure a business enacts cost-effective, efficient and compliant processes. This way, organizations can develop workflows to generate the most revenue possible while staying within legal boundaries.

A day in the life of an accountant. | Video: The Financial Controller


What Skills Are Needed to Be an Accountant?

Qualifications to Be an Accountant

  • Background in business and accounting. 
  • In-depth knowledge of mathematics and finance
  • Ability to manage various financial records. 
  • Proven success in an accounting-related position. 
  • Willingness to study and remain up to date on finance and tax regulations.

Accountant Prerequisites

  • Bachelor’s degree in accounting or business-related field (although accounting is highly recommended). 
  • Pass the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam (not required, but highly recommended for more career options). 
  • At least two years of experience in an accounting-related role.

Accountant Hard Skills

  • Training in how to advise businesses on adopting more efficient and cost-effective processes.
  • Ability to develop financial forecasts and assess the future health of a business. 
  • Experience in compiling, organizing and analyzing financial records. 
  • Mastery of mathematics and how to make complex calculations.
  • Knowledge of tax laws and other relevant regulations.

Accountant Soft Skills

  • Careful attention to detail for ensuring all financial records are accurate. 
  • Data-driven mindset for collecting and analyzing financial data. 
  • Integrity to follow tax and finance regulations. 
  • Sound judgment for assessing a business’ financial health and providing advice on how to improve processes. 
  • Strong communication skills for sharing findings with business personnel through conversations or written reports.

Tools and Programs Accountants Use

  • Accounting software like Zoho Books, Intuit QuickBooks Online and Oracle NetSuite. 
  • Invoicing software like Square, FreshBooks and Invoice Ninja. 
  • Tax software like TurboTax, TaxSlayer and H&R Block. 
  • Spreadsheet tools like Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets and Zoho Sheet.
  • Financial forecasting software like Workday, Cube and Prophix.
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How to Become an Accountant

Accountant Education and Experience

Accountants often complete their bachelor’s in accounting or business. Some accountants choose to get their Certified Management Accountant (CMA) and Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certifications, depending on their career goals. In particular, the CPA is highly respected and gives an accountant more credibility within the industry. Incoming professionals must then work at least two years in an entry-level accounting role, such as payroll assistant or bookkeeper.

Accountant Certificates and Courses

Accountant Career Path

After completing their education and relevant certifications, accountants begin their careers as bookkeepers, payroll assistants or in other entry-level roles. Accountants who excel in their roles for several years may move up to senior accountant positions and go on to pursue an accounting manager role.


Accountant Salary and Job Outlook

Aspiring accountants can look forward to more career opportunities in the coming years. The number of accountants and auditors is expected to increase by 6 percent between 2021 and 2031, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

The full compensation package for an accountant depends on a variety of factors, including but not limited to the candidate’s experience and geographic location. See below for detailed information on the average accountant salary.


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