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What Does a Public Accountant Do?

In light of the current financial crises in America, corporations are placing a higher priority on their accounting practices and are seeking more qualified professional accountants to bring on their financial teams. With the increased demand in accounting, the field is expected to experience rapid growth at the rate of 16 percent from 2010 to 2020, which is faster than the average of other professions. However, it is important for those seeking preparation to enter this in-demand field to recognize the various different positions that are included within the umbrella term of accounting and each of their designated duties in the workforce. The following is a guide to the career path of public accountant, one of the most popular distinct roles in accounting.

Job Description of Public Accountants

Public accountants are responsible for preparing and evaluating financial records to ensure that all finances have been represented accurately and are compliant with regulations. As a vital member of the accounting team, public accountants assess financial operations, compute and prepare taxes to be paid on a timely basis, inspect accounting systems for efficiently, and organize the maintenance of electronic financial records. Furthermore, public accountants are often responsible for assessing current financial operations of organizations to form recommendations to management on effective solutions to reduce operating costs, enhance profits, and improve revenues. Beyond creating written financial statements, public accountants often meet with corporation leaders or individual clients to discuss their findings in a face-to-face meeting as well.

Public accountants may be self-employed with their own accounting firm or may be employed by a public accounting firm that serves businesses, individuals, non-profit organizations, or government agencies. Depending on their specific accounting firm of employment, public accountants may specialize in assurance services, risk management, auditing, consulting, or health care finances. Some public accountants select a specific niche to concentrate on taxes, which includes creating the tax forms that corporations are required to disclose to prospective investors and advising leaders on the tax advantages of certain organization choices. Others choose to dedicate their practices to forensic accounting to investigate financial crimes, such as fraud, embezzlement, and bankruptcy, with law enforcement officials or attorneys to determine illegal financial activity.

How to Become a Public Accountant

In order to find employment as a public accountant, individuals are required to possess at least a baccalaureate degree in accounting, finance, or a related major. As more competition is being created within the field, some employers at accounting firms are raising the bar and beginning to expect job candidates to have a master’s degree in accounting or business administration with specific expertise in accounting. It is highly recommended for public accountants to become certified through the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) to demonstrate their professional competence in the accounting specialty. Becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) involves passing the Uniform CPA Examination to qualify for a certificate and license to practice in public accounting. CPAs with a master’s degree in accounting have the most promising prospects in the current job market.

Overall, public accountants are members of the accounting professional team who are vital for their expertise in financial statements, ledgers, and forecasting revenue reports. Due to their importance in the field, the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that public accountants are highly compensated with an average yearly salary of $71,040, with the top ten percent earning a mean $111,510 each year. For individuals with strong skills in mathematics, analytics, organization, communication, and attention to details, becoming a public accountant is an excellent option with great benefits and demand.