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What Is an Accountant?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 21, 2024
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An accountant is an individual who performs accounting tasks for individuals or companies. The exact material that an accountant handles varies depending on the size of the company and the accountant's specialization, but generally includes financial records, taxes, and responsibility for the issuing of financial reports. An accountant is one of the primary figures in a business that he or she works for, whether it is a multinational corporation or a small family owned business. Requirements to become an accountant vary upon specialization and nation, but generally include certification through a professional agency and a basic college degree in accounting and finance.

In a small firm, an accountant may be responsible for keeping all financial records. These records include payroll information, accounts payable, accounts receivable, retail sales, and information regarding investments held by the company. These accounts are kept organized in ledgers which are used to asses the financial health of a company. Ledgers are always kept up to date, and may be consulted by managers and high ranking members of a company when they are making major business decisions.

In larger firms, accountants also perform internal audits, to ensure that the financial records of the company are accurate. Because of bias concerns, an internal audit cannot be handled by an accountant who regularly handles the material concerned, and many companies hire outside accounting firms to perform audits. When this is the case, the company should not be contracted to handle any of the company's other financial material, as this may represent a conflict of interest.

In most cases, an accountant will choose to specialize in a particular field such as audits, book keeping, or taxes. In other instances, an accountant may acquire a wide range of skills to better serve his or her clients. This is common with certified public accountants who handle the books for several small businesses at once. In both instances, the accountant must have strong math skills, as well as an education in accounting.

Depending on the type of accounting being performed, certification by the state may be required. State certification is usually required for accountants who perform audits and other sensitive accounting tasks, while it is not as vitally necessary for accounting clerks who work under certified accountants. Commonly, an accountant is also a member of a professional organization of accountants, and takes advantage of meetings and seminars to keep up with advances in the field.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Practical Adult Insights researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon933670 — On Feb 17, 2014

It's Juston again. Today, I have found out that accountants like my father analyze and record financial information.

By anon933591 — On Feb 16, 2014

What benefit does accounting provide for society?

How does this pass an advantage down to you when you work as a major in accounting?

What's the usual salary received?

Is it possible to move to a manager, instead of a normal businessman/businesswoman? If the response to this inquiry is yes, please elaborate with your reasoning.

I understand that the main equation utilized in most accounting firms is "Owner's Equity=Assets+Liabilities."

I am only thirteen and I want to gain a true insight of how accounting works with an elucidation to clarify my misunderstandings.

If anyone has any advice or assistance, please respond to this message.

Juston L., 13, Queens, NY

By anon334396 — On May 12, 2013

I am an advance level graduate with economics, maths and geography. I did a one year administrative assistant course and a beat of book keeping and accounting. I'd like now to be and accountant but do not know the type of accounting to do. Please help me.

By anon327097 — On Mar 26, 2013

I am currently a first year student and I am studying BCOM Accounting. I would like to advise those who want to be accountants to follow their hearts and be prepared because it is not easy at all, especially if you did not do accounting at school, but if it is your passion then you will succeed.

By anon289595 — On Sep 05, 2012

I am working as a cashier in a private firm but I really want to understand more about accounting and be one in the future. Which courses of study will qualify me?

By anon278715 — On Jul 09, 2012

What are some jobs related to being an accountant? Is an actuary one? Just wondering.

By anon270292 — On May 22, 2012

I'm doing physics and life science at school but I would like to be an accountant. Is that possible for me? Please share information about this career.

By anon258560 — On Apr 02, 2012

BS Accountancy is the course that I'm going to take up in college. I chose this course because I want to be a Certified Public Accountant someday. Now, I'm wondering how can I fulfill this goal in life. I really want it. I'm not that good in math but I can follow the procedures on how to solve the problems. I want to ready myself to studying this course. What should I


By Alvinjoe — On Mar 12, 2012

I also want to became an accountant.

By anon252743 — On Mar 06, 2012

I am in year 9 and basically have my life set. I want to be an accountant at KPMG. I have folders and folders and pages of information about RMIT university and the atar scores you need to graduate at RMIT university. Any good tips on how to further improve my chance of getting a good accounting career? Suggestions are very much appreciated!

By anon240126 — On Jan 12, 2012

I want to be an accountant. I like the idea of wearing suits and doing math most of my life. What can or what do I have to do to become an accountant?

By anon205885 — On Aug 14, 2011

well, accounting is what really is being offered in virtual accounting services. The difference is on how the service is being delivered.

By anon179079 — On May 23, 2011

i have only a grade 10 certificate. Can i study to be an accountant?

By anon154140 — On Feb 19, 2011

according to others, to be an accountant is very complicated. Is it really true?

By anon145381 — On Jan 23, 2011

how do i go about studying for this career and how long does it take to qualify for this and where can i study?

By anon145314 — On Jan 23, 2011

I am a Bcom graduate with a specialization in accounting. I'm not sure that this qualification is enough to become an accountant.

By anon144251 — On Jan 19, 2011

am already studying accounting as my first degree. please tell the necessary things to do, to get to the top.

By anon132170 — On Dec 05, 2010

I am a first year b.com student and i am working as an accountant. i want know how to create a structure in this field. can you guide me?

By anon131756 — On Dec 03, 2010

I want to be an accountant, but what should i do?

By anon113296 — On Sep 23, 2010

am starting a degree course of accounting, so how can i be the best in the course study of accounting?

By anon112187 — On Sep 19, 2010

I want to know the general rules governing accountants. Could you please help me know them for my research?

By anon107000 — On Aug 28, 2010

i am very interested to work as an accountant. But how can I do it? --janak

By anon99645 — On Jul 27, 2010

I am now working with an organization from France that it is focused on education for all. my position in this INGO is accountant. i want to improve my accounting skills so what should I learn to do it? Thanks.

By anon92086 — On Jun 25, 2010

i am a not a accountant but i want to know about accountants. Please tell me how they are used in banks and other businesses? thanks.

By anon84648 — On May 17, 2010

if i have diploma in accounting. can i be an accountant and how much will i earn?

By anon84646 — On May 17, 2010

how do you know that you are a good accountant?

By anon71352 — On Mar 18, 2010

What are good qualities of an accountant?

By anon65711 — On Feb 15, 2010

i want to know the major areas under which an accountant can work.

By anon63005 — On Jan 29, 2010

i just want to know how much does an accountant get paid? and what do i need to know to become a accountant? help! thank you.

By anon56351 — On Dec 14, 2009

if i want to be an accountant, what can i do?

By anon56022 — On Dec 11, 2009

I have shoplifting on my record will i still be able to get a job in accounting with this on my record?

Should i start a different career path?

By anon55937 — On Dec 10, 2009

I'm thinking about being an accountant when I grow up (I'm 15) and I want to know if it's hard or complicated?

By anon52106 — On Nov 11, 2009

Well I'm only 14 and i just want to know what an accountant does, so can anyone help?

By anon35461 — On Jul 05, 2009

I have a BBA-Accounting degree and am in school now for my Masters -Finance degree. I want to be a CPA and either work in corporate accounting or auditing or forensic accounting at a CPA firm. Will the finance degree help me or hurt me?


By anon33571 — On Jun 08, 2009

You will want to go to school and become a CPA. This will allow you to do auditing work for publicly traded companies. It's also the highest recognition for accountants. The best approach after that is to work for a public accounting firm so that you can get a lot of experience doing audits, or tax, payroll, business consulting. A small accounting firm will give you a more well rounded experience, but a Large CPA firm you'll be more respected and have a lot of experience in a small number of duties. If you like numbers and business then you'll like accounting but a lot of business majors really don't like numbers. Too bad it's a required part of every business though. I got a double major in accounting and finance. I would recommended accounting degree with an MBA in Accounting if I were to do it again.

By anon32647 — On May 25, 2009

holder of a double degree, will it be able to put me in a better advantage? if it is, which combination of double degree will you recommend?

or having an honor degree or master degree is better for future promotion & prospect?

By anon31117 — On Apr 29, 2009

Advantages are that there is a high demand in accounting jobs, and there are plenty of available jobs and usually there is good pay. Disadvantages are that there are long hours and it can be very boring.

By anon23626 — On Dec 30, 2008

if i want to be an accountant, how should i do it?

By anon22535 — On Dec 05, 2008

I know what to do; go to college, but don't major in accounting. It's the best advice ever.

By sikkim — On Jun 27, 2008

@anon12001 - i think the 'bad parts' about being an accountant is that the job is relatively narrow in scope. its not easy, but most of the work involves numbers, and accounts, and depreciation.

there are plenty of other jobs with a similarly narrow scope, but if you are a person who likes to do a variety of work, then accounting probably isn't a great fit.

it is important to note that some accountants do get to have a moderate amount of personal interaction with clients or coworkers.

By Accountant — On May 13, 2008

A career as an accountant gives you a recognized qualification as a chartered accountant that can always be used to fall back on if you pursue a different career.

By anon12001 — On Apr 28, 2008

I need the bad parts about this job for a research

By anon11022 — On Apr 07, 2008

I want to know an advantages of the career accountant. I am doing this career as a research paper. Could you please help me out?

By anon6993 — On Jan 15, 2008

if i want to be an accountant, how should i do it?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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