Accountant Definition & Meaning

Accountant Definition & Meaning

what is an accountant

The figures in your reports will look different depending on whether you use cash or accrual basis accounting. We believe everyone should be able to make financial decisions with confidence. Accountants play a vital part in any company, making this a wonderful opportunity for anyone looking to further their career in finance. They look at the way businesses operate to ensure what is an accountant that they’re operating efficiently and ethically. In the United States, the requirements for joining the AICPA as a Certified Public Accountant are set by the Board of Accountancy of each state, and members agree to abide by the AICPA’s Code of Professional Conduct and Bylaws. If you need extra semester hours after your degree, then a master’s degree is a viable option.

what is an accountant

In a nutshell, the accountant understands and interprets a company’s financial health through the combination of his knowledge of numbers and accounting principles. You’ll need to earn a bachelor’s degree for most accounting careers—generally in accounting, finance, economics, or your school’s equivalent. You can often get an entry-level job in accounting out of college, but many higher-level (and higher-paying) accounting jobs require a CPA license. But that’s only part of the picture, a 2022 Deloitte poll revealed that 82% of hiring managers for accounting and financial roles at public companies and 69% at private companies were struggling with talent retention. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) reports that fewer people are graduating with accounting degrees, and the number of people taking and passing the CPA exam is declining.

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According to data from Zippia, 35.4% of accountants in the United States are not white, 8% identify as LGBTQ and 61.8% are women. Notably, Black, Hispanic and Native American accountants remain underrepresented in their field. Women make up more than half of all accounting personnel but are less likely than men to hold leadership roles.

When you become a CPA, you can be responsible for preparing financial statements for your clients and filing reports with the SEC. To comply with SEC regulations, you must be a CPA to prepare and file reports. Every accountant follows a different path, but for many, the process takes about six years. This includes four years to earn a bachelor’s in accounting and another two years to complete a master’s program or gain enough work experience to qualify for an accounting certification. They can also be a valuable source of professional connections, and some students receive job offers at the companies where they intern.

Education, training and qualifications

As an accountant, you can take many different paths and change direction along the way. Accountants can work for large or small accounting firms, in the private sector at companies across industries, at nonprofits, or within government agencies. You can even start your own private practice or use your skills to start a non-accounting business as an entrepreneur. But most require a bachelor’s degree in accounting or finance and 150 college credit hours—which is 30 more than a typical bachelor’s degree requirement. You might look for an undergrad accounting program that offers these additional credits, or you could pursue a master’s degree.

Many of the mundane accounting tasks, like manual data entry and calculations, have been taken over by artificial intelligence, machine learning, natural language processing, and other innovations. In Hong Kong, the accountancy industry is regulated by Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants(HKICPA) under the Professional Accountants Ordinance (Chapter 50, Laws of Hong Kong). The auditing industry for limited companies is regulated under the Companies Ordinance (Chapter 32, Laws of Hong Kong), and other ordinances such as the securities and futures ordinance, the listing rules, etc.


If you’re in your final undergraduate year, or you’ve just graduated from an accounting bachelor’s program, an internship can help you build professional skills and become familiar with what it’s like to work in the industry. The first step toward becoming an accountant is usually a bachelor’s degree in accounting or business administration bachelor’s degree. Accounting bachelor’s programs teach foundational skills and knowledge to prepare graduates for entry-level jobs or graduate study.

It provides a clear picture of the financial health of your organization and its performance, which can serve as a catalyst for resource management and strategic growth. Small businesses hire accountants to advise them on their financial situation and help file taxes. Aside from handling taxes and compliance issues, they can help you optimize budgets, spot opportunities to save, and even apply for business loans. You can use accounting to track cash flow and quantify your company’s financial health. In addition, accounting makes it possible to create financial projections to plan for the future and anticipate sales and expenses. Without accounting, it would be incredibly difficult to gauge your business’s performance and whether it’s on track to meet its goals and obligations.

Accountants and auditors have a number of similarities, yet they are distinct in their roles and responsibilities. The recommendations from an accounting expert will help entities install the required software into their systems to fit the nature of their businesses. Also, such software would help in gathering and safekeeping any financial data. The required years of experience you need to take the CPA Exam vary from state to state, but most call for at least two years working in public accounting. Some states will accept other experiences, such as working in government or industry, but you will generally need more years of such experience.

  • The work environment is typically collaborative, with opportunities to work in teams and interact with clients or colleagues.
  • An Accountant is responsible for all financial matters of an entity, like maintaining and analysing financial records.
  • An accountant plays a very crucial role in an organization, regardless of whether it is a multinational company or a small, domestic one.
  • But there is one requirement that is uniform in every state—the passing of the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination.

Tax professionals include CPAs, attorneys, accountants, brokers, financial planners and more. Their primary job is to help clients with their taxes so they can avoid paying too much or too little in federal income or state income taxes. Moreover, they also need to ensure that the financial statements prepared by the management follow the accepted accounting principles, guidelines and legal concerns. Working as an intern is a great way for aspiring accountants to gain industry experience.

Here’s everything you need to know about how to become an accountant, what kinds of accounting jobs you can find, and why you should consider a career in the field. HKICPA terminated all recognition of overshare bodies in 2005 for accreditation under professional accountants ordinance. CPAs have to pass an exam (and meet a few other requirements) before they can get their license through the state. Once they’re officially a CPA, they’re allowed to prepare and sign tax returns for individuals and businesses and can represent taxpayers before the IRS for audits.

  • To succeed in this field, aspiring and current accounting professionals should stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.
  • That means they can use what they see to help with the strategy side of your business.
  • Yes, accountants need to have a solid foundation in math, as their work involves complex calculations, data analysis, and financial modeling.
  • They look at the way businesses operate to ensure that they’re operating efficiently and ethically.
  • For instance, KPMG, one of the “Big Four” accounting firms, launched the CPA Kickstart program, which offers new employees a full-time salary with benefits for two months to study for parts of the exam.
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