Multiple types of accounting careers exist within the financial industry, with each performing a differing range of functions. Branches of accounting vary based on the employment setting, range of responsibilities and daily activities, types of available advancement, and other factors. This article will break down various types of accounting and their careers into four broad categories. Though different professional accounting sources may divide accounting careers into different categories, the four types listed here reflect the accounting roles commonly available throughout the profession. These four branches include corporate, public, government, and forensic accounting. An undergraduate degree is most often required for any accounting career, while previous master’s work, especially in the accounting field, is often strongly preferred. Below, we’ll explore the nuances of each common area of accounting.
Overview: According to a summary published by AccountingTools.com, corporate accounting involves the use, handling, and filing of a company’s financial data often for the purpose of external reporting and tax compliance. To accomplish their role, corporate accountants must be well apprised of certain widely held accounting methodologies to maintain accurate records and to keep their financial and tax submissions in compliance with appropriate rules, regulations, and standards. A few of these common types of accounting principles, standards, and procedures include Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), and International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and the Internal Revenue Code (IRC).
Jobs Possible: The types of jobs in which someone might be involved in corporate accounting often involve external reporting. This could include working with the financial statements a corporation or preparing their tax filings. Executive positions such as financial controllers, analysts, and Chief Financial Officers (CFO’s) are also considered financial accounting roles. Many traditional financial accounting positions include managerial responsibilities.
Overview: Public accountants work with external clients, most often companies, corporations, or individuals. Their responsibility to clients is to help ensure their financial statements, records, and filings are accurate. Public accountants often work closely with tax regulations and financial reporting and must maintain an up-to-date knowledge of both GAAP and the tax code. They must also understand, and be able to apply, industry-standard accounting frameworks and best practices. Public accountants must possess strong problem-solving skills and attention to detail. Excellent people skills are also key, to effectively interact with clients.
Jobs Possible: Public accounting positions are found in public accounting firms that serve external clients. Clientele could range from small local firms that serve individuals and small businesses to international corporate conglomerates that serve multi-billion-dollar companies. Public accountants can advance into management positions at a team or company-wide level, depending on the nature of the firm. Public accounting work can also often lead to leadership positions within their firms.
Overview: Government accountants work within the context of local, state, or federal government entities. They often work within frameworks that differ from those employed by public accountants. Government accountants are also often more strictly vetted, and in some positions will be responsible for keeping privileged or confidential information.
Jobs Possible: Government financial professionals perform a wide range of duties. They might audit private documentation or tax submissions, maintain the financial records of government branches or bodies, or manage government resources. OneWire Resources, a resource for financial professionals, warns that government positions may not be as highly compensated as comparable positions in the private sector. However, government positions offer certain perks and advantages that can offset lower earning power. According to a comparison by Monster.com, government jobs often offer substantially better educational, insurance, healthcare, and retirement benefits than many civilian jobs.
Overview: Forensic accounting refers to a branch of accounting that collects, recovers, and reconstructs financial data when it is difficult or impossible to obtain. In addition to understanding accounting principles and practices, forensic accountants must be resourceful, creative, and able to solve often-complex problems. A sample job listing for a forensic accountant from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) stresses the importance of collaboration, communication, and investigative skills. Previous coursework in law, or related experience, is also often attractive to potential employers in this field.
Jobs Possible: Forensic accounting positions can vary widely. Some forensic accountants are employed by larger law firms while others are employed by legislative entities. Government agencies including the FBI, the IRS, and beyond also employ forensic accountants. Still, other forensic accounting professionals prefer to be self-employed and work on a contract basis for corporations, insurance companies, and other private entities.
An accounting professional may choose from a wide range of employment scenarios and desired amenities to match their ideal career situation. Options include fast-paced positions that change often and may feature significant travel, to more standard positions that provide stable working conditions and responsibilities. Career choices may include roles that require significant teamwork and interpersonal interaction to positions that are primarily data-oriented which might require minimal outside personal contact.
If you possess the basic aptitude required for an accounting position, choosing a career in the field may open a host of possibilities for you and enable you to customize a career to fit your preferences.
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Numbers are the foundation of any business — and no one knows numbers better than accounting and finance professionals. But to succeed as a financial professional in today’s competitive landscape, you need more than numerical know-how; you need the expertise to conduct analysis and leverage data to drive business decisions. That’s exactly what the online Master of Accountancy from Ohio University prepares you to do.