Auditors and accountants analyze and verify financial information. They prepare a budget analysis and provide financial and investment planning and legal consulting. They keep accurate public records and pay taxes on time. They may serve in one of four of the following fields of auditing and accounting: 1) public, 2) management, 3) government, or 4) internal auditing. Auditors and public accountants typically work for corporations or local governments, and not-for-profit organizations. Job opportunities are favorable for auditors and accountants who have a professional certification.
Auditor Job Responsibilities
Public Accountants advise companies about preparing income tax returns. They provide counsel concerning compensation and healthcare benefits. They design and manage accounting systems. They also audit and ensure the accuracy of financial statements. They may be referred to as external auditors. They typically work for themselves or large accounting firms.
Public Accountants may specialize in forensic accounting. As a forensic accountant, they investigate and interpret the following white collar crimes: securities fraud and embezzlement, bankruptcy and contract disputes, and complex criminal financial transactions that include money laundering. Forensic Accountants often appear as experts at a criminal trial.
Management Accountants analyze financial information. Their major responsibilities are budgeting and managing assets. They are commonly associated with and referred to as one of the following titles: cost accountant, managerial accountant, industrial accountant, corporate accountant, or private accountant. They are part of the corporate executive team. They develop strategic plans for new products. They prepare financial reports. They typically work within the accounting department, managing various areas that include analyzing financial statements and developing budget plans. They often begin their careers as cost accountants, junior internal auditors, or trainees. They may advance to accounting manager, chief cost accountant, or manager of internal auditing. They often become controllers, treasurers, financial vice-presidents, or chief financial officers.
Government Accountants and Auditors work as civil servants for the federal government. They maintain government records. They examine the audited financial statements of private businesses subject to government regulations or federal taxation. They are typically employed by the federal and local governments. They receive revenues and notate expenditures. Government Accountants and Auditors may work as Internal Revenue Service agents.
Internal Auditors evaluate fraud and develop procedures for handling mismanagement. They review company operations to determine corporate policy compliance. They review internal controls and manage real-time data of computer automated transactions. Internal Auditors may also work in the information technology industry.
With the support of computer technology, auditors and accountants are able to summarize transactions for financial records and organize data for financial analysis. Auditors and Accountants use software packages to manage data and analyze corporate financial needs. They also perform technical duties such as auditing computer systems and developing technology plans. Most auditors and accountants work a standard forty-hour work week, working sometimes longer hours during tax season.
Auditor Training and Education Requirements
Auditors and accountants must have a bachelor’s degree in accounting. They may also achieve a master’s degree in the same field or obtain a degree in business administration with a specialization in accounting. They may also choose to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) for career advancement.
Graduates from junior colleges, business, and correspondence schools, and who also do not meet the educational requirement to become a full accountant with a company, may apply to become a junior accountant. Once they are able to demonstrate strong accounting skills, under close supervision, they can advance to gain more responsibility.
Auditors and accountants must have a practical knowledge of computers. They must have a strong aptitude for mathematics and be able to analyze and interpret facts and figures. They must be able to work well with people, work within a business system, and be familiar with basic accounting and computer accounting software packages. They must adopt high standards of integrity.
Auditor Salary and Wages
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for auditors and accountants in May 2008 was $59,430. The bottom ten percent earned at least $36,720, with the top ten percent earning more than $102,380. Auditors and accountants who worked for the state government earned approximately $2,400 less than those who worked for local government ($53,660). Candidates with a bachelor’s degree in accounting earned approximately $48,000 in July 2009, more than the starting salary for candidates with a master’s degree in the same year ($49,786). As part of their salary package, Auditors and accountants receive health and medical insurance, life insurance, a 401(k) plan, and paid annual leave.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
To file financial reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission, auditors and accountants must be a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Licensed by the State Board of Accountancy, auditors and accountants must pass a national exam and meet other requirements of the state. For at least 46 states, CPAs are required to complete at least college work beyond the bachelor’s degree.
The four-part Uniform CPA Examination, prepared by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), is rigorous, computerized, and is offered every two months each quarter. Most states require CPAs to enroll in continuing professional education courses prior to license renewal. The AICPA allows the following designations to candidates with their CPA:
- Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV)
- Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP)
- Personal Financial Specialist (PFS)
The ABV designation requires a written exam and the completion of a minimum of ten business valuation projects. The technology designation requires the candidate to achieve points awarded for business technology experience. Candidates for the personal financial specialist designation achieve points for education and experience; they must pass a written exam and also submit references.
Auditors may also receive the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) designation. The CIA designation is conferred by The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA). Candidates must be a graduate from an accredited college or university, have worked for two years as an internal auditor, and have passed a four-part examination. In addition, the IIA also offers the following three certification designations:
- Certified in Control Self-Assessment (CCSA)
- Certified Government Auditing Professional (CGAP)
- Certified Financial Services Auditor (CFSA)
Auditors may also receive the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA). Candidates for the designation must pass an examination and have five years of experience in auditing information systems. Candidates may use experience in information systems, financial or operational auditing, and related college credit hours to substitute for a lack of experience in information systems auditing, control, or security.
Accountants may receive the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) designation. The CMA designation is conferred by The Institute of Management Accountants. Applicants for the CMA designation must first complete a bachelor’s degree, attain a minimum score or higher on a graduate school entrance exam, work at least two years in management accounting, pass a four-part examination, meet continuing education requirements, and comply with standards of professional conduct. The exam for the CMA designation covers the following areas: financial statement analysis, working-capital policy, capital structure, valuation issues, and risk management.
Auditor Professional Associations
Auditors and accountants may join the AICPA. There are seven types of memberships. Regular members must have passed the CPA exam and be certified to practice. Associate members have passed the CPA exam but have not been certified to practice. Recent college graduates are classified as CPA Candidate. A student interested in the field of accounting may join as a Student Affiliate. An accounting faculty member who does not have a CPA may join as a Non-CPA Faculty Associate. A member may join as an International Associate or as a Non-CPA Section Associate, in which the associate is sponsored by a CPA firm.