Do you have a passion for numbers?  Do you enjoy keeping things in order and have great attention to detail?  If so, a career as an accountant may figure into your future.  Accountants prepare and evaluate financial statements, perform audits, prepare taxes, and consult for a variety of corporations, governments, non-profits and individuals.

Career Overview

The basic day to day duties of accountants does vary depending upon their specialty and for whom they work, however in general accountants do the following:

  • Examine financial statements to ensure accuracy and compliance with laws and regulations
  • Calculate taxes owed, prepare tax returns, and ensure that taxes are paid properly and on time
  • Review and inspect account books and accounting systems for efficiency and proper use of accounting procedures
  • Organize and maintain all financial records
  • Assess financial operations and make recommendations to management
  • Suggest ways in which their client or employer can reduce costs, enhance revenues and improve the bottom line

The four specific types of accountants are as follows;

Public Accountants, also referred to as external auditors, perform a broad range of accounting, auditing, tax and consulting for various clients.  The majority of public accountants are Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), and generally own their own business or work for a public accounting firm.  Some public accountants specialize in Forensic Accounting, which focuses on the investigation and interpretation of white-collar crimes including securities fraud, bankruptcies, contract disputes, and even criminal financial transactions like money laundering.  Combining their knowledge of accounting and finance with law and investigation techniques, forensic accountants determine whether or not a specific financial activity is legal.

Management Accountants, also known as cost, managerial, industrial, corporate or private accountants, record and analyze the financial information of the companies for which they work.  Within the accounting department of a corporation, management accountants may work in financial analysis, planning and budgeting, and cost accounting.  Their responsibilities may include budgeting, evaluations, cost management, strategic planning and asset management.  They help to analyze and interpret financial information so executives can make sound business decisions.  In addition, they prepare financial reports for other groups including stakeholders, creditors, regulatory agencies, and tax authorities.

Government Accountants maintain and examine the records of government agencies and audit private businesses and individuals who are subject to government regulations or taxation.  They ensure that income and expenditures of Federal, State and local governments are made in accordance with laws and regulations.  Some possible positions include Internal Revenue Service agent, budget analysis accountant, administration accountant, and financial management accountant.

Internal Auditors, also called information technology auditors, environmental auditors, and compliance auditors work directly for organizations, examining and evaluating the company’s financial and information systems, management procedures, and internal controls.  They help to ensure that there is no mismanagement of funds, waste or fraud within an organization.  They also review the way a company operates – using financial records to determine efficiency, effectiveness and compliance with policies and government regulations.

The majority of accountant’s work full time in an office although some work from home and travel to a clients place of business from time to time.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2010 one in five accountants worked more than 40 hours per week.  Working longer hours is common for accountants at certain times of year, such as tax season and at the end of a budget year.

As you may already know it is important for an accountant to have exceptional math skills.  They must be able to analyze, compare, and interpret facts and figures.  Other skills that are important for those aspiring to become accountants include;

  • Communication skills – providing full attention to what is being said and taking the time to understand facts and concerns from clients, managers, and others
  • Critical thinking – implementing logic and reasoning to identify issues and provide alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to those issues
  • Computer skills – having a good understanding of financial and accounting software applications

Education, Licensure and Certification

Accountants in Florida, regardless of specialty, will need to earn a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in accounting or finance and sit for the Uniform CPA Examination.  Specific requirements to sit for the exam and requirements for licensure in Florida can be found on Division of Certified Public Accounting page of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation website.

The Florida State Board of Accountancy (BOA) accepts degrees from schools accredited by several associations.  You will have to ensure that the school you choose is accredited to Florida BOA standards or the program you complete must meet the rules as defined by the Florida Administrative Code 61H1-27.002.  Coursework in most bachelor programs will include basic accounting, auditing, business law, economics, financial statement analysis, marketing, taxation and statistics.

Tuition rates will vary depending on the school you choose to earn your degree from.  For instance earning a bachelor’s degree online through the Florida Institute of Technology will cost a total of $60,000.  If you choose to attend on-campus tuition cost at the University of Miami will be just over $160,000.  For those who already hold a degree (bachelors or associates), some of your credits may transfer cutting down the cost as well as the time it will take you to complete a bachelors in accounting.

In addition to the most popular professional designation for accountants, CPA – there are other certifications available for specialties within the field.  The designations include Certified Management Accountant (CMA), Certified Financial Planner (CFP), Certified Internal Auditor (CIA), and Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM).  The Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) confers the designation Certified Management Accountant (CMA), The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) confers the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) certification, the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) Board confers the CFP certification, and the CGFM is sponsored by the Association of Government Accountants (AGA).

Salary Information

According to the Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountants salaries for accountants vary by location and specialty.  The site has a link to The 2013 Salary Guide: Accounting and Finance from Robert Half International which in addition notes that ranges in compensation for accountants vary according to the type of industry, company size, local economy, employee benefits offered, and the education, experience, work ethic and skills of the employee.

According to the guide, a general accountant with 0 to 1 year of experience will make between $36,250 and $51,750 annually.  Salary.com lists the national median annual salary for an entry level accountant at $46, 409, which is right in line with the guides’ findings.  The median annual salaries for select major cities in Florida fall slightly below the national average as shown below.

Jacksonville $44,274
Miami $45,527
Orlando $42,650
Tampa/St. Petersburg $43,624
Tallahassee $42,418

 

Career Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment of accountants and auditors is expected to grow by 16% between 2010 and 2020.  This is about as fast as the average for all occupations.  The implementation of stricter laws and regulations in the financial sector will help increase the demand for accounting services as organizations seek to comply with the new standards.  In addition, changes in lending standards will increase the importance of audits when a company seeks funding.

With rapidly changing technology, the nature of the work done by accountants and auditors is changing as well.  Accounting software packages are reducing the tedious parts of an accountant’s job and giving them the ability to be more mobile, using client’s computer systems to gather information from databases and the internet.  As a result, accountants and auditors with exceptional computer skills are specializing in correcting problems with these software packages or helping to develop new ones to meet various data management and analytical needs.

Expect the competition for open positions to be stiff.  Individuals with professional recognition, especially CPAs will have the best prospects.  Those with a master’s degree will not only have an additional advantage, but better potential for advancement down the road.

Ready to move towards a career as an Accountant?  Review our list of list of Accounting programs in Florida.  To find a school near you, enter the name of your city in the search box at the top of the page.