Accountants: Who are they and what do they do?

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An accountant is a professional who provides financial and tax services to individuals and businesses. Let's discover together what an accountant does, how to become an accountant and the different types of accounting.

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Answer Adeosun
Oct 18, 22 · 5 min read
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Accountants are usually thought of as the people who just work on their calculators and are obsessed with numbers and data. While this career might seem pretty straightforward, and possibly boring, accountants are an important part of the team that helps with any financial business problem that stops it from functioning.

An accountant’s job can vary based on the type of accountant they are, the different roles and responsibilities they have, and the different skills they bring to the table. In this article, we’ll discuss all of these things, so you can decide if becoming an accountant is right for you!

Who is an accountant?

An accountant is responsible for maintaining and understanding financial records and accounts of any business or individual. They are professionals who are responsible for a variety of financial tasks and give advice to individual clients, or small and large businesses who employ them. Accountants can be certified as a CPA, also known as Certified Public Accountants; work for a company to help with financial management, or work for a firm as an auditor or to help other companies on a case-by-case basis.

What do accountants do?

Keep in mind that there are different types of accountants, and accountants provide different types of services based on the needs of the individual or business that they are working for. So, the daily duties of an accountant will vary depending on their position, the company or firm they are working for, and so on. But some of the most common responsibilities and duties accountants have are:

  • Creating and maintaining financial reports
  • Preparing tax returns according to legal standards to ensure businesses are following rules and regulations, as well as paying taxes properly and on time.
  • Ensuring that financial statements are accurate and that they are up to the standards set by relevant rules and regulations
  • Identifying business issues and problem solving, auditing financial operations to recommend best-practice solutions, and help companies run properly
  • Offering advice on reducing cost, enhancing revenue, and maximising profits
  • Conducting a risk analysis assessment to predict any risk to the business

Accountants also have the responsibility to act honestly and avoid any bad practices. This also means that accountants are responsible for making sure that their client’s financial statements are up to the standards of the rules and regulations.

What skills does an accountant need?

Because of the variety of services an accountant can help with, an accountant will need a variety of skills and experience in order to be successful. The most important skills accountants need is:

1. Understanding businesses

Because of the different businesses' accountants help with, it’s important for an accountant to understand the basic functions of a business in order to fully analyse and interpret financial data. With a solid foundation of business understanding, an accountant can have the context to the financial statements that they are working with on a daily basis. Accountants can also give advice based on best practice solutions when they fully understand the basic functions of a business or company.

2. Be detail-oriented

Because of all the large financial data accountants work with, it’s important for them to be able to pay strong attention to detail so the information is kept accurate and organised. If errors aren’t caught, simple mistakes can lead to much larger problems later on. This can also come with gaining more experience in an accountant’s career.

3. Be technologically savvy

Accountants use accounting software and computer-based tools every day to maintain financial data and stick to best-practice solutions. So, it’s important that professional accountants are able to use these tools easily and effectively.

4. Be able to analyse financial data

A large part of accounting is collecting and analysing financial data. The data can be used to identify patterns and even potential issues, which makes it an important aspect of the job so accountants can help businesses better. Data analytics in the accounting field is an emerging trend in the industry, and is expected to become an even more important skill to have in the future.

5. Communicate effectively

Due to all the needs of a business, an accountant must be able to listen to clients, managers, and various stakeholders to accurately gather facts and figures. They then need to be able to clearly explain the results of their work and communicate their findings in written reports. Again, this can and will come with years of experience of working as an accountant.

6. Be able to do basic maths

It’s easy to think that accountants need to be really good at maths. While maths is an important skill to have to analyse, compare, and understand financial data and figures, complex maths skills are not necessary to get into the accounting field.

There’s a lot of misconceptions about being an accountant, but as we can see, accounting is much more than financial data. With the growing need for accountants, there are plenty of opportunities in the field to start a successful accounting career at the entry-level. If you’re interested in becoming an accountant, the next steps will be to look into the qualifications that you need, the right institute to attend, and any training you might need to support your career.

How to become an accountant?

Follow these steps:
HowTo step image

1. First you need to research the qualifications you need to become an accountant in your area.

Sometimes this means you need a university degree, and sometimes you can simply sit for exams. Then study the accounting qualifications that are right for you.

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