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Types of Accounting Jobs

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Accounting is “the process of recording financial transactions pertaining to a business,” according to Investopedia. This process includes analyzing, and reporting these transactions to oversight agencies, regulators, and tax collection entities,” Investopedia notes . For example, at a restaurant, recording the number of transactions made, revenue generated, associated costs, and profit earned is a form of accounting.At a school, maintaining information about educational expenditures and teacher salaries is another type of accounting.

Accounting is more than just keeping track of purchases and expenditures. Capital and assets (how many valuable items or how much material an organization has on hand) and liability (how much is owed to other organizations) are also taken into account throughout the accounting process. Accountants themselves are crucial to this process, navigating complex financial materials and providing analysis and insight to their clients, employers and larger organizations.

Here are the most popular accounting jobs:

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What Are the Different Types of Accounting Jobs?

There are various types of accounting jobs, each with its own responsibilities, levels of seniority, and expectations. Something that all accounting jobs have in common is that they include the evaluation and interpretation of a person’s or an organization’s financial activities in some way. An accountant may help to organize a midsized company’s financial information, while a tax auditor may focus on determining if the company paid the necessary amount owed to the tax authority (for example the state government or the IRS). The main responsibilities vary significantly for each position, but they’re all focused on interpreting and analyzing financial information.

Some common types of accounting jobs include auditor, budget analyst, accounts payable specialist, tax accountant and forensic accountant. Just as these positions can vary, so can the educational and professional requirements needed to secure one of these jobs. A forensic accountant may need additional certifications, while a budget analyst doesn’t; that budget analyst can benefit from an advanced degree, while a tax auditor in the same field may not.

Because each role has different responsibilities and requirements, it’s impractical, if not impossible, to jump between accounting roles. Aspiring and current accounting professionals need to decide which aspect of accounting they want to pursue and understand each role’s necessary requirements and responsibilities.

Where Do Accountants Work?

One of the benefits of the accounting profession are the various industries in which one can work. A tax auditor may work for a federal agency in Washington D.C., while a budget analyst may interpret and manage a coastal California town’s finances.

An accountant payable specialist may work for an exciting media conglomerate, and a forensic accountant may work with private and public organizations to more deeply interpret a person’s or company’s spending patterns. Generally speaking, if there’s an industry that must organize and evaluate its finances in some way, there’s an accounting professional or role that’s suited for that field.

What Is an Auditor?

Based on information from the accounting and consulting firm PwC , an is the examination of the financial report said company or organization, conducted by someone independent of the organization, known as the auditor. The financial report itself “includes a balance sheet, an income statement, a statement of changes in equity, a cash flow statement, and notes comprising a summary of significant accounting policies and other explanatory notes,” PwC states.

An auditor’s responsibility is to evaluate whether what the company or organization presented in its report truly reflects the company’s financial status. What an auditor must do is look at the following:

According to Investopedia , on any given day, auditors can evaluate the value of assets, communicate with clients, collaborate with peers and investigate financial documents. An auditor’s workload typically peaks around January to March, as most companies’ ends of the fiscal year are in that previous December, requiring them to file their audited financial statements in a given time-frame.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists the median annual salary for accountants and auditors in the finance and insurance industry as $74,690 in 2018, whereas $70,500 was the median salary for accountants and auditors in all industries. The BLS’ projected job growth rate for these roles is listed as 6% from 2018 to 2028. Auditors themselves typically need a bachelor’s degree in a related field such as accounting, and a master’s degree is typically necessary to earn promotions into more senior roles, which require a CPA license as well.

Job Description of a Budget Analyst

A budget analyst is an accounting professional who works with someone in a managerial role to oversee a company’s or an organization’s budget. Some sectors and industries that benefit from budget analysts include:

On a daily basis, budget analysts can be involved in planning and organizing budgets, overseeing and approving proposals, combining smaller budgets into more comprehensive ones, making cases as to why certain budgetary requests should be approved, and tracking an organization’s spending, according to the BLS . The BLS also notes that the median annual pay for budget analysts was $76,220 in 2018, with a 4% projected job growth rate from 2018 to 2028.

Those who thrive as budget analysts have a strong background in math; a thorough accounting and analytical skill set; are highly meticulous and organized; and have strong communication skills, as they often have to explain budgetary processes and protocols to others in an organization. Budget analysts often hold bachelor’s degrees in accounting or a similar field, while the most in-demand candidates can have a master’s degree in a business specialty.

What Does an Accounts Payable Specialist Do?

Businesses and organizations often receive invoices and bills for goods and services that have been provided to them. For example, a media company may receive an invoice from a freelance photographer or a writer for work that was completed. A nonprofit organization may seek the services of a marketing consultant, who will provide a bill for services rendered or to be rendered.An accounts payable specialist is a type of accountant who manages and documents these types of payments and financial transactions. According to Investopedia :

A company’s total accounts payable (AP) balance at a specific point in time will appear on its balance sheet under the current liabilities section. Accounts payable are debts that must be paid off within a given period to avoid default. At the corporate level, AP refers to short-term debt payments due to suppliers.

With those invoices and bills, payment often must be made by a certain date. If the invoice or bill is past due, nonpayment can put the business at risk of actions such as default or even lawsuits. The short-term payments that accounts payable specialists handle are different from longer-term types of debt, such as small business loans.On any given day, an accounts payable specialist can monitor new invoices, maintain balance sheets, prioritize payments, recommend best payment practices to staff members, provide information to other accountants and communicate with external partners about payments. Because the job focuses on such meticulous, detail-oriented record keeping, accounts payable specialists need to be alert and able to effectively evaluate invoices and bills, have strong communication skills to share their findings with others, be analytical and creative when optimizing payment solutions, and be able to collaborate with other business partners.As of March 2020, PayScale notes that the median hourly salary for accounts payable specialists is $18.58. The BLS projects a 4% decline in bookkeeping, accounting and auditing roles from 2018 to 2028. Educational requirements for these types of roles can vary depending on factors such as seniority, company size, and the actual invoices and bills being handled. The BLS notes , though, that for bookkeeping, accounting and auditing roles, employers generally like candidates to “have some postsecondary education, particularly coursework in accounting. However, some candidates can be hired with just a high school diploma.”

statistics of being an accountant

How to Become a Tax Accountant

Most people can file their taxes without a tax accountant’s assistance. They collect information regarding the money they’ve received from their jobs; note any necessary deductions, credits and expenses; and submit their information to the IRS. But there are numerous other parties and organizations — whether they be multinational corporations with offices and operations across dozens of countries and encounter unique tax issues, or ultra high-net-worth individuals who hold diverse, complex and wide-ranging financial portfolios who are trying to make sense of how much they owe the IRS — that benefit from the expertise and services of tax accountants. A tax accountant analyzes financial documents and prepares statements to ensure timely tax payments. The documents that the accounts payable specialist maintains and prepares can later be interpreted by a tax accountant to determine how to incorporate that information into necessary tax payments. A tax accountant can also focus less on a business and more on a person’s tax situation and status.

According to the Houston Chronicle , on any given day, a tax accountant could handle the :

These services are often in high demand during tax season, from January to Aprill, However, tax accountants may also need to complete their work by other deadlines, such as September 15 and October 15, especially when they are not involved with business entity taxes. Even outside of this window, tax accountants still have other duties. Robert Half , a recruiting firm, notes how “organizations have audits, strategic financial planning, bookkeeping and many other tasks to deal with year-round” in which tax accountants can prove beneficial.

The BLS notes that the median annual salary for accountants and auditors was $70,500 in 2018 and that the projected job growth rate is 6% between 2018 and 2028. The projection can be attributed to individuals and organizations always needing to pay taxes, and accountants and auditors will often be needed for their valuable services and skill sets.

An individual must meet extensive educational and professional requirements to become a tax accountant. Possessing a bachelor’s and master’s degree in a related field is often necessary. Additionally, earning a certified public accountant (CPA) designation is a crucial step in establishing that an accountant holds legitimacy and is cognizant of necessary tax requirements and laws before becoming employed.

What Is a Forensic Accountant?

While an effective tax accountant typically helps to properly prepare tax returns for clients, sometimes individuals and organizations improperly file their taxes, whether intentional or not. A company can report that it lost money in a given year when it actually made a profit, or an individual can claim certain deductions or withhold information about additional income when filing a yearly return. Even government agencies such as the FBI are in need of effective forensic accountants to investigate the financial activities of suspected and wanted criminal parties and organizations.

In these instances, forensic accountants are the professionals who take a deeper dive into a person’s or group’s financial background to determine whether a crime has taken place. “Forensic accountants are trained to look beyond the numbers and deal with the business reality of a situation,” Investopedia notes.

Some types of cases that forensic accountants can help to investigate include:

A forensic accountant’s daily responsibilities can vary by organization, but they typically involve analyzing complex financial data to uncover potential wrongdoing. For example, forensic accountants with the FBI , according to the agency’s website, “understand the overall ‘big’ picture of the case,” communicate their findings to others, take notes of suspicious payments and financial actions, and spot other potential wrongdoers in cases.

The BLS lists the median annual salary for forensic accountants as $80,180 in 2018 and projects 7% job growth from 2018 to 2028. Forensic accountants often possess a bachelor’s or master’s degree and have an accounting background.

The Future of Accounting

All types of accounting jobs incorporate the organization, management and analysis of financial information in some way. Each job’s specific duties and requirements can differ. Aspiring accounting professionals must therefore understand the differences between these roles and which may be a better fit for their career goals and skill sets.

In the midst of evolving business and technology trends, the nature of an accountant’s work has shifted dramatically. Professionals who are willing and able to adapt to these new trends have the best chances of earning different types of accounting jobs, in which they’re in a position to help organizations to navigate and make sense of an ever-shifting financial landscape. Accountants who can embrace new mobile accounting platforms and software, as well as understand new tax codes and investment opportunities, will be primed for success.

FBI, Forensic Accountants

Houston Chronicle

 “The Role of Tax Accountants”

Investopedia, “A Day in the Life of an Auditor”

Investopedia, “Accounting”

Investopedia, “Accounts Payable (AP)”

PayScale, Average Accounts Payable Specialist Hourly Pay

PwC, What Is an Audit?

Robert Half, What Does a CPA Do After Tax Season? Plenty!

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Accountants and Auditors

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Budget Analysts


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The Department of Accounting at the University of Nevada, Reno is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).


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Types of Accountants and What They Do

If you enjoy working with numbers, are detail-oriented, and organized, a career in accounting may be right for you.

An accountant is responsible for interpreting and maintaining financial records for individuals or organizations and may prepare and examine financial records as well as provide financial advice.

There are many types of accountants, including:

Different Types of Accountants and What They Do

1. Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

A certified public accountant (CPA) is an accountant who has successfully passed the Uniform CPA Examination® . This exam consists of four sections covering the fundamentals of accounting, as well as more complex topics including: Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) and Regulation (REG). In addition to passing the Uniform CPA Examination, CPA’s qualifications generally include earning a four-year degree, such as a Bachelor of Science in Accounting , and one to three years of professional work experience. 1

CPA’s ensure businesses and individuals follow generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), the set of accounting principles, standards, and procedures issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB). They often handle a variety of accounting tasks, including tax preparation, financial planning, audits, and more, but may choose to focus on one particular area.

CPAs work mainly in the public accounting, corporate accounting for business and industry, government, not-for-profit, and education sectors. Because of their expertise, CPAs can potentially advance to high-level positions such as chief financial officer.

2. Management Accountant

A management accountant (also known as a cost accountant, staff accountant, or industrial accountant) helps companies budget and perform better by identifying, measuring, analyzing, interpreting and communicating information to managers.

In addition, they prepare data for use within a company by forecasting cash flows, creating budgets, and analyzing the rate of return for short and long-term projects.

Management accountants often advise senior management on financial decisions. They may also maintain the company’s financial system and oversee a team of entry-level accountants who perform bookkeeping and other duties. Because of this, a four-year degree is generally required.

3. Chartered Accountant

Similar to a CPA, a chartered accountant (CA) is an international accounting designation granted to accounting professions in countries other than the United States.

CA’s focus on four main areas within the accountancy field: taxation, financial accounting and reporting, applied finance, and management accounting.

Accountant Working on Report at Computer

An auditor is a person who exams financial records to verify their accuracy and ensure they are in compliance with tax laws, regulations, and any other applicable accounting standards. They point out discrepancies and offer guidance for correction. Auditors also help protect businesses from fraud and also help businesses increase operational efficiencies.

There are two main types of auditors: internal and external. Internal auditors are company employees and examine issues related to the company’s financial and business practices. External auditors work independently of the company or individual they are auditing and examine the financial records and issue an opinion regarding the financial statements of the company.

Both internal and external auditors work a variety of different industries, including public and private companies. Generally, auditors work as part of a team or department, but some auditors work from home, while others travel to their clients’ places of business.

5. Forensic Accountant

Forensic accountants carefully analyze, interpret, and summarize complex financial and business records to determine their accuracy and importance.

They may also develop computer applications to manage the information collected and deliver this information to clients.

Forensic accountants are often employed by insurance companies, banks, government agencies, or even public accounting firms.

Because forensic accounting provides financial analysis that is suitable for use in legal proceedings, forensic accountants may give expert evidence during trials.

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6. government accountant.

Government accountants work in all branches of government, including local, state, and federal agencies, managing public funds, investigating white-collar crimes, and performing system audits.

They must possess a knowledge of government statutes, as well as tax, business codes, and other regulations for both public and private sectors.

Government accountants working at the state level may help cities budget funds and evaluate the viability of using public funds for community infrastructure projects.

They may work closely with regulatory groups such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on both a local and federal level. To earn a job as a government accountant, a bachelor’s degree in accounting is typically required and a CPA or MBA is preferred.

7. Investment Accountant

Investment accountants work specifically in brokerage and asset management firms and maintain investments for their clients. Working with asset managers and brokers, investment accountants process the investments and may also provide financial consulting and advice.

Additionally, investment accountants may be responsible for helping develop the firm’s key financial strategies, as well as prepare tax reports on investment accounts.

To earn a job as an investment accountant, you typically need an undergraduate degree in accounting or a related major. The role also requires a strong knowledge of state and federal regulations of how investments should be maintained, reported, and managed.

8. Project accountant

A project accountant focuses on the needs of project delivery, including tracking, reporting, and analyzing the financial results of a project. Project accountants provide regular reports to management and executives on whether a company’s project is over or under budget. They may also draft project proposals so teams can see the financial scope of a project, including how much it could potentially cost or earn.

Project accountants work closely with project managers, accounting teams, and even external suppliers. They are often hired by engineering firms and construction companies, but can find jobs in all sectors including private, government, non-profit, and education.

To find a job as a project accountant in any sector, a bachelor’s degree in accounting and some experience is strongly recommended.

9. Tax Examiner

A tax examiner reviews federal, state, and local tax returns filed by small businesses and individuals. They determine how much is owed in taxes and collect this tax on behalf of the government.

Tax examiners check tax returns for accuracy and completeness, review and code tax returns for processing, and list and work to resolve errors. They may also discuss issues with taxpayers, such as missing or incorrect information or if they have over or underpaid.

Tax examiners work for federal, state, and local governments. While many work in an office environment, some tax examiners do field audits in taxpayers’ homes or places of business.

10. Financial advisor

A financial advisor helps individuals make short and long-term decisions about how they should spend or invest their money and create personalized financial plans that aim to help clients achieve their financial goals. Some topics they discuss with clients include investing, insurance, tax strategies, saving, and budgeting.

A four-year degree can help you qualify to become a financial advisor, and you are required to pass certain exams administered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). Because of this, a bachelor’s degree in accounting or finance can provide a solid foundation for preparing for a role as a financial advisor. 

How to Become an Accountant

For many of these specialized accounting roles, you’ll need to earn your Bachelor of Science in Accounting or a similar degree to become an accountant and gain work experience.

This can help you determine the best type of accounting for you. An advanced degree, such as a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in accounting or a post-graduate certificate in accounting and finance can help prepare you for more senior or leadership roles, as well as increase your salary potential .

Learn more about our accounting degree options

1. This Bachelor of Science in Accounting program at Herzing University does not fulfill all of the requirements for a graduate to take the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam or apply for licensure as a CPA in most states/jurisdictions. Most states/jurisdictions require a specific amount of study beyond a bachelor’s degree (typically, a total of 150 semester credit hours, but this varies by jurisdiction) as well as several years of professional experience working in accounting to be eligible to apply for licensure. Some states (including, but not necessarily limited to, Texas) require the program to have specific programmatic accreditation for graduates to apply for licensure as a CPA, which this program does not have at this time, and no representation has been made as to when or if such an accreditation will be obtained. Applicants interested in becoming a CPA should check with their state board of accountancy regarding CPA eligibility requirements prior to enrolling in any accounting program. Students planning to pursue certifications other than the CPA exam should also contact the respective certifying organization to confirm requirements for certification prior to enrolling in any accounting program.

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Careers in Accounting

Professional accountants, whether forensic, tax, or managerial of today have careers that use e a wide variety of skills applicable to highly specialized roles. When the editors of the Journal of Accountancy wrote in 1912 that an accountant is beginning to be “looked upon as a business physician,” they could not have envisioned the dynamic array of accounting practice areas that would exist 100 years later.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, in the ten-year lead up to 2029, the number of jobs for accountants and auditors in the United States is expected to increase by 4 percent, opening up some 61,700 positions as a result of both growth and turnover. Changes in tax laws and the regulatory environment, as well as the expansion of global commercial business and increased financial controls continue to drive the demand for skilled accountants in the public and private sectors.

While the foundation of accounting is based on uniform accounting practices, there are many different ways for accountants to apply these core principles.

Government and Non Profit accounting jobs:

Public Accounting Jobs:

Private Accounting Jobs:

Financial Services:

What is an Accountant and What Do They Do?

Accountants work with individuals, small businesses, large corporations, non-profits and government agencies to prepare and organize financial and tax documents.

Accounting is defined as an organized way to keep records of business and financial transactions, summarize those transactions, and analyze, verify, and report financial results. Another way to look at accounting is that it’s an information system designed to identify, measure, record, and communicate reliable, relevant, and consistent information about the economic activities of an organization.

Accounting involves only transactions that can be expressed in monetary terms. Some people call accounting “the language of business,” and its purpose is to help users of accounting information make better decisions

These are among the many tasks that accountants perform for their clients:

Accountants in the United States have the option of becoming Certified Public Accountants (CPAs). CPAs have met licensing requirements for the state in which they practice. State licensing qualifications vary but typically require 150 hours of collegiate education (30 hours beyond the typical 120-hour bachelor’s degree in accounting). Licensing requirements also always include some documented experience and achieving a passing score on the Uniform CPA Examination.

The key task that CPAs can perform – and that non-CPAs cannot – is the preparation of audited and reviewed financial statements for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Careers in Different Areas of Accounting

It is often said that one of the biggest career decisions accountants make takes place very early on when deciding which general area of accounting to specialize in. This is because the entire career path with regard to the types of clients an accountant works with, the type of education and professional certification they’ll need, the level of education they’ll complete, and the very nature of the work they perform will be dictated by this decision.

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Although it is a weighty decision to be faced with, it is one that comes without too much duress for most. This is because the decision is heavily influenced by a number of important factors that help determine which path is best for the individual, such as their personal inclination to work closely with or removed from clients, their desire to work in the private or public sector, and their interest in a career spent working for an organization, or independently.

Although there are many other specialties, the four major areas of accounting are:

Public accounting covers a wide range of services, including preparing and issuing the public financial reports for a company, providing business consulting services or personal financial planning services, and preparing tax returns.

Public accounting includes several types of accounting:

New accountants who go to work for a public accounting firm may serve as staff auditors who analyze and verify activities in specific assigned client accounts. This is sometimes considered the “grunt work” of auditing , and it doesn’t usually involve any interaction with clients.

Similarly, tax staff accountants with accounting firms do most of the tax return preparation and research without interacting with clients.

Experienced accountants can move into senior positions, taking on more responsibility, and eventually move into management positions if a firm thinks the accountant has partner potential.

Management positions include Audit Manager, Tax Manager, and Management Services/Consulting Manager. Only about two percent of accountants in a public accounting firm eventually become a partner, according to the American Institute of CPAs.

With experience, public accountants may go on to work in areas like personal financial planning, sometimes starting their own practice. Some accountants take on roles in forensic accounting, specializing in detecting and preventing fraud.

Management accounting is also called managerial, cost, corporate, industrial, or private accounting. Management accountants have an internal business role that supports business managers in making business decisions. Management accountants prepare detailed reports and forecasts for managers inside the company. These reports are not intended for public review.

Management accountants track and analyze internal financial information by designing, implementing, and managing internal financial management systems that assist with performance management, strategic management, and risk management.

Within management accounting are different approaches. For example, project accounting (or job cost accounting) tracks finances by project and prepares financial reports specific to these projects. Resource consumption accounting is a new approach to management accounting developed in Germany in 2000. This approach is principle-based and not tied to a specific method, according to the Resource Consumption Accounting Institute.

New accountants who take jobs in corporations often begin as junior internal auditors or as staff accountants in areas such as financial accounting and reporting, management accounting, or tax accounting.

Junior internal auditors make sure the company has accurate records and adequate controls to protect against fraud and waste by examining and evaluating financial and information systems, internal controls, and management procedures.

Financial accounting and reporting staff accountants typically have responsibilities in an assigned area, such as payroll, receivables, payables, general ledger, treasury management, asset management, or financial statements.

Management staff accountants collect detailed cost data and may prepare preliminary cost analyses and reports that are then presented to management and executive leadership.

Junior tax accounting staff members prepare tax returns or related schedules for review, keeping information current and tax deductions maximized throughout the tax year.

As accountants gain experience, they can move into senior positions in any of the areas, taking on more responsibility and more complicated tasks. Accountants may eventually move into management positions as Financial Accounting & Reporting Managers, Management Accounting Managers, Tax Managers, or Internal Audit Managers.

Other types of accounting jobs within corporations include the Assistant Controller, who assists in supervising the day-to-day collection and interpretation of accounting data, and the Controller, who is the chief accounting executive.

An accountant could also become the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) who advises the President or CEO in matters related to financial strategy and financial reporting.

The umbrella term governmental accounting refers to any type of accounting use to keep and examine the financial records of government agencies and to audit private businesses and individuals who engage in activities subject to government regulations or taxation. Thus, governmental accounting may include the methods of financial accounting, tax accounting, or other types of accounting.

Government agencies sometimes use fund accounting, which is a way to separate resources into categories in order to track the source and use of these funds. Fund accounting is used as a way for a government agency or division to be transparent and responsible in their management of the tax dollars used to fund the agency or division. Fund accounting is also often used by non-profit organizations.

Entry-level jobs are also available with the federal government, as well as for state and municipal government agencies. New accounting hires may serve as junior auditors or staff accountants, tax examiners who review filed tax returns for accuracy and adherence to law, or revenue agents who review complex business income, sales, and excise tax returns. Experienced accountants can move into senior and management positions in similar roles.

Internal auditors provide an independent, objective examination of an organization’s finances. Internal auditors mainly identify financial mismanagement or fraud or identify ways to improve financial management and reduce waste.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires all publicly traded companies to regularly conduct internal audits. Audits are used to provide investors with an accurate financial picture of publicly traded companies. Corporate and retail investors use the information revealed through internal audits to decide which securities are worth purchasing.

Other Types of Accounting Jobs

Accountants can become educators at the post-secondary level for community colleges, schools of business, and universities. Earning a PhD is usually required for college-level professorships in accounting.

Professionals with backgrounds in accounting can also serve as consultants in any accounting/financial capacity for which they are qualified, or work in non-profit organizations in jobs that are similar to those found in the corporate world.

Tax accounting involves keeping records for paying taxes and making decisions that comply with tax laws. Large multinationals, small business, non-profits and individuals alike, all may have occasion to use tax accounting. Regardless of tax status or obligation, all persons and organizations that generate revenue, receive pay, or accept funding may benefit from the services of tax accounting professionals.

Financial Accounting vs. Management Accounting

Financial accounting is done for the purpose of producing external financial statements for external decision-makers, such as investors and creditors, and is required by law for all publically traded companies. Financial accounting must adhere to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), with an emphasis on providing reliable, general-purpose, high-level information about the past performance of an organization.

Management (or managerial) accounting is for internal reporting and decision-making purposes and includes designing information systems that create many detailed reports for specific internal users to monitor and control an organization’s activities. It looks to the future, rather than at the past, and can include subjective, detailed estimates and predictions of future events and transactions.

GAAP doesn’t apply in management accounting and organizations are mostly free to develop their own management accounting systems and measurement rules, most of which are proprietary. However, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 did establish minimum standards for the internal reporting systems used by publically traded companies.

The Big Four Accounting and CPA Firms

Large public accounting firms generally perform the audits of companies traded on public stock exchanges. Major publicly traded corporations, as well as large private organizations, generally retain one of the four largest public accounting firms. These firms are collectively known as “The Big 4.”

These firms enjoy a great deal of respect and prestige and are considered the pinnacle of the public accounting profession. At the same time, it is universally agreed that these firms, and the public accounting profession in general, owe a debt to the public trust. While they work directly for the companies that hire them, they also provide invaluable services to the community at large.

Who are the Big Four?

The Big 4 accounting firms provide a wide range of accounting and consulting services, but are perhaps best known for the auditing services they perform for companies that offer publicly traded securities.

The Big Four are:

Each firm is actually a network of member firms with offices in many cities worldwide. Each of the Big Four has approximately 100 offices located throughout the U.S. alone.

There are also hundreds of small to medium-sized professional accounting and CPA firms in cities across the country, most of which practice within one state or within a targeted region.

The Formation of the Big Four

For the better part of the 20th century, the largest international accounting firms were known as the “Big Eight,” but by 2002 a series of mergers, as well as a well-publicized scandal, reduced this list to the “Big Four.”

One need only recall the Enron and WorldCom accounting scandals of 2001 and 2002 to understand the damage that can be done when public accounting professionals fail to fulfill their duties to their clients and to the public. As a result of accounting fraud committed by Enron and WorldCom, both major publicly traded organizations went bankrupt, employees lost their jobs and their pensions, and investors sustained massive losses on the stock market.

In addition, the reputation of the major accounting firm Arthur Andersen LLP was tarnished because of its role in auditing Enron and WorldCom, and, consequently, it was dissolved.

Writing Your Accounting Resume

Writing an accounting resume has no hard and fast rules. The most important thing is to focus on presenting your skills, certifications, areas of expertise, and specific accomplishments in an appealing and easy-to-read format. However, following some best practices for resume writing can help in creating a concise, easily scanned resume that potential employers are sure to respond to.

Although traditional wisdom says to keep a resume to one page, a two-page resume is fine if you have lots of experience. Just don’t pad the resume by including anything that isn’t highly relevant. A resume is a marketing document, and it needs to be well-formatted, proofread, consistent, and informative to make a good impression on hiring managers.

Objective Statements are Out

Putting an objective statement on a resume is old-school and discouraged by most resume-writing experts. The problem is that objective statements can be too general to be useful, too specific and limiting, or too focused on the job seeker’s needs, rather than the company’s needs.

When initially scanning a resume, managers are looking for factual information that helps them decide whether to weed you out or contact you. Stick to the facts and skip the fluff.

Summary of Experience or Professional Profile

The first item on your accounting resume, after your name and contact information, should be a paragraph that summarizes experience and presents key qualifications.

A reverse chronological order resume starts with the most recent employer, listing basic job responsibilities and quantifiable accomplishments for each employer. Professional experience can also include any volunteer work you’ve done, if it’s relevant

Potential employers want to see results of work, not just a description of what was done. For example: Increased cash flow by $5 million by reducing outstanding receivables from 51 to 16 days would present very well on an accounting resume.

You know what you’ve done – be honest, but make it shine.

Skills Summary or Core Competencies or Areas of Expertise

The purpose of the Skills Summary, Core Competencies, or Areas of Expertise section is to highlight your specific knowledge and skills. This section contains a list of keywords that describes your experience. A bulleted list works well.

Because so many employers and staffing agencies enter resumes into a database and then search for keywords when looking to fill a specific job, choosing the best keywords is very important. A few examples of keywords that would work well on an accounting or CPA resume are as follows:

List relevant education. This doesn’t just include undergraduate or graduate work that you may have completed, but can also include any continuing professional education (CPE) you completed in the course of satisfying requirements for CPA licensure and maintenance.

It is wise to highlight any CPE completed that is particularly relevant to the job being pursued. Calling attention to CPE you’ve completed in ethics and business would present well to any employer, for any job.

In the case of CPE being completed for specialty certification such as Certified Financial Analyst (CFA), Certified Management Accountant (CMA) or Certified Internal Auditor (CIA), it is best to present the courses, workshops or seminars that were most closely related to the field of practice.

What to Leave Off

Avoid including personal information, such as marital status or hobbies, unless a hobby pertains directly to the type of job you’re applying for. If a hobby is relevant to a specific job, it can be mentioned in the cover letter.

It is also wise to avoid providing a rundown of your salary history, as this can come off as presumptive to hiring managers. It could also give hiring managers too much information that could potentially undercut the salary you might have been offered otherwise.

Also, avoid including references, or even the statement “References available upon request”–wait for a potential employer to ask for references. This will help you to present yourself confidently on your own merits, rather than showing that you rely on the “the people you know.”

The History of Accounting

It is believed that the very origins of writing itself may have developed out of early marks used to keep account of goods at ancient warehouses more than 5,300 years ago. The notion that pre-numerical counting systems pre-dated even written language didn’t come as a surprise to many historians and archeologists who have long since recognized that the history of human civilization is largely indistinguishable from the history of commerce.

The story of the origins of monetary systems and commerce help provide a historical account of the origins and progression of accountancy, as commerce and accounting have run parallel to each other since their respective beginnings. For this reason, the history of accounting is often seen as indistinguishable from the history of finance and business.

Ancient Accountants of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome

Ancient Egyptian bookkeepers kept meticulous records of the inventory of goods kept in royal storehouses. The accuracy of these records was assured by the swift and severe penalty that came if mistakes were ever discovered.

Archeologist Dr. Gunter Dreyer of the German Institute of Archaeology discovered 5,300-year-old bone labels inscribed with marks and attached to bags of oil and linen in the Abydos, Egyptian tomb of King Scorpion I.

Describing inventory owners, amounts, and suppliers, these labels of antiquity are known to be the ancient origin of the counting systems that would eventually develop into the sophisticated accounting methods we’re familiar with today.

Other ancient societies also used accounting methods, including scribes in Mesopotamia who kept records of commerce on clay tablets. In ancient Greece, the account books of bankers show that they changed and loaned money and helped people make cash transfers through affiliate banks in other cities. In ancient Rome, government and banking accounts grew out of records kept by the heads of families.

14th Century – Double-Entry Bookkeeping

The most important event in accounting history is generally considered to be the dissemination of double-entry bookkeeping by Luca Pacioli in 14th century Italy. Pacioli was much revered in his day, and was a friend and contemporary of Leonardo da Vinci.

In fact, the Italians of the 14th to 16th centuries are widely acknowledged as the fathers of modern accounting and were the first to commonly use Arabic, rather than Roman, numerals for tracking business accounts.

Pacioli described double-entry bookkeeping, and other commerce-related concepts, in his book De Computis et Scripturis – translated in English to Of Reckonings and Writings .

The book was translated into five languages within a century of initial publication. The fundamentals of bookkeeping methods used today have actually changed little since the days of Pacioli.

19th Century – The Beginnings of Modern Accounting in Europe and America

The modern, formal accounting profession emerged in Scotland in 1854 when Queen Victoria granted a royal charter to the Institute of Accountants in Glasgow, creating the profession of chartered accountant (CA) . Today, the longest standing societies of public accountants are found in Scotland.

In the late 1800s, chartered accountants from Scotland and Britain came to the U.S. to audit British investments. Some of these accountants stayed in the U.S., setting up accounting practices and becoming the origins of several U.S. accounting firms.

The first national U.S. accounting society was set up in 1887. The American Association of Public Accountants was the forerunner to the current American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).

20th Century – The Development of Modern Accounting Standards

The accounting profession in the 20th century developed around, at first, state requirements for financial statement audits, and then around Federal requirements created by securities acts passed in 1933 and 1934 (which created the Securities and Exchange Commission).

In the 1970s, Congress and SEC demands for more reliable and comparable financial reporting led to the founding of the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) in 1973. The FASB and the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) are now two of the main organizations responsible for establishing generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) in the U.S.

21st Century – Accounting Regulation in Modern Commerce

Beyond the industry’s self-regulation, the government also sets accounting standards, through agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission and laws such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, passed after the Enron and WorldComm accounting scandals.

The 21st century also saw the passage of the Dodd-Frank Act. The act contains 16 major areas of reform, including creation of the Financial Stability Oversight Council and the Volcker Rule that restricts banks from owning, investing, or sponsoring hedge funds, private equity funds, or any other type of proprietary trading operations that result in their own profit.

Looking to the Future

Accountants looking to the future have recognized that existing accounting principals in place in the United States known as the Generally Accepted Accounting Principals (GAAP), are likely to go the way of the dinosaurs at some point in the not too distant future. The global standard outside of the US is the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).

As global commerce continues to grow, efforts are underway to create consistent accounting standards across borders through the widespread adoption of IFRS by American businesses and accounting firms who wish to continue to participate in the global economy.

May 2020 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and labor market information for Accountants and Auditors is based on national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed April 2021.


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