Accounting provides the information necessary for evaluating the present and planned activities of complex organizations. It includes diverse services to individuals, business entities, and governments at all levels. Professional accountants develop and apply their skills in auditing, taxation, management policy, information systems, computer operations, and many other areas. As a result, accounting is currently a leading growth profession throughout the world. With instant communication facilities, easy international travel, and expanding world trade, accounting services have grown in scope and importance. Many Certified Public Accountant (CPA) firms and companies have extensive international operations.
New concepts and techniques are constantly being developed. The use of electronic data processing systems has relieved accountants of many of the routine tasks which were formerly performed manually. At the same time, the computer has increased the demand for skilled accountants to assist management in analyzing and summarizing the massive amounts of data generated. The computer has greatly increased accounting's effectiveness and has created new opportunities and challenges.
For more information about the Accounting major and minor, see the Undergraduate Bulletin.
Career Opportunities in Accounting
Professional accounting careers are open to men and women of all nationalities and creeds. Success requires motivation, a commitment to service, and skill in communication and analysis. Also important are the abilities to work well with others, to think abstractly, and to solve problems systematically.
The presidents and board chairs of many of the nation's largest corporations are accountants. Other business leaders with accounting backgrounds include financial vice presidents, treasurers, controllers, budget directors, internal auditors, cost analysts, and tax specialists.
Few career fields offer as wide a variety of positions as accounting. Every institution, regardless of its size or organization, has an accounting function and requires the services of skilled professionals. Three primary career paths are discussed below.
- U.S. Department of Labor - Accounting/Auditors
- Public Accounting
About half of the nation's CPAs work in the field of public accounting. CPAs work for both large and small firms, offering their services to businesses, industries, and individuals who contract for their services on a fee basis. The principal specialties within public accounting are:
- Auditing - CPAs examine clients' financial statements and express a professional opinion on the fairness of the presentation. Investors, consumers, creditors, and other interested parties rely on accountants' opinions in using the audited financial statements for making decisions.
- Tax Advisory Services - Tax accountants have broad responsibilities, including tax advice and planning, preparing tax returns and supporting documents, representing clients before governmental agencies, and helping clients comply with tax laws.
- Management Advisory Services - Companies engage independent CPAs for assistance on such matters as devising reporting systems for better control and decision making, installing cost accounting systems or computer operations, improving production control mechanisms, and developing organizational plans and defining duties and responsibilities.
- Management Accounting
Management accountants are trained to determine the financial effects of contemplated management actions to achieve the objectives of an organization. Management accountants' responsibilities include preparing records and reports on which operational planning and control depend. These reports and analyses are essential ingredients of most decisions about finance, investments, and pricing policies. Management accountants participate in virtually every phase of business problem solving and decision making and are usually members of the top management group.
- Not-for-Profit Accounting
The need for financial measurement, reporting, and control over the activities of governmental, educational, religious, and charitable agencies is now fully recognized. The public sector of our economy has grown greatly in the last quarter century. Noncommercial organizations, as they become more affected by inherent requirements for financial reporting and controls, need professional accountants.
The federal government hires accountants in many of its agencies, such as the Internal Revenue Service, the FBI, General Accounting Office, and the Defense Contract Audit Agency. The Internal Revenue Service, among other things, audits individual and company tax returns. The General Accounting Office is the audit arm of the U.S. Congress; it assists in investigations to determine policy compliance and performs a broad range of other activities. The Defense Contract Audit Agency concentrates on audits of defense contractors and their operations.Additional career possibilities are found in college and university teaching and in providing private consultation services.