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Accounting is a varied and growing field. Every business needs an accountant, and so the need for them is growing.
If you have been involved with bookkeeping for a while, you might want to consider taking accounting classes to take your career to the next level. While on the surface it may seem that bookkeeping is the same as accounting, there is a huge difference between the two. Each offer various job duties and potential career paths you may pursue.
Bookkeeping vs. Accounting
Bookkeeping is a method of recording the daily transactions of a business or organization. It is concerned with accuracy, and is vital to the business, but bookkeeping is ultimately a data entry position. It is worth noting that all accounting depends on accurate bookkeeping.
Accounting, on the other hand, is an information system that delves into interpreting and analyzing the raw data the bookkeeper has input to the books. The results of accounting practices can help in decision making for the executives in the enterprise. Since accounting deals with the raw data from bookkeeping in ways that help steer business decisions, accountants have a higher status in a corporation.
Bookkeeping is also a limited field. There may be larger bookkeeping departments, but they are likely on the wane. Technology is rendering much of the bookkeeper’s job obsolete, but accountants remain very important to every business. Consider how many transactions these days are handled electronically. Modern databases can aggregate all of that data and output it to a spreadsheet without the need of a data-entry bookkeeper.
Accounting is a varied and growing field. Every business needs an accountant, and so the need for them is growing. As for the variety in the field, consider the four areas of accounting:
- Public Accounting
- Management Accounting
- Governmental Accounting
- Internal Accounting
For this reason, if you are working as a bookkeeper, you might want to consider accounting classes to take your career to the next level. A career in accounting can take you wherever you want to go, from the top CEO position, to the IT department, criminal investigations or to help people and businesses with their taxes. Some of the possible jobs or career paths for those who have completes accounting classes and a degree program include:
- Forensic Accounting
- Internal Auditor
- Systems Auditor
- Government Accounting
- Chief Financial Officer
A forensic accountant works with criminal investigators to find evidence of white collar crimes. Cases may include those dealing with securities fraud, embezzlement, money laundering, tax evasion and any other sort of illegal financial activities. They must know the laws that govern the crimes they investigate and be knowledgeable of how to collect and handle evidence in a proper manner so that it can be admissible in court.
Forensic accountants might also work with defense teams and hold prosecutors accountable for the evidence they collect. An accountant who works for the defense might be able to show how there are multiple ways to interpret the data in evidence and so help to exonerate her client.
If you work for either a defense or prosecution team there is a good chance that you will have to testify in court. In fact, your ability to convince a jury with your delivery and simple explanations of complex ideas will help to further your career.
An internal auditor is an accountant who takes a step beyond the spreadsheets and bare numbers of bookkeeping and analyzes an entire organization. Frequently, an internal auditor works for the very same company he or she is auditing. As an auditor, you will look at all aspects of an organization and assess its overall efficiency from a ground-level view. You will be the eyes and ears for the top brass, who need an objective view and assessment of how their business is operating.
Auditors may also work as outside consultants for firms that are not large enough to keep a full-time team of auditors. In fact, the Big Four accounting firms have teams of consultants who do just this. Those firms also employ accountants to perform audits on information technology systems, for compliance and even environmental auditing.
This position seems out of character for an accountant, but those with more love of, and flair for, high technology will love combing through data logs and other computer files to assess the overall health and efficiency of a computer system. A system auditor must have experience working in an IT department and needs to know how to assess whether a system needs upgrades or other refinements. The auditor might also make recommendations for best practices regarding leaving workstations unmanned, password protection and Internet usage in a corporation.
To become a systems auditor, you will not only need ample accounting classes, but also computer science coursework as well.
This is a specialized area of accounting that holds government agencies and their contractors accountable to U.S. law governing appropriate expenditures. They might also perform audits to determine if any waste exists in the system and then make recommendations as to how that waste can be handled. For this sort of accounting, it may be necessary for the accountant to receive high-level security clearances because so much sensitive information can be stored on the books of a defense agency, for instance.
Also known as a comptroller, the controller is a management-level accountant whose job it is to manage other accountants. At this level, a controller is responsible for setting in place the policies and procedures for how the company’s accounting is to be handled. In a very large corporation, a controller might oversee a division or department and its accountants. For instance, a controller might oversee a particular product line within a company that sells many different items. Controllers make reports to the Chief Financial Officer who oversees all of the accountants.
Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
This job is quite possibly the ultimate title for an accountant. The CFO is ultimately responsible for all of the accountants in her company. He or she would receive reports from all of the management-level accountants, the comptrollers, and assess how the overall corporation is running. If there is trouble in a particular division, she might step in to work with the accountants in that area and perhaps perform a minor audit to help get them on track.
Now that you’re familiar with the types of accountant roles available, why not start researching accounting classes and degree programs so you can begin to prepare for your dream career.