Before you really delve in to what the field of accounting entails, you might think that tax return preparation is all accountants do. In fact, the field of accounting is broad and varied. There are plenty of accounting jobs that either don’t involve working with taxes at all or in which taxes are only one small part of the job duties. Don’t give up on this rapidly growing, well-paid and stable career just because you fear that a career working in taxes could be somewhat boring. Take a look at the other career paths for accountants, such as auditing, private accounting, forensic accounting and public accounting.
If accounting is the field of financial reporting, auditing is the specialization within accounting that involves examining financial statements and data. Auditors look for inaccuracies and inconsistencies or for evidence of financial resources being wasted, mismanaged or embezzled.
Auditors can be internal, employed or temporarily hired by the company whose financial statements they examine, or external, which means they are hired by clients to examine the company’s finances. Internal auditors may act almost as business consultants, identifying opportunities for the company to improve business operations and productivity. External auditors are not as invested in the company’s performance. They are more likely to be hired by investors, shareholders, trustees or authorities and to focus on checking the accuracy of the company’s financial data.
“A few” accounting schools offer specialized bachelor’s degree programs in internal auditing, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. However, most auditors start out with a general accounting degree, perhaps pursuing an academic concentration in auditing or studying the subject in more detail at the graduate level. Most bachelor’s degree programs in accounting include at least a course in auditing principles.
One specialized type of internal auditor is information technology auditor. This career path involves examining the controls used for a company’s computer systems that store financial data.
Private accounting refers to any type of accounting work in which the accountant creates financial reports for use by a private sector company, rather than those required by law. Private accountants are typically employed by the company and work in-house at the office during a regular work schedule.
Within private sector accounting career paths, there are different roles. Cost accountants are primarily concerned with expenses. Supply chain costs, materials costs, labor costs, production costs, shipping costs and administration costs are just some of the expenses that factor into a cost accountant’s analyses. Cost accountants use this data to develop budgets, analyze the organization’s profitability and look for ways to save the company money. Management accountants are involved in some of the same activities as cost accountants, such as budgeting, but their work focuses more on advising company leadership about strategic business decisions. Management accountants also have a hand in the company’s financial planning, risk management, external financial reporting activities and other activities that affect the organization’s big-picture strategic decision-making processes.
Cost and management accountants can benefit from earning professional certifications such as the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) credential, the Certified Cost Accountant (CCA) designation or even a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license.
While auditors may look for evidence of financial mismanagement, forensic accountants are the ones whose job is to follow the money to find evidence of criminal financial activity. These accounting professionals use their financial reporting and analysis skills to seek out evidence of fraud, embezzlement, money laundering and other white-collar crimes. Forensic accountants work in a variety of work settings, ranging from lawyers’ offices and law enforcement agencies to banks, insurance companies and financial institutions. Some forensic accountants even work for government organizations such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Forensic accountants can boost their earning potential by as much as 31 percent by earning the Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) credential, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE).
Public accounting is the opposite of private accounting, referring to the production of financial documents for purposes required by law. Naturally, taxes are one aspect of public accounting, but taxation is far from the only matter public accountants handle. They work with individuals, businesses and government entities and take on tasks such as creating the balance sheets companies are legally obligated to offer to prospective investors. Some go on to attain a CPA license that authorizes them to file reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for publicly-traded companies.
Public accounting firms offer a range of accounting services, including consulting services and auditing services.
What Is Tax Accounting Really Like?
Before you determine that tax accounting isn’t for you, you might want to consider what life in this career path is really like. Taxation is among the most popular career paths for graduates of a master’s degree program in accounting, according to U.S. News & World Report. Careers in taxation are also growing, which means students who pursue this path can enjoy better job prospects and opportunities for advancement.
For detail-oriented individuals who are hungry for knowledge, the complexity of taxation can increase job satisfaction. There is plenty to learn about the multifaceted subject, and as tax regulations keep changing, there will be opportunities to expand your knowledge throughout your career.