Though accounting careers can take many forms, it’s helpful to understand the basic functions of some of the most common accounting professionals1.
Public accountants serve corporations, governments, and individuals through a broad range of accounting, auditing, tax, and consulting tasks. They can work for accounting firms or operate their own businesses and are commonly Certified Public Accountants (CPAs).
Management accountants analyze and record financial information privately for internal use by an organization. These professionals do not produce records for public use and are also referred to as cost, managerial, corporate, or private accountants.
Government accountants work directly for government organizations, examining and maintaining records as well as auditing private businesses that are subject to government regulations.
Internal auditors examine the management of their own organization’s funds and identify methods of improving internal financial processes. The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) provides generally accepted standards for internal auditing.
Information technology auditors work as internal auditors who are responsible for ensuring that financial data is reliable by reviewing controls for an organization’s computer systems.
Positions in Demand
Accounts receivable/payable professionals
Business and business systems analyst
Advisory services associate
Certified public accountant
Corporate finance management associate
Corporate tax associate
Necessary Professional Skills
To position themselves for success as professional accountants, students should be highly skilled in:
Attention to detail
"Things are getting more complicated versus less, and the business community looks to accounting professionals to interpret much of this. Strong analytical skills coupled with great communications abilities are unbeatable."
— Bill Walsh, director of the Joseph I. Lubin School of Accounting at Syracuse University's Martin J. Whitman School of Management
In addition to becoming CPAs, established accountants can earn other certifications to indicate their expertise2. These include:
Certified management accountant, or CMA
Certified internal auditor, or CIA
Certified financial services auditor, or CFSA
Certified information systems auditor, or CISA
Connections Through Professional Associations
Those who hold a master's in accounting or CPA licensure can join national professional associations that promote and advance the field of accounting: