Education and Training: Undergraduate degree followed by certification with a professional accounting association.
Average Salary: $80,000
Job Outlook: Excellent
A financial accountant is fully trained and qualified as an accountant, but has chosen to specialize in this type of accounting. A financial accountant is primarily concerned with the preparation of financial statements for organizations, and prepares the information contained in reports, which is used by people outside the organization, or those who are not involved in the day to day running of the organization, in order to make sound economic decisions.
These reports provide a summary of financial data taken from the company’s accounting records and the reports can be prepared annually, or can be published more frequently. Clients may include banks, employees, government agencies or stockholders.
In addition financial accountants must ensure that firms are run efficiently and that records are kept correctly, and that taxes are paid on time. Some accountants may offer other specialized services such as budget analysis, information technology consulting and financial and investment planning.
Financial accountants are governed by strict accounting standards, and the reports produced enable management or other entities to make decisions or to plan for the future based on the information given in the report. Financial accounting follows Generally Accepted Accounting Principles guidelines.
Education and Training Requirements
Anyone wishing to become an accountant needs to have obtained an undergraduate degree in any major, with 150 credit hours of coursework. These 150 credit hours must contain a minimum of 36 credit hours in accounting.
Accountants belong to professional accounting associations, and the primary association in the US is the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), and this organization prepares the Uniform CPA Examination which must be passed in order to become a certified public accountant.
The exam is quite rigorous, and only about 10% of those taking the exam pass it the first time, and it takes around 18 months to complete after the standard educational requirements. A lot of students choose to obtain a Master’s degree in accounting in order to help them meet their educational requirements.
Getting the Job
Your first job is likely to be in a public accounting firm in an entry level position which are open to new business graduates. You may well have completed an accounting internship in college, and key factors before hiring include your major in college, grades, and communication skills. It’s likely your first jobs will be the auditing of businesses which enables you to really learn the job inside out.
Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development
Job prospects for accountants are excellent, and the field is still expanding as accountants always seem to be in short supply. There were an estimated 1.3 million jobs for accountants in 2008. It’s one of the few careers that remain plentiful even when the economy is weak.
Financial accountants are perfectly placed to understand what drives business and profits within the company, and the ambitious have considerable scope for career development. Anyone serious about developing their career will probably need to work for a Master’s degree in accounting, as this will open up considerably more career opportunities.
Working Conditions and Environment
Working conditions for financial accountants are extremely good, as they are always likely to be in well-equipped and comfortable offices. Although hours may be longer at certain times of the year, depending on the financial calendar, mostly there will be a standard 40 hour week, with no evening and weekend work being required.
Salary and Benefits
An accountant just starting their career can expect to earn around $46,000, and the average salary for a financial accountant with four years’ experience is around $80,000, although those who achieve partnership for one of the larger firms may earn in excess of $1 million.
Salaries tend to be slightly lower in government agencies, and are slightly higher in major cities. Benefits are likely to include paid vacation, sick leave, and medical insurance benefits, although those in private firms may receive bonuses.
Where to Go for More Information
American Institute of Certified Public Accountants,
1211 Ave. of the Americas
New York, NY 10036
Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business
777 South Harbour Island Blvd., Ste. 750
Tampa, FL 33602
National Association of State Boards of Accountancy
150 Fourth Ave. N, Ste. 700
Nashville, TN 37219-2417