Accountants help to ensure that firms are run more efficiently, particularly from a financial point of view; that a country's public records are kept accurately; and that taxes are paid properly and on time. An accountant's job is to compile, analyze, and evaluate financial information. This includes the completion of entries into accounts, such as general ledger accounts used for documenting business transactions.
Accountants detail assets, liabilities, and capital in order to prepare a balance sheet, profit and loss statements, and other reports for the individual company employing them. The accountant's pivotal role in business is the reason why they rise fairly quickly to senior management positions. Chartered accountants, because of their rigorous training, are most in demand. Accounting graduates with lower qualifications will probably work as accounting officers and will not usually rise to the same levels of seniority.
Computers are rapidly changing the nature of the work of most accountants. With the aid of special software packages, accountants summarize transactions in standard formats for financial records and organize data in special formats for financial analysis. These accounting packages greatly reduce the amount of tedious manual work associated with data and record-keeping. Personal and laptop computers enable accountants to be more mobile and to use their clients' computer systems to extract information from large mainframe computers. As a result of these trends, a growing number of accountants have extensive computer skills and specialize in correcting problems with software or in developing software to meet unique data needs.
Accountants can either specialize (see below) or become generalists such as Financial Managers.
Fields of Specialization include:
Accounting: "Pure" accounting work comprises the preparation of financial statements, the giving of advice about accounting systems, budgets, cash flow and the improvement of profit margins.
Cost Accounting: This is the field of calculation of expenses and the implementation and development of cost-accounting measures.
Tax Specialist: A tax specialist gives advice concerning tax matters, such as the determination and legal saving of tax.
Computer Science: This field especially comprises the development and implementing of programs for electronic information processing, the planning of financial models and the giving of advice regarding hard- and software purchases.
Planning & Management: Planning is an important management function. Planning macro- and micro-level, long- and short-term forecasts, feasibility studies and the financial planning of new projects must be carried out continuously. Management also includes administration, secretarial, financial and various other facets of business management.
Accountants use the following types of equipment and materials: computers, telephones, fax machines, financial reports, accounts, stationery, e-mail and the Internet.
Accountants usually work in comfortable office environments. When self-employed, they could work from home and would only need to travel to clients' business premises and offices.