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What Do Accountants Do? Explore Trending Accounting Careers

By DeVry University

October 19, 2020
5 min read

Accounting is a diverse, engaging and continuously growing field. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) an estimated 1.39 million workers are employed in accounting and auditing. Additionally, projections indicate that the field will grow on a national level by 135,000 jobs each year between 2020 and 20301. Let’s take a look at this exciting industry as we dive into some of the accounting careers you can pursue in today’s business world.

What Do Accountants Do?

Professionals in accounting careers can oversee different aspects of the day-to-day financial management of public companies, private firms, government agencies and nonprofit organizations. Typical roles might include tax preparation, bookkeeping, payroll, corporate accounting and consultancy. Virtually every company and industry leverages accounting professionals to keep their budgets, planning and payroll on track, making this a field that can offer a wide array of opportunity in different niche areas.

Some accountants also work within the auditing field. These accountants perform in-depth audits of companies in order to uncover weaknesses or discrepancies within a company's finances. They may also work for the government in order to find where companies and people are misreporting their finances.

Common Accountant Roles and Responsibilities

Accountants are responsible for a wide variety of tasks depending on their specialty or place of employment. Some responsibilities for accountants may include:

  • Preparing financial reports

  • Auditing companies and individuals

  • Reviewing financial operations of a business

  • Providing advice on how to reduce costs, improve business revenue and increase profits

  • Researching new accounting practices to implement into a business

  • Advising managers on which financial projects should be canceled or pursued

  • Preparing and filing tax documents

How Much Does an Accounting Professional Make?

Accounting career salaries will typically fluctuate based on your education level, experience and the area you live in – as well as the specific accounting career path you choose to take. To learn more about potential accounting career salaries, visit

Accounting Careers by Skill Level

In the world of accounting, education and experience are important. Oftentimes, employers may look for professionals with an undergraduate accounting degree, although higher-level positions may require a master’s degree as well as CPA license. Luckily, some graduate programs include CPA preparation, helping you to prepare to pursue the CPA credential simultaneously with your degree.

Take a look at some of the common job titles below and see which ones best align with your career goals.

Upper-Level Accounting Careers

Jobs in this category typically require more education and experience, such as a graduate degreeMBA in accounting, and a CPA credential. These higher-level accounting careers can include:

  • Controller:

    This leadership position oversees other accounting areas with general responsibility for cost control, profit and loss, audit, financial reporting and related tasks. In some cases, individuals in a controller position can potentially progress to a CFO (Chief Financial Officer) position.

  • Director of Corporate Strategy:

    Strategy and planning play a critical role in the fiscal health and success of any organization. Individuals along this career path are experts in research and analysis, with the ability to forecast trends and advise the executive team. Some corporate strategy professionals work for third-party firms and serve as outside consultants to one or more clients.

  • Budget Director:

    The budget director has responsibility for overseeing the budgets of various departments and functions, while also providing annual and periodic budget and cost containment plans for the enterprise at large. This is a good career option for people interested in financial forecasting and situational analysis, who also have the people skills to lead a team of budget analysts.

  • Accounting Manager:

    Accounting managers advise on budgets and forecasts, manage day-to-day accounting responsibility with oversight for smaller accounting teams and analyze a company’s balance sheets.

  • Treasurer:

    The treasurer is responsible for the management of cash within an organization, as well as overseeing any financial risks that may exist.

Mid-Level Accounting Careers

Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting can provide the foundation for understanding business operations, economics, accounting information systems, tax considerations and management – and is often required for most mid-level accounting positions. These roles can include:

  • Financial Analyst:

    As a financial analyst, you might advise an organization on investment opportunities based on analysis of financial data, economic trends, valuation and other variables. Some financial analysts work for investment firms and advise individual or institutional investors on strategies to achieve the best returns.

  • Credit Analyst:

    Credit analysts are typically employed by banks, credit card companies, mortgage lenders and investment firms. The primary function of the job is to analyze the credit worthiness of individuals or entities seeking to borrow funds in line with certain repayment terms.

  • Budget Analyst:

    The role of budget analyst centers on reviewing budget proposals, conducting cost-benefit analyses and recommending appropriate funding levels. They will also prepare periodic and annual reports and present their finding to leadership.

  • Auditor:

    Auditors may work for a company to conduct internal audits or be employed by a third-party provider that conducts audits for outside companies. One of the key roles of the auditor is to examine a company’s financial statements and records to ensure they are fairly presented and truly represent the financial position of the company. There is an opportunity to specialize your auditing career by discipline (tax, risk, fraud, etc.) or by industry such as public accounting, government auditing or not-for-profit organizations.

Entry-Level Accounting Careers

Graduates with an Associate Degree in accounting or a related field often study accounting principles, budgeting, data analysis and forecasting business financial trends, making them a good potential fit for entry level accounting roles. Examples include:

  • Financial Clerk:

    As a financial clerk, you can use your essential skills to embark on an administrative career in bookkeeping, accounting or auditing. You will need to be comfortable with technology, as new innovations in automation streamline tasks and minimize manual labor. Financial clerks can be found at organizations of all sizes and in virtually every industry sector.

  • Junior Staff Accountant: 

    As a junior staff accountant, you can expect to help your organization maintain financial records, analyze balance sheets and post journal entries. You may also be tasked with preparing special reports and reconciling bank accounts.

Do you have to be good at math to be an accountant?

Being good at math is certainly helpful, as the profession involves daily calculations, but thanks to accounting software, it's more necessary to be well-organized and understand the fundamentals than it is to be stellar at mathematics.

What is the workplace like for an accounting job?

Accounting job workplaces can actually vary widely depending on your job position. Every company offers a different setup, with some accountants working in office settings or even remotely. Accountants may work for themselves, in government agencies, finance, insurance or for corporations.

Get Started in Accounting

Having a wide array of accounting careers to choose from gives you many options when pursuing your personal goals. If you love working with numbers, analyzing data and making data-driven decisions, we can help you get on the path towards your future. At DeVry University, we offer a wide variety of accounting courses and programs. Some of the more popular accounting programs include:

Learn more about our accounting degree programs.

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