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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 1.53 million workers were employed as accountants and auditors in 2022. Additionally, projections indicate that the field will grow on a national level over the next decade by 126,500 jobs each year between 2022 and 20321. Growth projected on a national level. Local growth will vary by location. BLS projections are not specific to DeVry University students or graduates and may include earners at all stages of their career and not just entry level.


Let’s take a look at this exciting industry as we dive into some of the accounting careers you can prepare to pursue in today’s business world.

What Does an Accountant Do?

Professionals in accounting careers can oversee different aspects of the day-to-day financial management and transactions 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, performing in-depth audits of financial documents to uncover weaknesses or discrepancies within a company's finances. Sometimes these professionals can be highly specialized to a certain field or discipline. A forensic accountant, for example, is a type of auditor who examines financial records to uncover evidence of fraud or embezzlement. 

Common Accountant Roles and Responsibilities

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

  • Preparing financial reports

  • Auditing companies and individuals

  • Reviewing financial operations of a business

  • Providing advice on how to reduce costs and increase revenue or 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 returns

What Skills Do Accountants Need?

To perform their duties effectively, accurately and efficiently, accountants must have demonstrable technical and workplace skills. These attributes are acquired as they fulfill the educational requirements for the occupation or through experience in the workplace.

Technical Skills

The technical skills accountants need can be acquired through a combination of classroom learning and on-the-job experience. A few of the important technical skills that are essential for accountants include:

  • Software proficiency: As the accounting profession continues to adopt various technologies, the use of software, from word processing and spreadsheet applications to specialized software used exclusively in the accounting field, is an essential technical skill.

  • Standard principles of accounting: The principles and procedures for gathering and reporting on financial data as outlined in the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) is an essential guide that every accountant must be familiar with.

  • Financial reporting: The process of documenting a company’s financial activities over specific time periods is referred to as financial reporting. This includes creating financial statements focused on specific objectives including tracking cash flow, evaluating assets and liabilities, analyzing shareholder equity and measuring profitability.

  • Quantitative analysis: In the financial services industry, quantitative analysis, or QA, is used to analyze investment opportunities. Accountants may deploy QA to examine metrics such as earnings per share or price-earnings ratios as part of a prudent investment decision-making process.

  • Market forecasting and modeling: In an advisory capacity, accountants may use forecasting techniques to determine how a company should allocate its budgets or plan for anticipated expenses for a specified time period. These projections and models are based on projected demand for the products or services the company offers.

Soft Skills

Because the regular duties of accountants go beyond mere number crunching, soft skills, which are sometimes referred to as workplace skills, are more important in the accounting field than you might think. A few of the essential soft skills needed by accountants include:

  • Strong communication skills: Accountants need to be effective communicators as they interact with clients, managers, upper-level executives or other accountants. Highly refined skills in this area help them to listen actively and express themselves verbally and in writing.

  • Time management: It’s typical for accountants to work on multiple assignments, which all have deadlines, demanding they be effective multitaskers. Time management skills also enable accountants and other financial services professionals to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

  • Problem-solving: The ability to identify and understand problems and formulate solutions is another essential skill for accountants, enabling them to determine why accounts aren’t balancing, improve record-keeping methods or overcome issues that may be the result of accounting errors. 

  • Critical thinking: This close relative of problem-solving is an important skill when accountants are called upon to make judgements. They must examine problems critically and make their decisions objectively, based on the financial information that is available to them.   

Accounting Careers by Skill Level

In the world of accounting, education and experience are important. Employers may look for professionals with an undergraduate accounting degree, although higher-level positions may require candidates to have a master’s degree, the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) or  Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certification and a CPA license. Luckily, some graduate programs include CPA and CMA exam preparation, helping you to prepare to pursue certification 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.1

Upper-Level Accounting Careers

Jobs in this category typically require more education and experience, such as a Master's Degree in AccountingMBA with a Specialization in Accounting, and some kind of certification. 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 with additional education and experience.
    • 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 very experienced in research and analysis, with the skills that help them 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 oversees the budgets of various departments while also providing annual 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 and who are interested in leading 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 provide financial advice to individual or institutional investors.
    • 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 money 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 findings to leadership.
    • Auditor: Auditors examine a company’s financial statements and records to ensure they are fairly presented and truly represent the financial position of the company. They may work within a company to conduct internal audits or work for a third-party provider as an external auditor for outside companies. 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 non-profit organizations. The Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) is a credential earned by accountants who’ve chosen to specialize in internal auditing.

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.

FAQs About Accounting

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

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.

Are accounting jobs growing?

es, there is growth projected for this field throughout the next decade, according to job outlook data from the BLS. Attributing this job growth to a strong economy and the continued globalization of business, the BLS projects employment of accountants and auditors to maintain steady growth at 4% from 2022 to 2032, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

The BLS further projects about 126,500 job openings each year, on average, during that timeframe.This growth is projected on a national level and local growth will vary by location. This projection is not specific to DeVry University graduates and may include earners at all stages of their careers.

The BLS expects the growth in employment of accountants and auditors to be closely tied to the health of the overall economy. Generally speaking, as the economy grows, these workers will be needed to prepare and examine financial records. As an increasing number of companies go public, there will be an increased need for public accountants to handle the legally required financial documentation.

Is accounting a stressful job?

Many people who are interested in preparing to pursue an accounting career wonder if it’s a stressful occupation. Any job comes with its periods of stress or increased activity. Managing tight deadlines, complying with strict regulations, maintaining accuracy in financial reporting and handling sensitive information can contribute to feelings of pressure.

But accounting professionals can take steps to manage stress by practicing effective time management, seeking the assistance of more experienced colleagues and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Exploring Accounting Careers?

If you’re thinking about preparing to purse an accounting career, we’re here to help. At DeVry, we offer a variety of online accounting degree programs designed with your career path, and your busy life, in mind.

Our 6 academic sessions per year allow you to start when you’re ready and learn at your own pace, finishing on a regular or accelerated schedule that meets your personal and professional goals.

1Credits and degrees earned from this institution do not automatically qualify the holder to participate in professional licensing exams to practice certain professions. Persons interested in practicing a regulated profession must contact the appropriate state regulatory agency for their field of interest. For instance, typically 150 credit hours or education are required to meet state regulatory agency education requirements for CPA licensure. Coursework may qualify for credit towards the State Board of Accountancy requirements. However, it is the student’s responsibility to contact the state board of accountancy for the jurisdiction in which they are applying to determine whether they have completed the appropriate credit hours and coursework to qualify to take the CPA exam. Employees of DeVry University and its Keller Graduate School of Management are not in a position to determine an individual’s eligibility to take the CPA exam or satisfy licensing. 
2Growth projected on a national level. Local growth will vary by location. BLS projections are not specific to DeVry University students or graduates and may include earners at all stages of their career and not just entry level.

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