What does an Accountant do? A job description and career advice
by Bessie Hassan
Posted: August 12, 2019
Accounting is a whole lot more than crunching numbers, balance sheets and tax returns. But what exactly does an Accountant do?
If you're here investigating the duties of an Accountant, you're probably trying to understand what an Accountant does or how they can help your business. You may even be considering if it’s the right career path for you.
Whether you’re here to satisfy your curiosity or whether you’re contemplating an exciting future in accounting, we’re here to help you understand the industry.
Read on to get a better grasp of an Accountant's job description, get accounting career advice from the professionals, learn what accounting qualifications are out there and find out about the job prospects in Australia.
What does an Accountant actually do?
As an asset to any business, Accountants are responsible for analysing, interpreting and reporting on financial matters.
“In an accounting practice, we prepare financial reports and tax returns for a wide range of businesses. We also advise people who are starting businesses, by preparing budgets and advising them how to solve problems they encounter,” says Ian Robinson Harris, Director at B+I Lockwood Accountants Pty Ltd.
Above all else, Accountants are skilled problem solvers and strategic advisors that can add significant value to both businesses and individuals.
“Many Accountants in practice are also able to advise owners how to make their businesses more profitable,” explains Ian. Typically, Accountants carry out tasks such as:
- Providing advice on the financial health of a business
- Reviewing profit and loss statements
- Ensuring taxes are paid on time
- Troubleshooting cash flow problems
- Chasing unpaid invoices
Obviously, a day in the life of an Accountant will vary depending on the structure of the organisation.
For instance, Tax Agents help people with tax returns and other tax-related matters. This may involve helping people maximise their deductions or ensuring a client’s tax return is compliant.
On the other hand, Accountants are responsible for managing financial assets and providing relevant advice.
What career prospects are there for an Accountant?
According to Job Outlook, over the past 5 years, the number of accounting jobs has grown strongly and healthy industry growth is expected in the future. New jobs and turnover from workers leaving may create more than 50,000 job openings over the 5 years to 2020. Additionally, the mix of industries employing Accountants is favourable for employment growth prospects.
There is a diverse range of roles and positions available in the accounting sphere, such as:
- Accountant (general)
- Tax Accountant
- Management or Cost Accountant
- Finance Accountant
- Finance Manager
Each accounting job description or role will depend on the specific industry and will often be unique. Learn more about the diverse range of options available via our handy accounting infographic.
What accounting courses are available?
Accountants tend to have good job security, as long as they remain up to speed with relevant industry knowledge and skills. At Open Colleges, there’s a range of accredited accounting and finance courses that can support your learning (plus, you’ll be with some of the brightest minds in the industry!)
Whether it’s a Certificate IV in Accounting and Bookkeeping, Accounting Principles Skill Set, a BAS Agent Registration Skill Set, or something else, there are several courses and pathways to choose from that will help you take the next step in your accounting career.
Read up and research the variety of Accounting and Finance courses to decide what suits your personal needs best. If you need some extra guidance, consider speaking to an Enrolment Consultant to help you decide which course is right for you.
What professional development is required?
When deciding what skills to focus on in your professional development, it’s important to think about your future plans and goals, and industry-specific skills.
"Intermediate to advanced Microsoft Excel is almost a prerequisite for hiring managers these days. The ability to embrace new systems and business intelligence software really make Accountants more valuable to the business as the need for instant information becomes more important,” says Geoff Balmer, Director at Richard Lloyd.
“Yes, we are seeing increasing demand from our clients for accounting software skills. Employers are now looking for candidates who can hit the ground running when they start in a role, without having to spend time on training," adds Susan Drew, Senior Regional Director of Hays Accountancy & Finance.
In Australia, the largest accounting body is the CPA which requires members to pursue continued professional development throughout their career.
Other industry bodies that ensure professional development for accountants include the Association of Accounting Technicians Australia, the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers, The Tax Institute and the Institute of Public Accountants.
Open Colleges' students can sometimes enjoy a 12 to 24-month student membership at some of these bodies (another student perk!).
What other interpersonal skills do Accountants need?
"We want graduates that are great communicators, strong team players and innovative thinkers. We also want graduates from a variety of qualification backgrounds – not just accounting and commerce," says Helen Bobbitt, Campus Relations Consultant, KPMG.
“A reflective and analytical mind helps. You also have to have the ability to engage clients at any level and the capacity to express yourself clearly. A capacity to work with numbers is important, as well as an interest in business,” confirms Ian Robinson Harris.
Contemplating a career as an officially certified numbers guru? Learn more by exploring the Accounting and Finance courses from Open Colleges.