Meg is a certified public accountant working for a large manufacturing firm in the southeastern United States. She has been working as an accountant since earning her Bachelor’s degree in public accounting and passing the certified public accounting exam 12 years ago.
Her first job out of college was at a public accounting tax firm where she did auditing work. She then moved into the private manufacturing side of accounting about five years ago. At her current place of business she started in the internal audit department doing forensics and then moved to the manufacturing department . She now works with costing new products as well as profitability analysis.
We interviewed Meg about what a typical day is like for an accountant as well as critical skills need in today’s changing marketplace. Here is what she had to say:
What is a typical day like for you?
Meg: “Well, that is a tough question because no two days are alike. I can tell you that I am challenged on a daily basis by adapting to new situations and making quick decisions. With new products being introduced constantly and old ones being retired I work in a fast-paced environment and have to be deadline oriented.
I also work with all departments within my company. I deal with payroll and human resources as well as marketing and sales, and finance. I have to be able to communicate tough accounting concepts to folks who do not speak the language of accounting.”
When hiring a new accountant what skills do you look for?
Meg: First, I look for communication skills and in a close second comes critical thinking skills. Accountants have to be able to use professional judgment to make decisions and communicate those decisions to others.
Adaptability is also important. Of course strong math and Spreadsheet skills are necessary for analysis. Accountants are also held to high standards by those depending on their judgments. High ethical standards are critical.”
You have worked in public and private accounting as well as auditing, tax, and manufacturing.
What are some other areas accountants may specialize in?
Meg: “Accountants may work in budgeting and analysis, payroll and benefits, and bookkeeping. They can manage assets, bank accounts, and investments as well as prepare financial statements and reports. They also may do extensive research and serve on decision making committees.
Depending on the area in which an accountant wants to work there is usually a certification exam. In public accounting I needed a CPA but I am now studying for the certified managerial accountant exam. There are bookkeeping exams, payroll exams, and audit exams. The qualification to sit for one of these exams differs depending on the exam so accountants should research the requirements.”
What place does education hold in an accountant’s life?
Meg: “The need for continuing education cannot be overstated in the career of an accountant. Those earning an Associate’s degree can get a good job but in order to Advance to managerial positions, a Bachelor’s degree is now required.
Also, continuing education in one’s specialization is expected. Understanding new tax laws, international accounting standards, and payroll changes requires continuous education.”
Any last comments?
“Accounting is a challenging career with endless employment opportunities in any industry. Wherever there is money there are accountants. We no longer sit in cubes “counting beans”. We must possess teamwork skills, communication skills, and adaptability.”
About the Author: Kari Grittner, CPA Inactive, is a Program Coordinator and Instructor for the Accounting program at Rasmussen College at the Eagan, MN college campus. She has worked in the field of education for more than 18 years. Kari has a MBA in Accounting from Benedictine University. Kari has been the subject matter expert in developing several online management and accounting courses. She has served on the committee charged with redesigning the accounting program and helping students to prepare for the next generation in accounting.
**Meg is a fictional character made up by the author to portray a common day-in-the-life of an accountant.