How to Become a Public Accountant

Public accounting is a type of accounting that is usually most recognized to majority of people. Public accountants are trained professionals that perform a wide range of accounting, tax, auditing, and consulting tasks for a variety of clients.

What does a public accountant do?

Public accountants perform activities for many different clients such as individuals, corporations, small businesses, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies. Some public accountants focus on tax tasks and offer advice about the tax pros and cons of specific decisions. Many also help prepare and file income tax returns. Other public accountants provide advice on employee health care benefits, compensation, ways to protect assets, and the development of accounting systems. Some also provide advice on investment banking, legal matters, and retirement accounts. They often manage financial information and perform tasks designated by their clients.

What kind of training does a public accountant need?

Public accountants typically need at least a bachelor degree in accounting, business, or other related field. Some employers prefer applicants with a master degree in accounting or business management. Most employers provide new public accountants with on the job training where they work with experienced public accountants. Many public accountants gain the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation to remain competitive in the field. Certification requirements include minimum education and experience and passing a national examination. Many professional associations offer continuing education courses, seminars, and conferences for public accountants to keep up to date on the current advancements and improve their skills.

What are the prospects for a career as a public accountant?

Employment of all accountants is expected to grow faster than average for all professions, increasing 18% from 2006 to 2016 (1). The growing population and increase in the number of businesses and companies will drive job growth.

Job prospects are expected to be good especially for public accountants with extensive experience and professional certifications. Many job openings will arise from the need to replace public accountants that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do public accountants make?

As of December 2009, public accountants with less than 1 year experience earn average annual salaries between $39,933 and $51,898. Those with 1 to 4 years experience earn average annual salaries between $43,775 and $57,896 (2).

A career as a public accountant is a great choice for individuals with a strong interest in performing a wide range of accounting tasks. Public accountants must have a solid understanding of accounting principles and the ability to apply them to many different activities. Mathematical aptitude, critical thinking, problem solving, organization, and the ability to evaluate, compare, and understand facts and figures in a quick manner are essential characteristics. Public accountants must have excellent communication and interpersonal skills and the ability to interact with many different clients and other professionals. They must also have high standards of integrity and tact because they work with sensitive and confidential information.

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