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What does an Accountant do?

To be an accountant, you require a love of numbers, a fondness for reading reports, and an eye for details. While some accountants work on their own, the majority are part of a team. Working well with other people is equally important.

The role of an accountant

People who choose accounting as a career should possess the skill set for the following tasks:

  • Monitor the income and expenses of an organization.
  • Prepare profit and loss statements and reports to a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) or clients to establish profitability.
  • Analyze and correct reports for discrepancies.
  • Supervise the accounting department.
  • Explain billing procedures or other basic bookkeeping procedures to other staff, if needed.
  • Provide statements and reports to the internal or external auditing team.
  • Comply with federal, state and local tax guidelines.

Accounting education

Initial training can be gained by taking a two-year course in bookkeeping or accounting, but to practise as an accountant, a Bachelor’s degree is required. This degree can be in arts or science or any other discipline. If you’ve set your sights higher than a mere entry level job, earning a Bachelor’s degree in accounting and auditing is recommended.

Other than training in financial management and tax laws, an accounting degree teaches research skills, problem solving, knowledge of accounting technology and software, and project management.

If you’re looking to get a high paying job, you will have to earn a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certification. In 45 States, 150 semester hours are required after earning a Bachelor’s degree in order to apply for certification. With this certification you’ll have a distinct advantage in securing management jobs.

Job prospects

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects an increase of 22 percent in accounting and auditor positions. The best paying markets are identified as:

  • Tax preparation
  • Payroll services
  • Government (state and local)

Contrary to popular belief, not all accountants are geeks or nerds. Intelligence balanced with social skills allows many accountants to become partners in firms or executives such as a CFO or Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

What does a Financial Controller do?

If you are considering a career as a financial controller, you can expect excellent rewards in terms of salary and a varied and challenging range of responsibilities. But you can also expect to work hard to gain these benefits–with long hours and ongoing education being the norm for financial management occupations.

financial controller

Common duties of the financial controller’s career

Financial controllers play an important role in the financial management of the organization that employs them. They may be employed on a long-term basis, or hired on a short-term contractual basis to manage or advise on a specific issue or project.

The specific responsibilities of a Financial Controller depend upon the size of the organization for which they work and the sector in which it operates but, as a general rule, a financial controller’s job is to manage and report on the financial position of an organization by performing many duties:

  • Analyzing income and expenditure
  • Planning and forecasting financial transactions
  • Developing financial strategies
  • Setting targets and monitoring performance
  • Preparing financial reports

They may also oversee the work of other financial departments such as audit, accounting, and budgets, or activities specific to a certain industry such as lending, investments, or fund management.

Ongoing education for the control of others’ finances

The knowledge and skills required to undertake the responsibilities outlined above are developed through a combination of education and experience. You need at least a bachelor’s degree in a subject such as accounting, economics, or finance, and many financial controllers also hold a master’s degree or professional qualification plus several years experience in a finance role such as accounting.

Gaining professional certification can also help to further your career and find employment as a financial controller. There are many professional certification programs available:

  • Chartered Financial Analyst
  • Certified Treasury Professional
  • Certified Management Accountant

Financial controllers, like other financial managers, need to commit to ongoing education and training to ensure that they maintain their credentials and remain up-to-date with changing laws, regulations, and financial practices.

Career prospects for financial controllers

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 8 percent job growth for financial managers–about the same as average for all occupations. The increased demand created by a growing economy, increased globalization, and regulatory changes are expected to be offset by corporate downsizing, mergers and acquisitions.

Of course, job prospects and salaries vary across the country. The highest concentration of workers in financial management in the U.S. was in the District of Columbia, while the top-paying state for financial managers was New York.

payroll administrator

What does a Payroll Administrator do?

As a payroll administrator, you will be in charge of very important paperwork. As the name implies, you will ensure employees are paid. Specifically, your job will involve managing everything to do with payments, withholdings and time-off reporting. For instance, you will oversee some of the following:

  • Direct deposits
  • Benefits withholding
  • Payroll deduction, garnishments and levies
  • Flexible spending accounts
  • W-2s

Yes, a lot of paperwork. But thankfully, for you and the forests, much of this “paperwork” is being shifted to electronic files and systems. So you will spend a lot of work time on your computer. Therefore, it helps if you are computer proficient. If not, earning a certificate or degree in the field can help get you onboard.

payroll administrator

Payroll administrator: sometimes sticky business

Mostly, you will be dealing with rather cut-and-dry matters as a payroll administrator, right? You need to take the hours someone worked and pay them accordingly. But while you will undoubtedly manage all duties with ease, it is not as simple as this. You will need to keep track of paid leave, vacation and sick time in your hours-for-pay calculations. And sometimes, things can get a bit sticky for payroll administrators. Consider these real-case scenarios:

  • Year 2009: Ring any bells? This was a Leap Year, a time when employees around the globe were asking their payroll administrators: “Will I get an extra paycheck?”
  • Year 2011: Bernie Madoff, of Bernard Madoff Investment Securities LLC, was caught paying phantom employees. You would not have wanted to be Bernie’s payroll administrator.
  • Year Anytime: You are aware that one employee takes two hours for her one hour lunch break, while you see another employee on a televised baseball game the day he was home with “the flu”. Both employees are your friends. As a payroll administrator, what do you do?

Educating the payroll administrator

The first line of business: how to take the high road (even when friends are involved). Your education program should teach you all about payroll ethics and concerns. It should also teach you about computerized accounting and bookkeeping programs and other software needed for the job.

While some payroll administrators are trained on the job, employers are increasingly seeking those with certificates or degrees. A two-year associate degree in payroll administration, accounting, bookkeeping or related field could prepare you for the job. Once you find employment, you should consider earning the Certified Payroll Professional (CPP) certification. To become CPP certified, you will need to have worked in payroll for at least 18 months, successfully complete classes and pass an examination.

In addition to earning a decent salary, being a payroll administrator should earn you respect: after all, you will be the one who pays the bills.