When you think of an accountant, whom do you picture? Most people would envision a frazzled business professional tirelessly working to file their clients’ tax claims. Accountants and taxes often go hand-in-hand.
But you may be surprised to learn that there are several different types of accountants out there who don’t just work with taxes all day. So if you like the idea of working with numbers, but not thrilled about the thought of filing taxes, you’re in luck!
It turns out you can still take advantage of the exciting earning potential and faster-than-average job growth. Keep reading to familiarize yourself with some lesser-known types of accountants. Who knows? Your future job title may be featured in this list.
9 types of accountants you may not know about
Accounting professionals can find employment in all sorts of different work settings. You could become an insider on the upper floors of a Fortune 500 corporation, experience the adrenaline rush of an emerging entrepreneurial enterprise, bring order to the halls of government or fuel your passion at a mission-driven nonprofit.
If an organization works with money in any capacity, it needs an accountant on staff. Here are some examples of the different types of accountants out there:
1. CPA: Certified Public Accountant
Certified Public Accountants (CPA) are upper-level accountants who are recognized as experts in an organization’s accounting records, taxes and financial standing. While some of their work does involve taxes, their involvement tends to be more in-depth than just working with taxes.
A CPA’s role is that of a trusted advisor, helping their clients plan and meet their financial goals, while also assisting in other fiscal matters. This could include audits and reviews, forensic accounting, consulting and/or litigation services.
In order to become a CPA, you must first earn a bachelor’s degree from an accredited accounting program and obtain certification by passing the Uniform CPA Examination.
2. Forensic accountant
Forensic accountants are the detectives of the accounting world. These professionals analyze financial records to ensure they’re compliant with standards and laws. Conversely, forensic accountants are brought in to uncover errors, omissions or outright fraud.
A forensic accountant must possess a unique skillset, combining the mind of a “numbers person” with the curiosity of an investigator. They typically work in either investigation or litigation support. In some cases, forensic accountants can serve as expert witnesses in court proceedings.
In order to land this position, you’ll need to earn a bachelor’s degree in accounting. Upon graduating, you’ll also likely be required to acquire some certification. Most forensic accountants earn a CPA credential. You may even consider becoming a certified fraud examiner (CFE).
Auditors are the accuracy experts in an organization. Many organizations, from commercial businesses to non-profits, are required to conduct an annual audit to ensure records are precise. Auditors are typically brought in from outside of an organization to analyze numbers without any preconceived bias.
These accounting professionals are tasked with examining financial statements, inspecting account books and accounting systems, organizing and maintaining fiscal records and assessing financial operations to provide recommendations for improvement. Some auditors specialize in a particular area or industry.
To become an auditor, you’ll need to earn a bachelor’s degree in accounting. Earning an accounting certification often improves your job prospects as well.
4. Management accountant
When making important strategic decisions, business leaders need to know the status of an organization’s financial health and how it could be affected. It’s the responsibility of management accountants to provide this information so that sound decisions can be made regarding a company’s future.
Some common duties of a management accountant are planning and budgeting, external financial reporting, risk management, profitability analysis and much more. In addition to technical accounting skills, these professionals must possess the ability to organize information and present it in a way that is simple for business executives to comprehend.
The first step toward becoming a management accountant is to earn an accounting bachelor’s degree. You’ll also need to pass an exam to become a certified management accountant (CMA).
5. Cost accountant
Businesses are always trying to improve their processes in effort to save money. This is precisely what cost accountants help with. They are responsible for examining every expense associated with a company’s supply chain to conduct a profitability analysis and budget preparation.
They analyze every cost related to labor, materials, shipping, production, administration and more. This information is then compiled and communicated to business leaders to help them identify ways in which they can improve financial efficiency.
Cost accountants must be equipped with a bachelor’s degree in accounting or finance and be in possession of strong math and statistics skills. It’s also recommended to acquire a standard licensure, such as a CPA credential, or a specialized licensure, such as the Certified Cost Accountant (CCA) accreditation.
6. Government accountant
Government comes in many forms. In addition to the federal government, there is state, county, city and several types of district government. What’s one thing they all have in common? They need accountants to keep track of money.
These professionals have the duty to make sure hard-earned taxpayer money is spent in a wise and prudent way. They also help government agencies plan out their activities for a fiscal year. Some government accountants are employed for agencies like the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and are responsible for auditing private businesses and individuals.
These accounting professionals must possess at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting. Many government accountants also hold a master’s degree in accounting, finance, taxation or business administration.
7. Project accountant
A project accountant is one who works on a project-by-project basis. This person oversees all aspects of a project that might affect the overall cost, including preparing and collecting invoices, approving expenses, verifying employees’ billable hours, planning and maintaining budgets and ensuring the team is meeting project deadlines.
There are many types of projects that a project accountant may work on, everything from a new product launch to the construction of a new facility. Project accountants typically work with project managers and other professional colleagues, so strong communication and interpersonal skills are necessary.
Most project accountants hold at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting. Some employers prefer hiring candidates who have also obtained other certification, such as a CPA or CMA credential.
8. Investment accountant
Investment accountants work in the fast-paced fields of finance and investment. Investment accountants typically work for brokerage and asset management firms. These accountants become keenly knowledgeable about stocks, bonds, ETFs, currencies, precious metals and other investment vehicles.
The primary responsibility of an investment accountant is to maintain their clients’ investments while adhering to state regulations. They may also play a role in helping develop their firm’s key financial strategy.
Investment accountants must hold at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance, economics or business. Many also go on to earn their CPA credential and some also choose to become Personal Financial Specialists (PFS).
9. Staff accountant
Staff accountant is one of the most common job titles in the field—they are the generalists of the accounting world. They have a wide variety of responsibilities, which can include preparing financial statements, maintaining a company’s general and subsidiary accounts, performing account reconciliations, maintaining payroll records, cash management and supervising clerical employees.
Generally speaking, staff accountants employed at small businesses tend to have more bookkeeping duties. Those working for large companies may find themselves performing more supervisory duties. The specific job duties will vary greatly depending on the position.
Earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting is the typical requirement to become a staff accountant. Any additional education or certification could also improve job prospects.
A number of opportunities
You’re probably relieved to learn there are many types of accountants out there who do more than just file taxes. With a little research, you can find the position that perfectly aligns with your skills and interests.
But, as you saw above, earning a bachelor’s degree is generally the first step regardless of which type of accountant you’d like to become. Learn more about the value of this formal education in our article, Is an Accounting Degree Worth it or Worthless?