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What Does a Financial Accountant Do?

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  • Originally Written By: J. Allen
  • Revised By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 25 November 2016
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The specific day-to-day jobs of financial accountants can vary a lot depending on the work environment, but in general these professionals perform a range of accounting services for corporations and businesses. On a broad level, they help their organization get an overview of how it is progressing financially, and usually spend a lot of time preparing and analyzing financial documents. Accountants frequently perform audits of expenditures and accounting to look for efficiencies, errors, or loopholes. The analysis that these accountants prepare can help employers keep their books in order and plan for the future. Suggesting change also usually falls within this person’s responsibilities, and certain managerial duties are important as well, particularly in larger corporations.

Broad Importance of Financial Accounting

Financial accounting is a crucial part of most business operations. Managing cash flow, profit margins, and expenditures can be very complex but is usually essential to any company’s success. Accountants with this sort of expertise work within a corporate accountancy office to oversee and manage many different aspects of funds transfers and recording. They can sometimes be thought of as broadly focused accountants. Their main purpose is usually to look at financial record-keeping and projections as a whole, often with an eye toward the future; standard accountants, by contrast, are often more focused on immediate filing needs or short-term reports and summaries.

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Different Sectors and Specialties

There are usually a number of specialties accountants can choose, which also shapes their duties. Some choose to specialize in areas such as internal auditing, management, government accounting, and public accounting. It’s usually important for professionals to be aware of the nuances of each area, but it’s usually the case that they’re only expert in the realms in which they actually work every day.

A lot of this specialization is driven by the mission and size of the employer. Financial accounting specialists may work for the government, corporations, nonprofit organizations, or individuals. Government financial accountants usually maintain and examine government records by auditing individuals and businesses to ensure they abide by government regulations. These accountants are often employed by national, regional or local governments. Public financial accountants are usually Certified Public Accountants, or CPAs, and generally perform audit functions for clients. They are often self-employed and are typically hired by individuals and organizations to perform general accounting duties as well as audits.

Preparation of Reports and Recordkeeping

In addition to preparing financial reports and analysis for their employers, these professionals are also commonly responsible for making sure all records are accurately maintained and all taxes are paid for the business. Accountants also may help ensure that an employer has taken the appropriate financial measures to secure the company's assets.

Auditing Duties

Professionals with a specialty in internal auditing typically ensure the accuracy a company's records and checks for fraud and mismanagement. They normally review company operations and ensure that employees abide by the company's rules. Auditors also may help develop and implement solutions to correct mistakes. Solutions can include placing a cap on salaries, cutting operational expenses, reducing the workforce, or other reasoned cost-cutting measures.

Management and Oversight

More managerial tasks, like budgeting and performance evaluation, may also be part of the job, and some accountants help with cost and asset management on a broad level. Professionals in these roles typically work for large companies, and they often play a great role in strategic planning and development of an organization. A management accountant commonly prepares financial reports for stockholders, creditors, regulatory agencies, and tax authorities.

Getting Started in the Field

A financial accountant usually needs a bachelor's degree in accounting, finance, or some other business major, and master’s level education is often preferred. Acquiring a license as a CPA may give a job candidate more employment opportunities as well. In addition to formal education, experience is also usually considered valuable. Students are often encouraged to seek out internships, and new graduates sometimes find themselves accepting positions that may not be their top choice, but that will give them the necessary experience and training to advance at some future point.

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