In order to become a private accountant, applicants must have a bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance, or business. Other degrees, such as a master’s degree or becoming certified as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), are helpful but not necessary. Private accountants need strong communication skills, basic accounting ability, organized work methods, proficiency with necessary computer programs, and knowledge of applicable laws.
A private accountant is employed by one company to deal with that company’s finances, as opposed to a public accountant, who works for multiple clients. He or she analyzes the company’s finances, makes budgets, audits the books, and reports on the company’s financial situation. In larger companies, accountants have specific duties, such as taxes and budgets. A private accountant in a small company may cover all aspects of accounting and even some bookkeeping.
The only qualification required to become a private accountant is often a bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance, or business, but many larger companies will only hire an accountant that is a CPA or Certified Management Accountant (CMA). To achieve either certification, an applicant must pass an exam and fulfill certain educational requirements. The requirements vary by region.
Many people first pursue a master’s degree in accounting (MAcc) or in business administration (MBA). The MAcc degree prepares people to work as an accountant, while the MBA prepares people for work as an accountant or other business professional. These degrees are not necessary to become a private accountant, but they typically help the applicant find better paying jobs. Either master’s degree requires approximately two years of full time study to complete.
Good verbal and written communication skills are essential. An accountant must be able to understand the company’s financial situation and express it clearly to other employees, customers, suppliers, and regulatory officials. He or she is often required to summarize a financial situation for people who do not know financial terms.
People do not need high level math skills to become a private accountant. Instead, he or she must master basic accounting and precise organizational skills, as well as a practical knowledge of computer programs used in accounting. A private accountant must methodically input numbers in the correct fields in a computer program.
A private accountant must also understand the legal side of accounting. He or she must know all applicable laws, such as tax law and commercial law. For example, accountants at nonprofit organizations require special knowledge of the nonprofit laws involved. Since laws are constantly changing, a private accountant must stay up to date. An accountant must also keep much of the information he or she knows confidential.