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What does an accountant do?
What is an accountant?
Simply put, an accountant is a trained professional who is tasked with maintaining the accounts of a company.
The accounts of a company are very important, since they are meant to be a reflection of the financial state of the organisation. They also have a number of different uses in reporting, planning and decision making which can have long term effects on the success of the company.
For instance, the accounts of a company can be used to showcase the profits or success of the company, which can attract potential investors. If the company looks like a sound investment, more people will be looking to put money into the organisation. This is especially important during an initial public offering of shares, but can have ramifications even after a company has been floated on the stock exchange. However, mis-reporting the finances of the company can have legal implications for the management and accounting staff of a company, so it is extremely important a full and accurate accounting of the company’s financial position is made.
The Role of the Accountant
An accountant’s role is to prepare reports such as the income statement, the statement of financial affairs, and the cash flow of a company. Depending upon the policies followed by the company, reporting of finances can occur on a quarterly basis, while others generate them on a semi-annual or annual basis. These can then be used by management in their strategy and decision making. If a company is publicly listed, these are also released to the general public. There are legal requirements regarding how often publicly traded companies have to disclose their financial affairs to the public.
Accountants are responsible for recording and reporting all the assets, liabilities and equity of the company.
This can include keeping track of things like:
- Cash payments (aka disbursements) – Most businesses have to pay a lot of money throughout the year as a normal part of doing business. Keeping track of where money is paid, who is owed what and creating cheques to be signed are all part of the accounting departments duties.
- Procurement and inventory – Accountants keep track of all the purchase orders that have been made for inventory (products the company will then sell), as well as other goods and services the company buys. A big responsibility for accountants is ensuring creditors get paid on time and keeping careful track of everything that is bought, sold or spoiled so that accurate cost-of-goods sold calculations can be made.
- Property – Most businesses have a large collection of significant long-term assets called “property, plant and equipment”. This can include buildings, manufacturing equipment, land, machinery, tools, vehicles, cabinets, computers, retail display cabinets and more.
- Cash collections – All the incoming money collected by a business needs to be identified and recorded, attributed to the correct source and placed in the correct account. Accountants perform these duties, while also ensuring the business keeps an adequate supply of currency on hand to day-to-day transactions. Balancing the business’s cheque book and controlling incoming receipts is done by accountants in smaller organisations, while in larger companies, the treasurer may be responsible for some of these functions.
- Payroll – All the wages and salaries paid to employees throughout the year. This includes calculating PAYG tax for the employees, company payroll tax, leave, sick pay, superannuation, sick pay and other benefits and allowances.
Jobs for Accountants
Beyond these functions, accountants are used for all sorts of reasons. For example, small businesses that do not keep regular records of all their accounts might need an accountant to come and clean up their systems in order to go through an audit or apply for a bank loan.
When a business shuts down (especially in the case of large companies) accountants are called in to break down the assets of the business and ensure that they are correctly distributed to creditors, customers and investors.
Some of the positions open to accountants include:
- Chief Financial Officer
- Accounting Risk Manager
- Environmental Accountant
- International Accounting Specialist
- Forensic Accountant
- Strategic Procurement Manager
- Big 4 Associate
Accounting is an integral part of any business which is why there is a steady demand for accountants. The average salary of an accountant is $1,660 per week (Job Outlook, 2020), and may vary depending on your experience, degree or qualification, and location among many others.
It’s probably safe to say if there is money, liabilities, assets or equity involved, there will be an accountant around!
If you’re interested in browsing available accounting jobs, you can look for openings on job seeker websites such as Seek, Indeed, and SimplyHired to name a few. You can also view the links below to check out accounting jobs near you:
How to Be an Accountant?
The best thing to do if you are interested in starting your accounting career is to take a short course to gain a better understanding of what it’s like to work in the financial services industry and what type of work you will be doing as an accountant.
You can take the Certificate IV in Accounting and Bookkeeping (FNS40217) which is the most recent nationally recognised qualification suitable for those who are interested in working as an accountant in Australia. This course is a good starting point if you find yourself interested in developing basic accounting skills. This course is also a solid foundation if you are interested in pursuing an accounting career because the Certificate IV in Accounting and Bookkeeping is a prerequisite for studying the Diploma of Accounting (FNS50217) course.
If you want to take it a step further, you can also take a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree to get a professional accreditation and entry into Australia’s regulating bodies in the accounting industry: CPA Australia (CPA), the Institute of Public Accountants (IPA), and the Institute of Charted Accountants of Australia (ICAA).
There are many accounting qualifications available in Australia. You can take face-to-face classes and learn in a classroom setting, or you can take an online course in accounting, and study at your own pace.
If you are interested in taking your accounting classes online, you can check out Inspire Education’s Certificate IV in Accounting and Bookkeeping (FNS40217).
To help you decide and get started, we have listed some blog posts that can help you decide if accounting is the perfect fit for you:
- How To Become An Accountant: FAQs On Your Accounting Course
- Should I Be An Accountant Or A Bookkeeper?
- Certificate IV In Accounting And Bookkeeping Online Course – What You Need To Know
- Top 25 Accounting Blogs that You Should Be Reading
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