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Summary

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Video transcript available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9pgua9hT6k.
Quick Facts: Accountants and Auditors
2019 Median Pay $71,550 per year
$34.40 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2019 1,436,100
Job Outlook, 2019-29 4% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2019-29 61,700

What Accountants and Auditors Do

Accountants and auditors prepare and examine financial records.

Work Environment

Most accountants and auditors work full time. Overtime hours are typical at certain periods of the year, such as for quarterly audits or during tax season.

How to Become an Accountant or Auditor

A bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field is typically required to become an accountant or auditor. Completing certification in a specific field of accounting, such as becoming a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA), may improve job prospects.

Pay

The median annual wage for accountants and auditors was $71,550 in May 2019.

Job Outlook

Employment of accountants and auditors is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations. In general, employment growth of accountants and auditors is expected to be closely tied to the health of the overall economy. As the economy grows, more workers should be needed to prepare and examine financial records.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for accountants and auditors.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of accountants and auditors with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about accountants and auditors by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Accountants and Auditors Do About this section

Accountants and auditors
Accountants and auditors examine financial statements for accuracy and conformance with laws.

Accountants and auditors prepare and examine financial records, identify potential areas of opportunity and risk, and provide solutions for businesses and individuals. They ensure that financial records are accurate, that financial and data risks are evaluated, and that taxes are paid properly. They also assess financial operations and work to help ensure that organizations run efficiently. 

Duties

Accountants and auditors typically do the following:

  • Examine financial statements to ensure that they are accurate and comply with laws and regulations
  • Compute taxes owed, prepare tax returns, and ensure that taxes are paid properly and on time
  • Inspect account books and accounting systems for efficiency and use of accepted accounting procedures and identify potential risks for fraud
  • Organize, analyze, and maintain financial records
  • Assess financial operations, identify risks and challenges, and make best-practices recommendations to management
  • Suggest ways to reduce costs, enhance revenues, and improve profits

Accountants and auditors may use technology, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics process automation, to increase their productivity. Automating some routine tasks makes these workers more efficient by allowing them to focus on analysis and other high-level responsibilities.

In addition to examining and preparing financial documents, accountants and auditors must explain their findings. This includes preparing written reports and meeting face-to-face with organization managers and individual clients.

Many accountants and auditors specialize, depending on their employer. Some work for organizations that specialize in assurance services (improving the quality or context of information for decision makers) or risk management (determining the probability of a misstatement on financial documents). Other organizations specialize in specific industries, such as finance, insurance, or healthcare.

The following are examples of types of accountants and auditors:

Government accountants maintain and examine the records of government agencies and audit private businesses and individuals whose activities are subject to government regulations or taxation. Accountants employed by federal, state, and local governments ensure that revenues are received and spent according to laws and regulations. Their responsibilities include auditing, financial reporting, and management accounting.

Management accountants are also called cost, corporate, industrial, managerial, or private accountants. They combine accounting and financial information to guide business decision making. They also understand financial and nonfinancial data and how to integrate information. The information that management accountants prepare is intended for internal use by business managers, not for the public.

Management accountants often prepare budgets and evaluate performance. They also may help organizations plan the cost of doing business. Some work with financial managers on asset management, which involves planning and selecting financial investments such as stocks, bonds, and real estate.

Public accountants have a broad range of accounting, auditing, tax, and consulting tasks. Their clients include corporations, governments, individuals, and nonprofits.

Public accountants work with financial documents that clients are required by law to disclose, such as tax forms and financial statements that corporations must provide to current and potential investors. Some public accountants concentrate on tax matters, advising corporations about the tax advantages of certain business decisions or preparing individual income tax returns.

Other public accountants specialize in forensic accounting, investigating financial crimes such as securities fraud and embezzlement, bankruptcies and contract disputes, and other complex and potentially criminal financial transactions. Forensic accountants combine their knowledge of accounting and finance with law and investigative techniques to determine if an activity is illegal. Many forensic accountants work closely with law enforcement personnel and lawyers during investigations and often appear as expert witnesses during trials.

Still others work with individuals, advising them on important personal financial matters. These public accountants combine their expertise in data management, economics, financial planning, and tax law to develop strategies for their clients. Advisory services cover topics including cash flow, insurance, investment, retirement, and wealth transfer planning to help clients meet financial goals, such as retirement, paying for a child’s education, or buying a home.

Public accountants, many of whom are Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), generally have their own businesses or work for public accounting firms. Publicly traded companies are required to have CPAs sign documents they submit to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), including annual and quarterly reports.

External auditors check for proper management of an organization’s funds, sources of revenue, and internal controls, such as financial data preparation or managing risks to cybersecurity or the supply chain. They are employed by an outside organization, rather than the one they are auditing. They review clients’ financial statements and inform authorities, investors, and regulators that the statements have been correctly prepared and reported with no material misstatements.

Information technology (IT) auditors review controls for their organization’s IT systems to ensure that both financial and nonfinancial data come from a reliable source.

Internal auditors have duties that are similar to external auditors, but these workers are employed by the organization they are auditing. They identify ways to improve the processes for finding and eliminating waste, fraud, and other financial risks to the organization. The practice of internal auditing is not regulated, but the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) provides generally accepted standards.

Work Environment About this section

Accountants and auditors
Most accountants and auditors work full time.

Accountants and auditors held about 1.4 million jobs in 2019. The largest employers of accountants and auditors were as follows:

Accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll services 24%
Finance and insurance 9
Government 8
Management of companies and enterprises 7
Self-employed workers 6

Most accountants and auditors work in offices, but some work from home. Although accountants and auditors usually work in teams, some work alone. Accountants and auditors may travel to their clients’ places of business.

Work Schedules

Most accountants and auditors work full time. Longer periods of work are typical at certain times of the year, such as for quarterly audits or during tax season.

How to Become an Accountant or Auditor About this section

Accountants and auditors
Most accountants and auditors need at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field.

Accountants and auditors typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field to enter the occupation. Completing certification in a specific field of accounting, such as becoming a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA), may improve job prospects.  

Education

Most accountant and auditor positions require at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field. Some employers prefer to hire applicants who have a master’s degree, either in accounting or in business administration with a concentration in accounting.

Some universities and colleges offer specialized programs for a bachelor’s or master’s degree, such as in accounting, forensic accounting, internal auditing, or tax accounting. In some cases, those with an associate’s degree, as well as bookkeepers, accounting, and auditing clerks who meet the education and experience requirements set by their employers, may get junior accounting positions and advance by showing their accounting skills on the job.

Students may gain practical experience through internships with public accounting or business firms.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Any accountant who files a report with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is required to be a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Other accountants choose to become a CPA to enhance their job prospects or to gain clients. Employers may pay the costs associated with the CPA exam.

CPAs are licensed by their state’s Board of Accountancy. Becoming a CPA requires passing a national exam and meeting other state requirements. All states require CPA candidates to complete 150 semester hours of college coursework to be licensed, which is 30 hours more than the usual 4-year bachelor’s degree. Many schools offer a 5-year combined bachelor’s and master’s degree to meet the 150-hour requirement, but a master’s degree is not required.

A few states allow a number of years of public accounting experience to substitute for a college degree.

All states use the four-part Uniform CPA Examination from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). Candidates do not have to pass all four parts at once, but most states require that candidates pass all four parts within 18 months of passing their first part.

All states require CPAs to take continuing education courses, including ethics, to maintain their license.

Certification provides an advantage in the job market because it shows professional competence in a specialized field of accounting and auditing. Accountants and auditors seek certifications from a variety of professional societies. Some of the most common certifications are listed below:

The AICPA offers several designations. For accountants with a CPA, the AICPA offers the Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV), Certified Financial Forensics (CFF), Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP), and Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) certifications. All of these credentials require experience in the related area, continuing education, and passing an exam.

AICPA and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) developed the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation as an internationally recognized professional credential. Candidates must complete a program, pass an exam, and meet a requirement for work experience.

The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) offers the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) credential to graduates from accredited colleges and universities who have work experience as internal auditors and have passed an exam. The IIA also offers the Certified in Control Self-Assessment (CCSA), Certified Government Auditing Professional (CGAP), Certified Financial Services Auditor (CFSA), and Certification in Risk Management Assurance (CRMA) to those who pass the exams and meet educational and experience requirements.

The Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) offers the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) to applicants who complete a bachelor’s degree. Applicants must have work experience in management accounting, pass an exam, agree to meet continuing education requirements, and comply with standards of professional conduct.

ISACA offers the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) to candidates who pass an exam and have work experience auditing information systems. Information systems experience, financial or operational auditing experience, or related college credit hours may be substituted for some of the experience required in information systems auditing, control, or security.

Advancement

Some top executives and financial managers have a background in accounting, internal auditing, or finance.

Entry-level public accountants may advance to senior positions as they gain experience and take on more responsibility. Those who excel may become supervisors, managers, or partners; open their own public accounting firm; or transfer to executive positions in management accounting or internal auditing in private firms.

Management accountants often start as cost accountants, junior internal auditors, or trainees for other accounting positions. As they rise through the organization, they may advance to become accounting managers, budget directors, chief cost accountants, or managers of internal auditing. Some become controllers, treasurers, financial vice presidents, chief financial officers, or corporation presidents.

Public accountants, management accountants, and internal auditors may move from one type of accounting and auditing to another. Public accountants often move into management accounting or internal auditing. Management accountants may become internal auditors, and internal auditors may become management accountants. However, it is less common for management accountants or internal auditors to move into public accounting.

Important Qualities

Analytical and critical-thinking skills. Accountants and auditors must be able to critically evaluate data, identify issues in documentation, and suggest solutions. For example, internal auditors might detect fraudulent use of funds, and public accountants may work to minimize tax liability.

Communication skills. Accountants and auditors must be able to listen to and discuss facts and concerns from clients, managers, and other stakeholders. They must also be able to discuss the results of their work both in meetings and in written reports.

Detail oriented. Accountants and auditors must pay attention to detail when compiling and examining documents.

Math skills. Accountants and auditors must be able to analyze, compare, and interpret facts and figures. They may use advanced math skills, such as calculus and statistical analysis, for these tasks.

Organizational skills. Strong organizational skills are important for accountants and auditors, who often work with a range of financial documents for a variety of clients.

Pay About this section

Accountants and Auditors

Median annual wages, May 2019

Financial specialists

$71,950

Accountants and auditors

$71,550

Total, all occupations

$39,810

 

The median annual wage for accountants and auditors was $71,550 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $44,480, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $124,450.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for accountants and auditors in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Finance and insurance $76,440
Management of companies and enterprises 74,060
Accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll services 71,390
Government 70,180

Most accountants and auditors work full time. Longer hours are typical at certain times of the year, such as for quarterly audits or during tax season.

Job Outlook About this section

Accountants and Auditors

Percent change in employment, projected 2019-29

Accountants and auditors

4%

Total, all occupations

4%

Financial specialists

4%

 

Employment of accountants and auditors is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Globalization, a growing economy, and a complex tax and regulatory environment are expected to continue to lead to strong demand for accountants and auditors.

In general, employment growth of accountants and auditors is expected to be closely tied to the health of the overall economy. As the economy grows, these workers will continue to be needed to prepare and examine financial records. In addition, as more companies go public, there will be greater need for public accountants to handle the legally required financial documentation.

The continued globalization of business may lead to increased demand for accounting expertise and services related to international trade and international mergers and acquisitions.

Technological change is expected to affect the role of accountants over the decade. Some routine accounting tasks may be automated as platforms such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI), and blockchain become more widespread. Although this will allow accountants to become more efficient, this change is not expected to reduce overall demand. Instead, with the automation of routine tasks, such as data entry, the advisory and analytical duties of accountants will become more prominent.

Job Prospects

About 125,700 openings for accountants and auditors are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Demand for accountants may lead to good prospects for entry-level positions. However, competition will be strong for jobs with the most prestigious accounting and business firms.

Accountants and auditors who have earned professional recognition, especially as Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), should have the best prospects. Job applicants who have a master’s degree in accounting or a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) with a concentration in accounting also may have an advantage.

Employment projections data for accountants and auditors, 2019-29
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2019 Projected Employment, 2029 Change, 2019-29 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Accountants and auditors

13-2011 1,436,100 1,497,900 4 61,700 Get data

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of accountants and auditors.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help on Entry-Level Education 2019 MEDIAN PAY Help on Median Pay
Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks

Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks

Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks produce financial records for organizations and check financial records for accuracy.

Some college, no degree $41,230
Budget analysts

Budget Analysts

Budget analysts help public and private organizations plan their finances.

Bachelor's degree $76,540
Cost estimators

Cost Estimators

Cost estimators collect and analyze data in order to estimate the time, money, materials, and labor required to make a product or provide a service.

Bachelor's degree $65,250
Financial analysts

Financial Analysts

Financial analysts provide guidance to businesses and individuals making investment decisions.

Bachelor's degree $81,590
Financial managers

Financial Managers

Financial managers create financial reports, direct investment activities, and develop plans for the long-term financial goals of their organization.

Bachelor's degree $129,890
Management analysts

Management Analysts

Management analysts recommend ways to improve an organization’s efficiency.

Bachelor's degree $85,260
Personal financial advisors

Personal Financial Advisors

Personal financial advisors provide advice to help individuals manage their finances and plan for their financial future.

Bachelor's degree $87,850
Postsecondary teachers

Postsecondary Teachers

Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and technical subjects beyond the high school level.

See How to Become One $79,540
Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents

Tax Examiners and Collectors, and Revenue Agents

Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents determine how much is owed in taxes and collect tax from individuals and businesses on behalf of the government.

Bachelor's degree $54,890
Top executives

Top Executives

Top executives plan strategies and policies to ensure that an organization meets its goals.

Bachelor's degree $104,690

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about accredited accounting programs, visit

AACSB

For more information about the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license, the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA), and other designations, visit

American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)

For information about the Government Financial Manager certification, visit

Association of Government Accountants (AGA)

For more information about management accounting and the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) designation, visit

Institute of Management Accountants

For more information about internal auditing and the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) designation, visit

The Institute of Internal Auditors

For more information about information systems auditing and the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) designation, visit

ISACA

For more information about certifications in accounting, visit

Global Academy of Finance and Management

O*NET

Accountants

Accountants and Auditors

Auditors

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Accountants and Auditors,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/accountants-and-auditors.htm (visited December 04, 2020).

Last Modified Date: Thursday, November 19, 2020

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. For most profiles, this tab has a table with wages in the major industries employing the occupation. It does not include pay for self-employed workers, agriculture workers, or workers in private households because these data are not collected by the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey, the source of BLS wage data in the OOH.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's CareerOneStop.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2019 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2019, the median annual wage for all workers was $39,810.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2019

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2019, which is the base year of the 2019-29 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2019-29

The projected percent change in employment from 2019 to 2029. The average growth rate for all occupations is 4 percent.

Employment Change, 2019-29

The projected numeric change in employment from 2019 to 2029.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2019-29

The projected numeric change in employment from 2019 to 2029.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2019 to 2029.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2019 to 2029.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2019 to 2029.

2019 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2019, the median annual wage for all workers was $39,810.