What Do Accountants Do?
Accountancy is widely known as a popular and rewarding career, particularly for those with a keen interest in finance and business. However, for many considering entry to the profession, one question often lingers: what do accountants do? In an effort to demystify the accounting profession, challenge any misconceptions, and provide aspiring accountants, and those interested, with insight into the diverse world of accounting, Accounting Technicians Ireland has created this article to explain to you exactly what accountants do.
This article aims to highlight the indispensable contributions of accounting professionals and reveal the dynamic, and often overlooked, aspects that make accountants essential assets to businesses of all sizes.
What is an Accountant?
In the complex world of global business, accountants are key contributors to any business, and play a crucial role in financial success. Far from the stereotypical perception of mere number-crunchers, accounting professionals are linchpins, responsible for directing the financial well-being that propels businesses, whether at a local or global level, towards success. What accountants do can be described as acting as the 'guardians of economic well-being'. The fundamental principles of accountancy form the foundation upon which successful businesses stand. Accounting professionals are responsible for navigating the complexities of financial landscapes, ensuring not just business solvency but also success and growth.
However, the term "accountant" often serves as a broad umbrella which actually encompasses a vast variety of roles within finance. The label of "accountant" is usually applied to qualified professionals, such as Chartered Accountants or Accounting Technicians, whose job roles can extend far beyond conventional expectations. While the term "accountant" can be very useful, it can also cause confusion because, in reality, accounting professionals can do anything from tax advising to financial analysis and everything in between!
Types of Accountants
Therefore, the question ‘what do accountants do’ is a complex one to answer due to the plethora of career paths within the field of accounting and each role having its own specific responsibilities as well as its own set of challenges and opportunities. To answer this burning question effectively, we must understand the multifaceted nature of accounting by delving into some of the most common career paths within the industry and shedding light on the distinct roles and responsibilities of accounting professionals, explaining exactly what they do.
Financial accountants ensure the accuracy and transparency of an organisation's financial records. Responsible for preparing financial statements, maintaining ledgers, and reconciling accounts, financial accountants provide a comprehensive overview of a company's financial health. Financial accountants collaborate with external auditors to ensure financial accuracy all while complying with accounting standards, regulatory requirements, and industry best practices.
Management accountants play a pivotal role in strategic decision-making within organisations. Specialising in internal financial management, they analyse a wide range of data to provide insights which aim to improve operational efficiency of a business. Their contributions include variance analysis, budgeting, forecasting, and profitability assessments, aligning financial objectives with overarching organisational goals for sustained success.
Tax advisors specialise in navigating the intricate landscape of tax law and regulations, offering invaluable assistance to individuals and businesses alike. They minimise tax risk, optimise financial decisions, and ensure compliance with tax laws. Their expertise is essential in the ever-changing tax environment, ensuring clients navigate complexities successfully. Tax advisors must be up to date with evolving tax codes allowing them to empower clients to make informed decisions, efficiently manage tax obligations, and strategically leverage opportunities for financial advantage.
Internal auditors provide independent evaluations of financial and operational business activities, including corporate governance. They assess and enhance the effectiveness of an organisation's internal controls and risk management by conducting thorough reviews of financial procedures. Internal auditors offer valuable insights to enhance operational efficiency, safeguard against fraud, and ensure compliance with policies and regulations. Their comprehensive approach ensures organisations maintain financial integrity and adhere to industry standards.
External Auditors play a crucial role in maintaining transparency and trust in financial reporting. They are responsible for examining and verifying an organisation's financial statements for accuracy and compliance. External auditors will be employed from outside audit firms which means they are independent of all clients and because of this, they can make impartial evaluations of the financial statements and systems of internal controls, assuring stakeholders of the reliability of financial information.
Forensic accountants specialise in investigating financial discrepancies and fraud. They use accounting, auditing, and investigative skills to uncover financial irregularities. Forensic accountants may work in legal settings, supplying litigation support and expert witness testimony. They analyse financial records, trace funds, and present findings in a clear and understandable manner. Their work is crucial in legal proceedings, helping uncover financial misconduct and ensuring financial integrity.
Whether in corporate finance, investment banking, or an internal finance team, financial analysts are responsible for the analysis of financial data, market trends, and economic indicators to inform investment decisions. They use financial models to evaluate risks and opportunities, providing recommendations to maximise the profitability of the company they are working for. Financial analysts contribute to maintaining databases, enhance productivity through automated accounting applications, and ensure data accuracy.
Financial controllers often oversee accounting and finance departments, ensuring accurate financial reporting and compliance with regulations. They will collaborate with various departments to align financial strategies with overall business objectives and their responsibilities often include budgeting, financial analysis, and risk management. Financial controllers play a strategic role, providing insights to support executive decision-making.
Bookkeepers serve as the backbone of a business's financial operations, managing the day-to-day transactions of a business. Their duties include the recording and categorisation of financial transactions and maintaining accurate ledgers. Unlike a financial controller, bookkeepers tend to focus on a company's historical results and usually have little influence on decision-making or future transactions.
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An Accounting Technician is someone who executes tasks in the areas of accountancy, finance, and taxation, to help prepare the work of accountants. An accounting technician may work under the supervision of an accountant and is responsible for updating, checking, and analysing financial records, which can then be utilised by accountants. As an accounting technician, you can also offer independent accountancy services, which can give you an opportunity to help expand your professional portfolio. An independent accounting technician can work on complex tasks, such as, consulting and advisory.
Opportunities in Accountancy
In today’s world, the demand for accountants remains robust globally, fueled by their crucial roles in financial governance. As this article has highlighted, it is clear that accountants are indispensable assets to businesses across industries. The financial services sector opens doors to rewarding careers in risk management, financial investment, and asset optimisation. In the business and industry sector, accountants can position themselves globally, delving into roles such as management accounting, financial analysis, and financial accounting. Meanwhile, for those driven by a passion for societal impact, the public sector offers opportunities to develop robust commercial and decision-making skills, ensuring efficient resource allocation and monitoring.
However, like most industries, the landscape of accountancy is evolving, and the future of the profession will likely look different, driven by technological advancements and current trends. Automation, artificial intelligence, and cloud-based solutions are streamlining processes, demanding a tech-savvy approach. As a result, the future of accountancy points towards an increased reliance on technology. Staying abreast of these changes and industry trends through continuous professional development will enhance career prospects and ensure compliance with evolving standards, no matter which accounting career path you are on.
For those still wondering what accountants do, the key thing to remember is that no matter which career path an accounting professional chooses, it is certain that they will be playing a pivotal role within their organisation. Whether serving as strategic managers, driving change, optimising supply chains, managing inventory, or enhancing business profitability, accounting professionals offer invaluable financial expertise across industries, making them integral in addressing challenges and seizing opportunities for business solvency and growth. Aspiring accounting professionals should explore the varied career paths available in the industry and make informed choices before embarking on their journey into accountancy. In doing so, they play a vital role in the financial success of businesses globally.
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