13 Types of Accountants and What They Do

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated September 9, 2022 | Published September 7, 2021

Updated September 9, 2022

Published September 7, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Related: A Day in the Life of an Accountant

In this video, we follow Ektaa, a tax accountant working for a family-owned accounting firm, as she shares the skills and education needed to be a successful accountant.

Accountants play a fundamental role in an organization, as they help maintain precise, efficient and absolute financial records of a business. There are many types of accountants in the workplace, each with different roles depending on the industry. Understanding the roles of each helps you decide which area of accounting to specialize in. In this article, we define accounting, explain why it's important, and discuss the many types of accountants available today.

What is accounting?

Accounting is gathering, recording and examining the financial transactions of a business. It also involves reporting the transactions to various relevant agencies over a specified period. Qualified accountants who hold titles like Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) carry out these important functions.

Related: Choosing Accounting Career Pathways That Suit You Best

Why is accounting important?

Accounting helps a business keep track of its income and expenditure. It also provides measurable financial data to a company's management, investors and the government. This data is valuable in making future decisions for an organization. Accounting is important in the development of financial policy, appraisal of staff performance, fiscal planning, budgeting, avoidance of errors and curbing fraud.

Related: What Does a Chartered Professional Accountant Do? (A Guide)

13 types of accountants

Different types of accountants perform specific accounting functions. They include:

1. Auditors

An auditor's key role is to ensure a company's accounting records are accurate. Governments or private companies can hire auditors to ensure financial records of different government agencies, individual businesses, non-profit organizations, and corporate companies are efficient. They also ensure such entities remit their taxes to the government as required. Auditors peruse all relevant reports, appraise, confirm and compile the documents related to a company's financial operations to ensure they are within the legal framework. They also offer advice for improvement based on their evaluation.

Read more: Accountant vs. Auditor: Differences and Similarities

2. Consultants

These accountants play a crucial role in helping businesses grow. They offer their knowledge to help their clients understand the importance and meaning of their accounting records and how the reports affect their operations. They also evaluate the profitability of their client's businesses, develop and execute reliable accounting practices for their clients and make dependable suggestions on tax decisions. Consultants also help clients comprehend the implications of their accounting practices and decisions to avoid getting into trouble with the law. You require a bachelor's degree in accounting if you aspire to become an accounting consultant.

3. Cost accountants

Every business is interested in maximizing profits and keeping costs at a minimum. This is where cost accountants come in to review your company's costs and ensure the costs don't run down your business. Cost accountants review all expenses incurred by your business, including transportation, administrative and production costs.

Once cost analysis is complete, the cost accountants make their recommendations on the best way to manage costs for improved profitability of your company. If you're interested in the cost accounting field, you need a bachelor's degree in accounting or finance. An additional Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) certification is an added advantage. You also have to be good at statistics and math.

Read more: How To Become a Chartered Accountant: Definition and Steps

4. Financial advisors

Planning your finances by yourself can prove to be quite tricky, especially if you don't know financial investment. This is where financial advisors come in to help you plan not only your financial future but the present as well. Financial advisors help you plan your kids' education, guide you on the best stocks to buy, and ensure you are on track financially. These advisors also work with government agencies or corporate companies, where they guide on the best financial approach. To venture into this field, you need a bachelor's degree in economics, accounting, finance or business.

5. Forensic accountants

These accountants act as witnesses in a court of law whenever there are cases of deception or misappropriation. They employ their analytical and accounting skills to detect any errors of omission, commission, or fraud. Forensic accountants also go through a company's financial records to ensure the business adheres to government regulations.

To become a forensic accountant, you have to be good with numbers, be observant and have a passion for investigative work. Accuracy is another highly valued trait for a forensic accountant because the court relies upon their reports. You need a bachelor's degree in accounting and a CPA designation. You might also require a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) certification.

Read more: How to Become a Forensic Accountant (With Crucial Skills)

6. Government accountants

The government employs these kinds of accountants to manage their funds. These accountants regulate funds and prepare financial reports regarding their areas of operation, including municipal, provincial, and federal governments. The government gives its accountants the role of ensuring it judiciously spends money, that it gets from the taxpayers. They also aid different government organizations in planning out their financial year to ensure they meet their objectives. For this type of accountant, you need a bachelor's degree in accounting. Although, employers recommend an additional course beyond the bachelor's degree.

Related: Advantages and Disadvantages of Working in Government

7. Tax accountants

These are accountants who specialize in taxation. They complete tax returns, inspect all books of accounts, establish the amount of taxes payable to the government, and ensure timely payment of the taxes. Since governments update their tax laws regularly, tax accountants' input is invaluable as they help taxpayers understand the changes. Tax accountants receive good remuneration for their work. If you're looking to venture into the field, all you need is a bachelor's degree in accounting. A CPA certification and completion of a tax-related course give you better chances of securing a job in the field.

Related: 17 Online Accounting Courses (With Descriptions and Links)

8. Staff accountants

Almost all companies require staff accountants to manage various accounting functions, which include:

  • Evaluate general ledger accounts

  • Compile and regulate journal entries

  • Carry out reconciliation of bank statements

  • Help with preliminary internal control estimation

  • Post amount accrued periodically

  • Complete essential cash management duties

The role offers a learning opportunity for fresh graduates looking to gain experience. All you need to get a job as a staff accountant is a bachelor's degree in accounting.

Related: A Guide To Entry-Level Accounting Interview Questions

9. Public accountants

Contrary to the common belief that public accountants only assist individuals with tax issues, these professionals actually engage in more vital accounting operations. Public accountants are highly qualified experts who typically work in accounting firms or private practice. They're the people to go to for financial advice and planning. These accountants are also economic experts who are well equipped to carry out auditing, forensics and even litigation services. To qualify to be a public accountant, you not only need a bachelor's accounting degree from a reputable university, but you must also be a holder of a CPA certificate.

Read more: Differences Between Public Accounting and Private Accounting

10. Investment accountants

These experts in the investment field offer advice to their clients on investment matters and help maintain their investments. They are knowledgeable in stocks, bonds, precious metals like gold, and shares, among other forms of investment. Investment accountants have to keep up with the constantly changing investment field. When looking to gain stock, trade in currencies or purchase shares for speculation, an investment accountant can furnish you with all the relevant information.

Like the other accounting jobs, to become an investment accountant, you need a bachelor's degree in finance or accounting and an appropriate investment course or CPA certification.

Read more: 33 Great Jobs in Accounting (With Salaries and Duties)

11. Management accountants

The top-level management in most companies requires the services of a management accountant to help them project the future of the company. Business leaders make decisions that affect the company's future profitability, depending on its current financial status. Duties of management accountants include:

  • Carrying out a fiscal evaluation of the company

  • Budgeting and planning

  • Managing financial risks

  • Collecting financial information regarding your company

  • Managing your company's investments

  • Advising on strategic planning

  • Preparing fiscal reports for forecasting purposes

A bachelor's degree and Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) certificate are common requirements.

Read more: Average Salary of an Accountant

12. Project accountants

As the name suggests, project accountants specialize in projects and oversee business or company projects. Their key role is to manage costs associated with a project and advise if the project is viable. This includes:

  • Preparing and assembling invoices

  • Endorsing relevant expenses

  • Preparing budgets

  • Implementing strict adherence to timelines

  • Supervising the progress of projects

  • Permitting access to project accounts

  • Reporting project profitability to the management

If you wish to become a project accountant, you can benefit from earning a bachelor's degree in engineering or accounting, being knowledgeable about project agreements, and having excellent communication skills.

Related: 12 Skills Accountants Need for Workplace Success

13. Fiduciary accountants

These types of accountants are experts in overseeing financial accounts that profit another individual. Clients expect these professionals to have high honesty toward the beneficiary. Their duties revolve around confidentiality, faithfulness, concern, compliance, and accounting. Their responsibilities include:

  • Showing all profits and losses concisely

  • Designating all necessary accounts

  • Reviewing the content of all accounts and stating their purpose

  • Recording all business transactions

  • Reporting the transactions to interested parties

Since these records are often subject to inspection by the government, accuracy in recording and reporting is a skill you need to become a fiduciary accountant. A CPA certification is typically a requirement for this type of accounting.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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