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What are the 15 kinds of accountants & what do they do?

What are the 15 kinds of accountants & what do they do?


Accountants are sought-after regardless of whether the economy is flourishing or faltering. Both individuals and businesses frequently require financial management advice during periods of growth and downturns. While the common perception is that accountants mainly focus on preparing taxes during the intense months from January to April, the reality is that their services are needed year-round. Tax-related tasks are just a fraction of what they do. The realm of accounting is vast, with a diverse range of specializations almost as varied as the areas of expertise and interest within the field.


What Kinds of Accountants Are There?

How many different types of accountants are there? The number varies based on who you ask. The realm of accounting spans various specialties such as forensic, governmental, audit, managerial, and more.

For many, the idea of accounting is synonymous with tax-related tasks. While tax preparation is undoubtedly a significant part of many accountants’ responsibilities, the world of accounting encompasses a plethora of distinct roles. A typical accountant’s responsibilities encompass generating and overseeing financial statements, guaranteeing the precision of financial records, assessing a business’s financial performance, recommending best practices, advising on revenue growth and cost-saving measures, performing risk evaluations, creating financial predictions, and naturally, preparing and submitting tax documents.

Here are 15 types of accountants found in the workplace

  1. Certified public accountant (CPA)
  2. Management accountant
  3. Chartered accountant (CA)
  4. Auditor
  5. Government accountant
  6. Tax examiner
  7. Project accountant
  8. Financial adviser
  9. Investment accountant
  10. Forensic accountant
  11. Cost accountant
  12. Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA)
  13. Tax accountant
  14. Financial accountant
  15. Financial controller

15 Different Accountant Specialties

Accounting is not a monolithic profession. Much like the diverse professionals who pursue it, accounting roles span a wide spectrum of functions, tasks, and specializations. While there isn’t a conclusive list of all accountant types, here are 15 commonly encountered roles across public accounting firms, corporate entities, government bodies, nonprofit institutions, and other establishments.

1. Certified public accountant (CPA):

A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is a licensed accounting professional recognized by one or several U.S. states. To earn this esteemed title, individuals must secure a bachelor’s degree in accounting, accumulate practical accounting experience, and succeed in the Uniform CPA Exam. Although each state may have unique prerequisites to sit for the exam, the examination itself remains consistent across states, delving into four primary sectors: auditing and attestation, business environment and concepts, financial accounting and reporting, and regulation.

Upon certification, CPAs are equipped to pursue a career in an array of sectors, ranging from public accounting firms, industries, governmental entities, educational institutions, to nonprofit organizations. At the heart of a CPA’s duties lies the responsibility to ensure that both businesses and individuals remain compliant with the generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). These are the foundational guidelines, methods, and norms devised by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB). Beyond the realm of tax preparation, a CPA’s role extends to encompass tasks like financial analysis and reporting, auditing, consultation, litigation aid, and a myriad of other accounting functions. Additionally, CPAs have the liberty to select a niche that aligns with their passion, whether that’s auditing, forensic accounting, managerial roles, or another accounting specialty.


2. Management Accountant:

To make informed strategic decisions, top-tier executives must understand their organization’s financial well-being and evaluate the potential impacts of their choices. Management accountants guide these leaders in this process. Their responsibilities encompass activities like budgeting, planning, assessing profitability, managing risks, and delivering financial reports to internal parties. Effective communication is paramount for these professionals since they’re tasked with structuring data and conveying it in a comprehensible manner to corporate decision-makers.



3. Chartered accountant (CA):

With the increasing globalization of business, U.S. enterprises are mastering the art of navigating laws and regulations of countries beyond their borders. This is where the Chartered Accountant (CA) steps in, bringing a deep expertise in international accounting. Comparable to the “CPA” designation, the “CA” title signifies specialized training and profound knowledge. Chartered Accountants are adept in the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), a set of accounting protocols aimed to ensure transparency, uniformity, and comparability of financial statements worldwide. Serving as the global counterpart to the U.S.’s GAAP, IFRS has been embraced by over 120 countries. Equipped with insights into varying tax laws and business norms across nations, CAs play an instrumental role in aiding businesses overseas to remain compliant with regional rules. In the domain of accounting, CAs predominantly concentrate on four pillars: applied finance, financial accounting and reporting, managerial accounting, and taxation.

4. Auditor:

Auditors bear the responsibility of meticulously examining an organization’s financial records to ensure precision and adherence to tax laws, regulations, and additional accounting benchmarks. The auditor’s prime duty entails ensuring that the financial data of an organization is reasonably accurate and devoid of significant “material” inaccuracies. In a substantial corporation, such “material” aspects might equate to amounts in the millions of dollars. Auditors possess the capability to identify inconsistencies and provide insights into corrective measures. They also participate in evaluating the safeguards implemented to shield businesses against fraudulent activities, offering insights to enhance the operational efficiency of companies.

The norm for most enterprises involves undergoing an annual audit to validate the integrity of their financial documentation. Auditors can either be internal, functioning within the company they scrutinize, or external, where they act as an impartial third party independent of the audited organization. In the latter scenario, the auditor, often a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), undertakes the examination with an unbiased stance. The role of an auditor entails scrutinizing financial statements, inspecting accounting records, assessing financial functions, and providing recommendations aimed at bolstering these operations.


5. Tax examiner:

Working under federal, state, and local government entities, tax examiners assess straightforward tax filings submitted by individuals and small enterprises. Their responsibilities encompass calculating the owed tax amount, verifying the completeness and accuracy of returns, categorizing returns for processing, carrying out audits, and retrieving overdue tax payments. Tax examiners also engage in conversations with taxpayers regarding inaccuracies or omissions in their returns. Revenue agents, on the other hand, perform analogous tasks, but they specialize in dealing with intricate tax returns from substantial businesses and corporations, as delineated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.


6. Government accountant:

As implied by the title, government accountants operate within the realm of federal, state, or local government sectors. These professionals are required to possess a thorough understanding of business regulations, governmental statutes, and the framework governing both public and private domains. The responsibilities of government accountants encompass tasks such as formulating budgets and overseeing public funds, aiding government agencies in devising their fiscal plans, investigating financial misconduct, and conducting comprehensive system audits. Moreover, they might collaborate with regulatory bodies like the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In the context of state and local levels, government accountants bear the responsibility of ensuring that agencies or divisions adhere to the guidelines outlined by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB). On the federal front, governmental entities are mandated to adhere to the directives established by the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board (FASAB).


7. Financial advisor:

Financial advisors offer assistance to individuals, businesses, and government entities, furnishing both short- and long-term financial planning and counsel. It’s important to note that these professionals are not always synonymous with accountants. Their primary goal is to aid clients in effectively managing their current finances while also fostering future wealth growth. The subjects they engage with clients encompass a wide array of topics, including insurance, tax planning, savings for general purposes and specific occasions like retirement, budgeting, and investment avenues such as stocks, bonds, 401(k) plans, and individual retirement accounts (IRAs). In the context of corporate settings, financial advisors provide recommendations on investment strategies and risk mitigation to assist companies in handling cash flow and financial liquidity.

Individuals aspiring to embark on a career as financial advisors may delve into diverse areas of study including risk management, taxation, managerial accounting, supply chain management, and corporate finance. While financial advisors often incorporate elements of accounting into their education, they are typically distinct from accountants, even though they may need to fulfill specific licensing prerequisites.

8. Project accountant:

These accountants oversee specific projects and can be either full-time employees or contracted professionals engaged to manage specific company endeavors, such as constructing a new facility or launching a fresh product. A project accountant assumes responsibility for all aspects of a project that might influence its overall costs or the revenue it generates. This entails tasks like recording expenses, validating billable hours, preparing client invoices, updating budgets, and recognizing revenue. By meticulously tracking project-related expenditures, they furnish management with insights on the project’s budgetary progress.

Given their close collaboration with colleagues, including accounting teams, project managers, and external suppliers, effective communication and interpersonal aptitude are essential for project accountants. While they are frequently employed by construction and engineering companies, project accountants have opportunities across various sectors.


9. Investment accountant:

Typically found within the financial services sector, at asset management firms or brokerages, these experts specialize in various investment instruments. These encompass stocks and bonds, currencies, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), precious metals, and other financial assets. Investment accountants collaborate closely with asset managers and brokers to facilitate investment transactions and monitor external activities. Additionally, they analyze the impact of assets and investments on clients’ tax positions, contribute to the formulation of a company’s financial approach, and ensure their employers’ adherence to federal and state regulations pertinent to their field.


10. Forensic accountant:

Referred to as the “investigators” within the realm of accounting, forensic accountants engage in the meticulous examination of financial records to ensure adherence to regulations and laws. Their role extends beyond this, often involving the identification of oversights, inaccuracies, or fraudulent activities. Given that these accountants frequently confront intricate financial data that may prove elusive or inaccessible, they are compelled to employ ingenuity in their efforts. Their primary objective involves delving into investigations and reconstructing information that might be absent or inaccessible. Collaborating closely with IT experts, they navigate the digital landscape to locate and retrieve data from online sources and computer networks. Proficient in resolving intricate financial complexities, forensic accountants are sometimes called upon as authoritative witnesses during legal proceedings. Their expertise finds application in various domains including insurance companies, financial institutions, governmental bodies, and public accounting firms.


11. Cost accountant:

Companies frequently enlist the services of cost accountants to enhance profit margins on their products or services. This involves a comprehensive evaluation of production or delivery costs, with the aim of pinpointing opportunities for cost reduction. Additionally, this analysis can contribute valuable insights to guide pricing strategies. Cost accountants meticulously scrutinize every expenditure linked to a company’s supply chain, encompassing labor, materials, shipping, production, and administrative costs. The amassed data is consolidated and conveyed to the organization’s leadership, who leverage this information to establish product pricing and formulate budgets.

In order to assist businesses in maintaining robust supply chains, cost accountants must possess a solid grasp of effective inventory management, which includes inventory control and costing. This entails a thorough familiarity with the four primary inventory costing methods used to compute both the cost of goods sold (COGS) and the closing inventory for a specified period: first in, first out (FIFO); last in, first out (LIFO); weighted average cost (WAC); and specific identification. Furthermore, cost accountants often collaborate closely with business leaders to identify avenues for enhancing operational efficiency, and their analytical insights play a pivotal role in shaping decisions regarding product pricing.

12.Tax accountant:

This individual is the accountant who consciously dedicates their professional focus to tax preparation. Tax accountants often choose to operate within public accounting firms, which serve a wide-ranging client spectrum comprising individuals, businesses, nonprofits, and governmental entities. Alternatively, they might seek employment within large corporations, where their tax expertise can significantly contribute to the financial health of the organization. For any tax accountant dealing with a diverse client base, exemplary communication and attentive listening skills are imperative.

Tax accountants play a vital role in guiding both individuals and businesses through compliance with the Internal Revenue Code during the tax filing process. They decipher intricate tax regulations and elucidate the consequences of changes in tax laws. Furthermore, they aid in devising strategies to defer, minimize, or eliminate tax obligations in preparation for future tax returns. Their responsibilities encompass submitting tax returns on behalf of clients and facilitating interactions with tax authorities during audits.


13. Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA):

Being Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) specializing in management accounting, those with the designation of Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) are expected to showcase advanced expertise in areas such as finance, operations, strategy, and management. The esteemed CGMA title was established in 2012 collaboratively by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), in direct response to the mounting demand from corporate employers for accounting professionals possessing a broader skill set. To attain the CGMA designation, management accountants are mandated to meet specific criteria encompassing education, experience, and successful completion of assessments.

14. Financial accountant:

Financial accountants meticulously document an organization’s financial outcomes over a span of time. Through the input, condensation, and disclosure of all transactions pertinent to a company’s operational activities, these professionals ensure precise recording of financial dealings and generate comprehensive financial reports. Individuals holding the position of financial accountants supervise various domains, including both accounts payable and receivable, and are entrusted with the upkeep of the general ledger. Their responsibilities extend to probing into financial inconsistencies, harmonizing accounts, rectifying inaccuracies, and collaborating with senior executives to compose thorough financial statements.


15. Financial controller:

The financial controller serves as both the chief accountant and the individual responsible for overseeing all accounting-related functions within an organization. Their responsibilities encompass a wide range of tasks, including conducting advanced financial reporting and analysis, consolidating financial statements from subsidiaries, collaborating with auditors and tax accountants, ensuring adherence to financial regulations, presenting reports and analyses to executive teams, and overseeing the recruitment, training, and mentoring of employees in the accounting department. In companies where a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) position is absent, the financial controller assumes an expanded role: as a vital member of the executive team, they contribute to formulating the company’s financial strategy, managing cash flow, and offering investment guidance to steer the organization’s direction.

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