What does an accountant do? A guide to becoming one

Updated 30 September 2022

Accounting is a broad term that involves different professional titles and duties across organisations. Knowing what an accountant does helps you meet the expectations of future employers and achieve your career objectives. As an aspiring accounting professional, it's important to be up-to-date on the skills and requirements of an accountant. In this article, we answer the question 'what does an accountant do?', discussing the roles and responsibilities of an accountant, how to become one and the key skills required from an accountant.

What does an accountant do?

The curiosity to understand 'What does an accountant do?' is a good start if you are interested in the job niche. Accountants ensure that work goes on efficiently by reviewing financial statements and reports, analysing data, budgets, tax filings and accounting records. They proffer financial services, and the recipient of these services are individual clients or businesses and organisations. Often, people think a bookkeeper performs similar roles as an accountant. A bookkeeper's major duties are gathering and recording financial information, while an accountant typically analyses information and usually has a minimum of a degree in accounting.

Related: Bookkeeper vs. accountant: differences and similarities

Roles and responsibilities of an accountant

Accounting is a broad term that encompasses different job titles. Hence they have many functions within organisations. Accountants have specific responsibilities which may vary depending on the firm and industry in which the accountant works, but the general responsibilities usually include:

  • To make sure that financial documents are accurate and comply with applicable laws and regulations.

  • They perform periodic accounting tasks, such as credit and debit reconciliation, auditing and reviewing financial reports when needed.

  • To prepare and keep up to date major financial reports.

  • To prepare tax forms and ensure that the organisation pays taxes on time and correctly.

  • To evaluate financial processes to promote best practices. They do this by uncovering errors and difficulties, developing solutions and assisting the organisation in its effective running.

  • To provide cost-effective, revenue-boosting and profit-maximising advice.

  • To perform and direct risk analysis evaluations.

How much does an accountant earn?

The average salary of an accountant depends on their level of education, experience, the type of company they work with, and the company's geographical area. Usually, most accountants are full-time salary-earning employees, while others may work on a contract basis. An accountant's national average salary is £35,300 per year.

Related: How Much Do Chartered Accountants Earn?

Requirements to becoming an accountant

Getting a job as an accountant may include specific requirements, such as:


As an accountant, you are typically expected to have a minimum of a bachelor's degree in accounting, finance or a related discipline. Many employers prefer employees with a master's degree as well. As a BSc holder in accounting, there are relevant courses to familiarise yourself with. Some of these courses are accounting principles, accounting technology, business communication and business law.


The most common place for accountants to begin their relevant training is through internship programmes, even while pursuing a degree. In addition to the experience gained during these internship programmes, accountants often receive further on-the-job training unique to their responsibilities and the type of organisation. This additional training is usually part of their new hires onboarding processes.


Accountants get to work towards obtaining several certification programmes. They enable you to show your qualifications and expertise to potential and current employers. You may also participate in certification programmes to better grasp your responsibilities and advance your career. Standard certificates for accountants include:

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

The certified public accountant qualification is the most prestigious in the accounting profession. To receive a license from the government, you first obtain the CPA designation and demonstrate the ability to prepare audit reports. Be able also to provide your views on publicly traded corporate financials. CPAs can endorse a company's tax records and may even represent organisations when the government questions their finances.

Related: What is a certified public accountant? (With requirements)

Certified Financial Analyst (CFA)

The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) credential educates and prepares you for a career in finance and investing. This credential prepares you to think critically about finance, investing and business operations. The CFA designation is common among people who want to work as controllers or chief financial officers.

Related: What Is the Chartered Financial Analyst Certification?

Certified Management Accountant (CMA)

The certified management accountant is a professional certificate offered by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA). This qualification focuses on the administration of business accounting. Individuals aspiring to go into management and executive positions, such as chief operating officers and chief financial officers, often acquire the CMA certificate.

Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)

The Institute of Internal Auditors is the body that issues the certified internal auditor qualification to qualified persons. This certification is a requirement for internal visitors, and it's the only one recognised globally. The certified internal auditor certification validates expertise in risk and control, information technology and managing both internal and external clients.

Certified Fraud Examiner

The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) awards this certification. This certification covers accounting and auditing fundamentals. Some of such are afraid criminology and sociology, criminal probe, forensic procedures, asset protection, fraud law and the ACFE code of conduct.

Related: Guide to accounting certifications to help you stand out

Notable skills accountants may have

All accountants require a set of skills to be successful in their jobs. The following are some of the most crucial skills for accountants:

  • Attention to detail: Accounting experts pay close attention to the smallest details to maintain corrected and organised information. It's easy to make a mistake when there are a lot of financial statements and records to examine, and the inability to recognise even the most minor errors could lead to much bigger problems.

  • Business astuteness: To effectively analyse and comprehend financial data, an accountant ought to grasp business operations' essential aspects. A sound business foundation clarifies the financial data that accountants deal with regularly.

  • Analytical skills: A big part of accounting involves gathering and evaluating financial data, a key feature of recognising patterns and potential concerns. For instance, auditors use analytics to make operations like continuous monitoring and auditing possible, and accountants who serve as advisors to their companies utilise big data to spot market behaviour for investment opportunities.

  • Excellent communication: It's crucial that accountants have excellent communication skills to accurately get facts and numbers from clients, management and other stakeholders. Be able to express the findings of your research and convey them in written reports.

  • Time management: Time management skill is the capacity to manage and prioritise duties so that you can finish your work on time while also ensuring a work-life balance. Accountants multitask for most of the day and prioritise projects to finish their work on time.

  • Digital literacy: To perform effectively in the accounting industry, professionals use complex accounting software and other digital-based tools. As an aspiring accountant, a master of some of these tools may help you carry out tasks.

  • Math skills: It's a prevalent misperception that only natural intelligent mathematicians work as an accountant. Mathematical skills are vital for analysing, comparing and interpreting data and numbers that anyone can learn, but advanced math skills are only a plus rather than a requirement for an accountant.

  • Accounting knowledge: Accounting involves the application of quantitative, logical and analytical skills. Since most of your work may entail generating and auditing financial accounts and records, having excellent accounting skills is crucial.

Related: 13 Essential Accountant Skills

How to become an accountant

Becoming an accountant involves a combination of education and relevant job experience. Many accountants get their job roles after completing an internship at an organisation while pursuing their degree. The following are the steps to becoming an accountant:

1. Get a degree

Having a bachelor's degree in accounting, finance or any related discipline is the first step to becoming an accountant. Many employers prefer applicants with a master's degree. The typical Master's programmes are the Master's of business administration (MBA) and Master's of Accounting (MAcc).

Related: How To Get an Accounting Degree and Succeed as an Accountant

2. Apply for internships

While pursuing your degree, take an internship with an accounting firm or the finance unit of an organisation in the industry of your choice. Internships provide you with the chance to network and make business connections that can help you secure a job after you graduate. The internship duration may be for a few days, weeks to months, depending on the organisation.

Related: What are the big four accounting firms? (With career steps)

3. Get certified

Consider getting certificates in fields that are important to your job and business. Popular credentials include Certified Public Accountants, Certified Management Accountants, Certified Fraud Examiners and Certified Internal Auditors. Certifications allow you to present your competence to hiring managers, allowing you to stand out as the best person for the job.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed. Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries‌ ‌may‌ ‌‌vary‌‌ ‌depending‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌hiring‌ ‌organisation‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌candidate's‌ ‌experience,‌ ‌academic‌ background‌ ‌and‌ ‌location.‌

Explore more articles

  • A Step-by-Step Guide About How To Find Millionaire Jobs
  • How to become a holiday rep (With definition and skills)
  • 12 non-customer service jobs (plus duties and salaries)
  • The 10 best university subjects for earning a high salary
  • What To Do When You Can't Find a Job: Tips To Consider
  • How to become an immigration consultant (Plus skills)
  • 15 Jobs With an English Degree (Plus Duties and Salary Info)
  • 11 examples of public health jobs (plus salaries and duties)
  • 15 people-person jobs (with salaries and primary duties)
  • Complete guide for how to become a freelance proofreader
  • How to Decline a Job Offer Professionally (Including Email Templates)
  • How to become a helicopter pilot (With skills and salary)