Types of Accountants

Accounting is a growing, challenging career field that offers a number of different career opportunities. Students who choose to enter accounting will certainly be dealing with the finances of business, organizations, or individuals, but the ways in which they deal with such finances can vary greatly depending upon the specialization in which they choose to work. Here are some of the accounting specializations available:

Financial Accounting

A financial accountant often works as a member of an organization’s accounting department. It is the job of the financial accountant to supervise tax payments, maintain accounts, and keep accurate records of financial statements. Financial accountants must use a variety of technology to keep financial records. In addition, the job involves such tasks as reconciling billing vouchers, making financial statements public, and more. Financial accountants who are CPAs often work as consultants to help various companies keep financial records in order and to organize and file taxes. They may also work with the government and law enforcement to investigate transactions and financial statements in white-collar crime cases. When working in the financial accounting office of a business, the financial accountant may be responsible for all tax-related tasks, for processing inventory, and for handling internal programs, such as allowance for entertainment, travel, and more.

Managerial Accounting

A managerial accountant is in charge of the money of a company and supervises everything to do with profits and losses as well as incoming and outgoing money. He or she must also be prepared to answer any questions regarding company expenditures and assets and provide supporting documentation. In addition, managerial accountants manage the other accounting departments, such as data processing, purchasing, accounts receivable, and bookkeeping. He or she must also review all financial reports regarding shareholder payments, taxes, banking activity, payroll and benefits, and capital expenditures. After the review, the managerial accountant must pass on relevant information to the corresponding department managers. In small businesses, the managerial accountant may be required to perform all bookkeeping and accounting duties.

Cost Accounting

Cost accountants are responsible for analyzing target costing projects, process constraints, margin analysis, and the tracing of costs back to activities on a regular basis. He or she must also develop and monitor data accumulation systems to track and provide cost information to management. In a typical position, cost accountants are responsible for data collection, inventory management, and the analysis of every aspect of cost related to the daily operations of the business.

Public Accounting

Many public accountants work as advisors and external consultants for small businesses, corporations, individuals, government organizations, and non-profits. A public accountant must remain completely objective and is not on the client’s payroll. The typical duties of this position include preparing financial statements, auditing financial records, preparing earnings statements, completing taxes, compiling cost accounting reports, and helping clients solve a variety of accounting problems. Individuals who have experience in this field may be tasked with supervising and directing support staff and must meet with coworkers and clients on a regular basis.


Auditors scrutinize organizational and personal financial records for accuracy as well as to detect fraudulent activity and to find ways to improve finances. They have specialized knowledge that helps organizations find and fix inefficiencies in financial operations. People in this occupation can work as internal or external auditors. While both perform the same types of tasks, the way the job is handled can be vastly different. Internal auditors work directly for the organization they audit. They look over finances and make recommendations for improving internal controls and financial reporting. Depending upon the type of employer, internal auditors may report to a board of directors or to upper management. External auditors work for a firm that is hired by organizations to analyze financial statements. Some may work for government agencies or banks that need to check financial records of organizations to ensure that money is properly used and reported.

Tax Accounting

Tax accountants work to prepare local, state, and federal returns for individuals, organizations, and businesses. These professionals are highly knowledgeable regarding government regulations and business concepts and often advise clients on the best ways to minimize their tax liability. They also provide information to clients regarding relevant tax changes and help make sure all regulations are met. In the case of a dispute or audit, the tax accountant is involved in helping the client handle and resolve the issue.

Governmental and NFP Accounting

Government agencies and not-for-profit groups use a type of accounting known as fund accounting. Individuals who specialize in fund accounting must manage multiple accounts and convey difficult information to decision makers so money can be used appropriately. Fund accountants separate resources into groups and must identify the source of funds, the way they are used, and whether or not money is being used properly. In addition, he or she must determine how funds can be used, the value of assets, the effect of getting rid of assets, and how the use of funds can help the organization accomplish its goals. The accountant must determine cash flow and decide who needs to receive relevant information.

Accounting Information Systems

Individuals who work in accounting information systems design and maintain accounting systems. This may involve database systems, cost accounting, information systems security, computer platform technology, information systems design, and auditing principles. The demand for accounting information systems specialists is expected to grow, but there may be fierce competition for available jobs.

Forensic Accountant

Forensic accountants combine investigative skills with knowledge of accounting to help law enforcement collect information and evidence regarding fraud and other white-collar crimes. Most forensic accountants are employed by the forensic accounting divisions of public accounting firms, but may also work for specialized consulting firms, law enforcement agencies, lawyers, government agencies, financial institutions, or insurance companies. Because white collar criminals are becoming cleverer, there is a growing demand for qualified forensic accountants.


Bookkeepers typically only need an associate’s degree and may choose to become certified. They perform routine accounting procedures in a number of settings. Typical duties of a bookkeeper include balancing accounts, preparing cash flow statements, checking company bank statements, processing receipts, sales invoices, and payments, handling payroll, and dealing with a range of financial paperwork, filings, and statements. Bookkeepers may also be tasked with assisting accountants with preparing profit and loss sheets and more.

Regardless of the specialization you choose, accounting is a career that offers it all to the right candidate. No matter where you interest lies, there is a field of accounting that will keep you interested and will provide constant challenge.