How to Become a Certified General Accountant

Private corporations, nonprofit organizations and even government offices rely on the skills of certified public accountants. Learn the responsibilities this job entails and how to become a general accountant.

General accounting is considered one of this financial discipline’s major categories. This category in accounting deals primarily with collections and ledgers of general account activity. This consists of credits, debits, account charges, and methods used to document financial statements for calendar or fiscal years. However, general accounts do not offer sub-category information related to management.

What does the general accountant do?

  • Evaluate and prepare tax returns and tax breaks.
  • Prepare financial statements to include income and balance sheets, bank statements, quarterly company reports, and annual general ledgers.
  • Handle debits and credits on a yearly basis for any type of business organization.
  • Take care of tax preparation for small enterprises.

General accountants should follow the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). This was established to regulate fundamental and accepted accounting principles for private and public enterprises, organizations, and government agencies. These accountants are mandated to observe the principles of truthfulness, comparability and stability. These financial experts focus on different disciplines such as management and cost accounting, auditing and financial budgeting.

Responsibilities of the GA

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  • The general accountant organizes financial budgets; analyzes expenditures; looks for possible investment areas; finds means to enhance revenue and profitability; present and future financial obligations; present and future financial duties; and, expected earnings to go with monetary objectives.
  • At the same time, these accountants can take care of an organization’s financial records. Based on this documentation, you can produce reports about profits and losses; asset management; accounts payable/receivable; and, depreciation. An accountant can also teach other employees in maintaining financial records
  • Individual entrepreneurs and companies are obliged to file tax returns at the local, state or national level. General accountants will see to it that taxes are settled promptly. Tax returns are readied according to requirements of the Internal Revenue Service. The general accountant can help strategize in saving financial resources through proper tax planning.

More than 1.3 million accountants and auditors were employed in the country last year. These figures were released by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. The labor department also predicted a job growth of approximately 16 percent from 2010 until 2020. The bureau looks at 190,000 fresh jobs in accounting. In line with the Dodd Frank Act of 2012, business owners and enterprises are mandated to employ accountants in compliance with government laws. Aside from seeking employment in government offices and private firms, general accountants can also act as consultants who can give guidelines in data processing platforms, financial measures and employee benefits.

Educational Qualifications

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General accounting practitioners are required to complete a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Accounting or Finance. The Certified Public Accountant or CPA has better chances of getting promotions and higher compensation. This calls for at least 150 extra hours of coursework and passing the board examination for CPAs. Although an accounting degree is the principal prerequisite, big corporations prefer graduates with Master’s in Business Administration specializing in Accounting.

There are five degrees that prospective accountants can take in different universities and colleges in different states of the country. Likewise, community institutes offer two-year associate programs. You can make use of online search tools to search for accounting curriculum that fit your requirements through states, subjects and degree-level categories.

  • Accounting degrees vary from associate to bachelor and doctorate. Included in the programs are financial records keeping as well as accounting principles for management, government, non-profit, and income taxes.
  • The Auditing degree is specialized and offered generally at the graduate level. Subjects consist of auditing procedures on financial information, business ethics and responsibilities, document collection, and evidence organization.
  • Business programs provide students the chance to learn two skills. One is accounting and the other is management.
  • Finance students can major in accounting as well as funds management, banking and stock investment. All these are related to the accounting profession.
  • Taxation curriculum are meant more for students interested in gaining comprehensive knowledge of tax accounting, research, laws, and procedures. Most CPAs finish tax accounting degrees.

The principal areas of specialty in accounting are corporate and public. Other secondary specialization programs are managerial, environmental, internal auditing, and taxes.

Potential general accountants can look forward to optimistic careers and earn more than the average annual wage of $71,040 at end of 2012. You can submit applications directly for jobs advertised in web-based employment search portals or local print publications. Professional accounting associations also supply possible job opportunities and networking for affiliates. Some of these organizations include the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, National Society of Accountants and American Accounting Association.

Outsourcing General Accounting Tasks

You can look forward to more accurate results by farming out general accounting tasks. This can ensure cost-effective management of business operations which do not form part of policy-making. In many instances, contractors are more competent than regular employees because of the experience and focus. You are able to save funds since fees are limited to actual services of providers. The company will not be paying regular compensation, benefits and administrative outlay that it may be compelled to provide. These will result in savings that can instead be channeled to other more important business concerns.

This also means that management can anticipate timely reporting from accountants. These contractors will also handle payroll computation and preparation as well as give pointers regarding the improvement of financial services such as payroll management. There will be less chances of incorrect filing of business taxes if this is performed efficiently. Hence, companies can stay away from excessive fines normally imposed by Internal Revenue Services. Unnecessary tax penalties are also avoided because of the experience of these accounting professionals.

General Accounting Principles

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In this discipline, there are benchmarks required by regulatory agencies. These are the Securities and Exchange Commission, American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and Financial Accounting Standards Board. It is a pre-requisite regarding up to standard procedures. The GAAP indicate the proper approach in documentation and reporting information applicable to this area of specialization. The GAAP obliges public and private corporations to come up with a measure of consistency in the preparation of financial statements.
This is designed for the welfare of investors and in accordance with investment targets and objectives. Business firms include classification of balance sheet items; categorization of revenues; and, allotment of shares. These organizations are mandated to comply with all norms of general accounting with respect to reporting data through financial statements. Companies should expect stakeholders to go through their monetary records. Therefore, it is important to observe the General Accepted Accounting Principles.

Adherence to these precepts can help maintain integrity among creditors, clients, investors, suppliers, and other firms. Outside parties with access to such records can assume that financial statements are acceptable. These documents should conform to the terms of the GAAP. Certified Public Accountants are hired for auditing purposes and verify if said statements are compliant with policies set forth by the GAAP. Banks and other financing institutions also require clients to adopt these models. These are benchmarks that the general accountant must respect in the process of preparing financial records.

Importance of Ledger Accounts

General ledger account is the act of posting transactions using the double-entry format. In this case, debit items are found the left side while credits are seen on the right. It is possible to add a third column at the farthest right corner. This is meant to monitor aggregate account activity. The format is similar to that of a check book. The ledger provides the required data for balance sheets in addition to single or multiple income statements which companies can select from.

Financial record books can be in manual form or computer software. Of course, enterprises prefer the automated system. Accounts charts are categorized according to the following types:

  • Assets
  • Liabilities
  • Revenues
  • Expenditures
  • Owner’s Equity

The general ledger is has a corresponding file, page, inventory and card for separate accounts. You can expect corporate organizations to look for methods in becoming cost-efficient while producing more revenues. There are specific functions in a particular company (regardless of size) that can be outsourced. It is a less expensive option rather than hiring permanent employees. General accounting is one of these functions. By subcontracting less important work, management can save on human and financial resources as well as time.
As a matter of fact, outsourcing has become a widespread practice for numerous corporate entities as well as small and medium companies. It allows entrepreneurs the opportunity to focus on more critical operations. Likewise, you cut down on personnel expenses and fixed costs. From the economic point of view, it is more practical to focus on generating incremental profits as opposed to organizing departments. These functions can just be conducted by expert service providers.

Hiring General Accountants

Any qualified general accountant can look for employment in a small-scale or large accounting firm. Standard responsibilities include preparation of tax pro forma; rendering planning advice associated with financial planning; and, taxation requirements of private individuals and corporate clients. Some conglomerates or multi-national organizations employ general accountants for tax advice and planning.

Graduates may check out job classified ads in local newspapers, employment websites and job search boards. You can also inquire from well-known professional organizations which supply resources for networking to job applicants. Again, these are the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, National Society of Accountants and American Accounting Association. Web-based jobs sites concentrate on niche industries. Try the more reliable ones such as (accountingjobstoday.com and accountingcrossing.com). These can be dependable sources for prospective accounting staff.

General Accountants must be experts in the preparation and scrutiny of financial records like balance sheets, tax returns and income statements. You may work for government offices, private entities or sole entrepreneurs to ensure punctual tax payments. According to the BLS, general accountants can work as consultants and attend to principal concerns that include employee health benefits, data-processing and fiscal safety measures. The Bureau maintains that careers for prospective general accountants are projected to grow further within the next five to 10 years. This is the result of increase in the number of new corporations all over the world.
Tax statutes are also perceived as becoming more regulated. This development is expected to bring in more employment opportunities for general accountants. Based on the portal Indeed.com, the general accountant can expect to take home an average salary of approximately $60,000 and above every year. This figure is also expected to increase within the next few years.

Conclusion

All categories of entrepreneurships, regardless of size and capital outlay, will always require accounting services. In case the enterprise is relatively small or the company lacks adequate finances, one alternative is to just hire bookkeepers. However, utilizing the services of prominent accounting agencies or licensed accountants will give you peace of mind. Accredited professionals will see to it that your financial records are accurate and in conformity with current federal and state government legislation.

The most basic services that business proprietors will entail consist of tax filing services on an annual basis; monthly bookkeeping which serves as the basis for tax preparations and filing; certification of accounting papers; and, fundamental auditing. Large-scale companies have the resources to create internal accounting departments and sign up external auditors. Meanwhile, small-scale entrepreneurs typically opt for general accountant services usually on the so-called retainer agreement. It is fairly complicated to compute the costs of professional general accounting. This depends on several factors like the magnitude of work, size of the enterprise, difficulty level, and expertise of the accountant.

The costs in using the services of general accountants vary from state to state considering laws and parameters. You can always ask for estimates from different accounting firms for comparison purposes. Yet, the cardinal rule is that many CPAs charge an hourly fee. Accountants with more extensive experience and impressive portfolios demand higher fees compared to inexperienced service providers. All these will serve as guidance for you in getting the services of accountants. Consider all factors carefully before making a final choice.