Chartered accountants primarily work to create financial reporting procedures. Their role involves analysis and understanding of various financial inputs and the tracking of these. Positions are often split into two different areas: financial and management accounting.
One of the better known functions of a financial accountant is the tracking of inputs and outputs, otherwise known as accounts receivable and accounts payable. This information is tracked and presented in what is known as an income statement, or historically, as a profit / loss sheet. Keeping track of the budget is incredibly important to businesses. The livelihood of any business is based on their ability to cover their operating costs. This means, they must bring in enough revenue to at least cover their costs. The point at which revenue equals costs is known as the ‘break-even’ point. When revenue is greater than costs, a profit is made. When calculating this sheet, accountants also need to consider other costs the organisation might incur, including tax.
Another important accounting statement is the ‘balance sheet’, known now as the ‘statement of financial position’. This examines three factors: assets, liabilities and equity. Assets are what the organisation owns, with examples including workforce, machinery and inventory. Liabilities are what it owes (payables) and, in the longer term, debts. The third factor, equity, is what is invested in the business. The name comes from the fact that assets must be equal to liabilities plus equity.
Management accounting is more concerned with the future. It looks at how organisations are managing their costs and accounts for any asset depreciation. This means management accounting involves forecasting, planning, and taking a more strategic function in the accounting process. In the modern economy where companies operating in sectors such as IT are facing high costs, management accounting is especially useful in examining these costs and looking for ways in which they can be strategically reduced whilst maintaining product or service quality.
Auditing is also an essential component of accounting. This is the process of assessing accounts of a company to provide third-party validation of their accuracy and contents. This process may be considered within the job role but can also be found more specifically under the Internal Auditor position.
As so many sectors and organisations financial administration, accountant vacancies exist in a wide variety of areas. This includes charities, NGOs, small and medium businesses, multinational corporations, and many more. Jobs also exist working as a government accountant. Accountants play a very important role in organisations and therefore offer excellent career development opportunities. It is normal to start out in a graduate accounting position whilst undertaking formal training for the role. After fulfilling this training and receiving ‘chartered’ status, you can move up the career ladder by gaining experience and illustrating your competence in the role. The Chief Financial Officer (CFO) – one of the top positions in a company – has a finance or accounting background, showing ample room for career development. Some accountants also move over to Banking where the pay is particularly high. Hours are usually routine but may require extra shifts during particular times of the year when key data needs to be published. Salaries are normally good and provide solid remuneration for the work. Roles exist within accounting divisions of companies, in addition to organisations that specialise in the function. You can also work on a freelance basis on an ad-hoc client basis.
Demand for accountant jobs exist not only in Sri Lanka, but worldwide. The skillset is internationally applicable meaning that taking this career path may help you to land an overseas job.
What responsibilities does the job have?
The tasks involved vary given the divergent roles in both areas of finance and management, discussed above. Despite this, there are a number of general tasks and responsibilities common to the role:
Manage the organisational payroll
Conduct financial audits
Provide financial advice
Track financial inputs and outputs
Prepare financial reports
Prepare financial statements
Validate business plans
Comply with legal accounting regulations
Assess accounts for merger and acquisition work
What do I need to fill an accountant vacancy?
The role normally requires a bachelor’s level degree, in addition to supplementary training to achieve chartered status. Whilst this additional study can be conducted independently, it is common to seek sponsorship from a company where you will work and study simultaneously – so you can pass the qualification and gain valuable experience in the role. This study is based on learning various accounting principles and regulations of the field and gaining a general understanding of how the role fits into the business landscape. Working and studying at the same time can be tough – expect late nights and early starts to manage both and usually lasts a couple of years until you are qualified.
The role is heavily number-orientated so mathematical proficiency is a must. It is important that you are comfortable dealing with numeric information so that you can gain the necessary conclusions from it. You must also be comfortable writing reports, as much of the information calculated in accounting must be summarised in these. This information must also be communicated in a way that can be assessed by a number of stakeholders including management and prospective investors. The role requires excellent attention to detail as even the smallest mistake in accounting can lead to large problems and potentially violate regulations.
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