About the job:
Accountants work with numbers, handling services like bookkeeping, auditing, preparation of financial statements, tax preparation and more. Some work for various clients, and others work for a specific employer or business. “Taxes are a big part of an accountant’s role, and some specialize in that area,” said Greg Miller, (CQ) a partner in the accounting firm of Davie Kaplan. (CQ) “We help clients understand tax legislation…and the best opportunities for them.”
Keeping up with constantly changing tax codes is crucial, along with ever-shifting legal- and industrial rules and regulations. The education aspect is year-round.
Davie Kaplan, based in downtown Rochester, specializes in what Miller calls “closely held,” or family owned, businesses. The firm also handles services like consulting and retirement plans.
The peak season for accountants is from February through mid-April, or what people refer to as “tax time.” The hours can be long and overtime is common during that period; many accountants make up for it with shorter work-weeks later in the year.
Being good with numbers – mathematics and statistics – is vital. So, too, is attention to detail. Technology is a big part of accounting, Miller said, and accountants have to be able to adapt to new and changing software platforms.
To qualify for the Certified Public Accounting (or CPA) exam, applicants must complete essentially five years of higher education with a concentration in accounting, Miller said. The CPA exam involves four parts, which must be completed within an 18-month period. Upon completion, accountants are certified through New York state.
Most if not all colleges and universities locally have accounting programs, Miller said.
CPAs must then take 40 hours of Continuing Professional Education each year to maintain their certification. Other certifications are also available in the industry; Miller, for instance, said that he is licensed in the field of investments. “That varies by the firm, in the work that they do,” Miller said, such as governmental or not-for-profit clients.
What the job pays:
According to the New York State Department of Labor, the median salary for “accountants and auditors” in the Finger Lakes region is $65,200. (CQ) Miller estimated the starting salary for CPAs at $50,000 and added, “It goes up based on your years of experience.”
The job picture:
The prospects seem quite good. Davie Kaplan employs about 55 accountants, and Miller said “There is always a need for accountants, public or private…There are a lot of opportunities once you get the degree. People with specialty skills are really in demand.”
The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates job growth for accountants through the end of the decade at 4 percent, or “as fast as average.” The Bureau ties job growth closely to the health of the overall economy and notes, “As the economy grows, more workers should be needed to prepare and examine financial records.”
“Accounting is the language of business,” Miller said. He talked about accounting firms’ on-campus interviewing at colleges and said, “One of the great things about accounting is that firms come to you. You can get a job offer before even graduating. Not every field of study is like that.”
Where to learn more:
The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants is a national organization covering the industry; the website is www.aicpa.org
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Alan Morrell is a Rochester-based freelance writer.