what is an accountant?

As an accountant, you analyze financial statements and keep proper accounting records to ensure the company complies with Canadian accounting standards. Your primary duties include analyzing and reconciling bank statements, filing tax returns and maintaining the accounting systems. You ensure the company complies with the Canadian Tax Act and other regulations associated with financial reporting.

Accountants also assist with managing operating costs by creating a budget and a revenue forecast. You help the company fix cash flow problems and develop an efficient business strategy for managing finances. That means you create an accounting system for the organization and ensure it doesn’t breach Canadian accounting requirements.

As an accountant, you can provide tax consultation services and perform auditing functions in the company. You have varying levels of responsibility based on your accounting certification. For instance, a management accountant focuses on maximizing profits and lowering the operation costs of a business. You review the expenses incurred by the business and find ways to optimize costs. A forensic accountant acts as a witness in a court of law in cases of misappropriation. Forensic accountants detect errors of omission, fraud and commission in financial records.

Would working as an accountant suit your numerical and analytical skills? Then read on to find out what competencies and qualifications you need to thrive in an accountant role.

accountant roles

average accountant salary

According to Job Bank, an accountant earns a median salary of $65,000 per year or $33.33 per hour. The earnings often fluctuate depending on experience, qualification and area of expertise. As an entry-level accountant, you earn a starting salary of $50,021 yearly. With experience, your salary as an accountant gradually increases, topping out to over $107,850 annually.

how to increase your salary as an accountant

The salary of an accountant fluctuates based on the complexity of their duties. When you are new in the role, you perform basic accounting tasks that don’t require expert knowledge. However, you earn a higher salary as you gain experience and additional certifications in the role. For instance, forensic accountants require expert knowledge and are likely to earn more than management accountants.

The location may also influence your salary in Canada. For instance, accountants earn a higher salary in Nova Scotia than in Manitoba and Prince Edward Island. The demand for accountants and the cost of living influence earnings.

The company you work for also determines your earning potential. Working for large companies boosts your earnings since you perform additional duties, such as consultancy and complex management accounting tasks. Smaller companies pay lower salaries due to limited resources.

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types of accountants

Some of the types of accountants include:

  • certified public accountants: to receive this title, you should have an accounting degree, complete a designated number of state-mandated accounting hours, and pass a state CPA qualification exam. With these qualifications, you can take on advanced accounting and finance positions in an organization. You also act as consultants while individuals and businesses plan for the future.
  • cost accountants: as a cost accountant, you work with the financial nuts and bolts of the manufacturing world. You are responsible for tracking actual costs and minimizing waste. You also work through the entire workflow, from ordering and delivery to finding ways to save money. Businesses with low-profit margins depend on cost accountants to keep them in the black.
  • tax accountants: as a tax accountant, you specialize in tax preparation and resolution. You can be a team member in an accounting firm. Many large businesses have positions for accountants who navigate state, federal and international tax laws.
  • forensic accountants: forensic accountants are advanced auditors who trace money when it has disappeared. Your job is to look for illegal financial practices or hidden income for law enforcement. Companies need your expertise in cases of embezzlement. You not only trace the money but also seek to find a way to get it back.
  • bookkeepers: to maintain financial transparency, larger organizations employ bookkeepers as well as accountants. In the digital era, a bookkeeper is responsible for entering daily transactions into accounting software. Then, senior accountants analyze this data to prepare reports and offer advice.
  • auditors: many organizations require a regular audit for financial transparency. Having an auditor examine the books prevents embezzlement and other irregularities. Some accounting practices devote themselves to providing external audits for businesses.
man in suit using tablet
man in suit using tablet

working as an accountant

Interested in becoming an accountant? Here are the specific duties and career opportunities for accountants:


accountant skills and education

You require relevant educational qualifications to become an accountant. Some of the requirements include:

  • educational qualifications: complete a business, commerce or accounting university degree. When you complete the degree, go for internships or seek on-the-job training to improve your skills.
  • certifications: to work as a professional accountant in Canada, you require a certification from a regulatory authority. When you complete a university degree, complete a professional training program approved by the Institute of Chartered Accountants. Depending on the province, you should complete 30 or 24 months of on-the-job training and gain membership with a provincial Institute of Chartered Accountants. For instance, in Alberta, register with the Chartered Professional Accountants of Alberta.

competencies and characteristics of accountants

Possessing the right skills and mindset to work as an accountant is crucial. Some of the qualities required in the role include:

  • math skills: to enjoy a career in accounting, you need a natural affinity for mathematics to manipulate numbers quickly without a calculator. However, you do not need to understand advanced mathematical concepts to excel. Figuring profits and losses is a matter of basic addition and subtraction. Being comfortable with the language of statistics helps you create and interpret reports.
  • attention to detail: an accountant who pays attention to detail is a strong asset for a company. Part of your job as a cost accountant is finding ways to lower costs and boost profits. Saving a few cents on a manufacturing process can greatly improve the company’s bottom line over a year.
  • computer skills: as an accountant, you do most of your work on computers. You create spreadsheets and work with accounting software programs. Being comfortable with online communication methods like email and video conferencing tools is crucial.
  • organizational skills: the record-keeping aspect of your job requires a high level of organization. For tracking purposes, you maintain digital files so that an outside auditor can quickly find necessary data. Being organized helps make time-consuming tasks more efficient, such as month-end closings.
  • communication skills: as an accountant, you translate financial information in a meaningful way. Company managers depend on clear communication for making decisions. You help leaders understand the financial health of their organization.

FAQs about accountant jobs

Here, you will find the answers to the most frequently asked questions about the profession of an accountant.


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