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Accountants provide the information required to analyze the present and future economic activities of businesses, not-for-profit organizations, and government agencies. When you first consider an accounting career, it is smart to consider what kind of accounting you want to specialize in.

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Different Types of Accountants

Accountant With CalculatorThe field of accounting is wide and varied. It is possible to earn a degree in accounting and become a general accountant, but this is just one of the available options. Many accountants choose to specialize in areas such as auditing, management policy and taxation. Aside from their involvement in preparing financial statements and recording business transactions, accountants are also consulted during the planning of emerging technologies, new business ventures and employee expenses, as well as larger business events such as acquisitions and mergers.

Here is a brief outline of the most common types of accountants.


Theoretically, bookkeepers are an entry-level position in accounting. However, good bookkeepers are a valuable asset to any accounting team, as the basis of all financial reporting systems rests upon their data contribution. Bookkeepers record transactions from main sources such as invoices and checks. 

Accountant (general)

General accountants make accruals and adjustments. Full Charge bookkeepers, however, can do the whole accounting process, through final financial statements. Accountants can take the basic information, add all of the numerical information and formulas and adjust it to final status. In large companies, accountants may specialize in one area, such as payroll or accounts payable.

Controller (also Comptroller)

This is the head of an accounting department. Controller is an elaborate word for Chief Accountant. A comptroller or controller supervises cash flow within an organization. While a comptroller typically audits government accounts, a controller is an accountant in a public or private corporation.

Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

The CFO is head of several finance-related departments within a large company. A CFO is often the department executive who supervises the financial management team, including collections, inventory, sales, employee expenses, etc. If a company has an internal auditing staff, this department would also report to the CFO. The CFO receives independent opinions from several subordinates regarding the company's accounting operations.

Enrolled agent (EA)

Enrolled agents are usually accountants, but not necessarily. They typically represent taxpayers before the IRS. To become an enrolled agent, one must pass an exam administered by the IRS. Accountants who offer their services to the public usually pursue the EA status.

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

CPAs can attest to the validity of financial information. This means that they can audit financial statements and report on whether they are accurate or not. Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) are licensed by law.

Forensic Accountant

Forensic accountants investigate issues involving white-collar crimes such as fraud, embezzlement, contract disputes, and money laundering. These accountants combine accounting expertise with knowledge of law, and may work with law enforcement or appear as expert witnesses at trial.

Other Types of Accountants

Some new accounting titles have been created with the advancement of Internet technology. Some of the main ones are

CMA stands for Certified Management Accountant. This is an inventory cost accountant.

CIA stands for Certified Internal Auditor. In addition to internal auditors, government auditors of contractors have found this designation to be useful.

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