Accountants conduct audits and handle general bookkeeping activities on behalf of other people or businesses. In many instances, accountants have college degrees, but accountant qualifications vary depending upon the complexity of the job. Many accountants have obtained national or regional accounting licenses while other people working in these roles have not received any formal training.
In many countries, accountants must pass exams administered by regulatory boards, and pay a fee to register with an industry association. Aside from passing the exam, accountants often have to sign a code of conduct under the terms of which they agree to act in an ethical manner. National or regional licenses are normally listed among the accountant qualifications that applicants for jobs at major accounting firms must possess. Additionally, these licenses typically only remain active for a limited period of time which means that qualified accountants must attend ongoing education classes and pass regulatory assessments if they want their licenses to remain intact.
Regulatory agencies in many countries require banks, investment firms and insurance companies to employ qualified accountants as internal auditors and these individuals are tasked with reviewing company accounts, securities' trades and other financial transactions. Consequently, accountant qualifications for jobs in the financial services industry often include securities or insurance licenses. Although accountants do not have any role in buying or selling investments or insurance products, a knowledge of these products is essential for them to complete their work.
In some countries, accountants cannot take licensing exams until they have received a certain amount of on-the-job training. Accounting firms often recruit college graduates to fill trainee accountant jobs. Therefore, the accountant qualifications for these jobs normally include a college degree in accounting, finance, mathematics or a similar subject. Companies that work with major commercial clients may also require job applicants to have a postgraduate degree in commerce or macroeconomics.
While many companies seek out certified accountants, some businesses employ entry-level clerks in accounting positions. These individuals balance general ledgers, make bank deposits and issue payments to vendors on behalf of the business. Some employers do not require job applicants for these roles to have undergone any formal accounting training and in many instances these roles are filled by high school graduates rather than college graduates. In other instances, small firms may require job applicants to have attended some kind of a bookkeeping or accounting class at a local community college. Pay levels are largely based upon experience and qualifications so entry-level accountants with no formal qualifications earn much less than their licensed counterparts.