What Does a General Ledger Accountant Do?

C. Mitchell

In nearly all contexts, a general ledger accountant is a financial professional who works to be sure that a company’s books are balanced and that all expenses and credits are properly recorded. Specific duties can vary significantly from organization to organization. In some settings, the ledger accountant is an entry-level associate charged with organizing basic paperwork and conducting routine fact-checking before forwarding reports to more senior accountants. Ledger accountants also can play a much more senior role, however, often exercising oversight and enforcing standard operating procedures.

A general ledger accountant balances the books at this company.
A general ledger accountant balances the books at this company.

The phrase “general ledger” is generally used in business to refer to a company’s basic, day-to-day accounting. Before the advent of computer database technology, ledgers were kept on paper, often in specific ledger notebooks. Credits were listed on one side, and debits were listed on the other side. Departments usually were required to record their transactions in the ledger book on a daily basis, which was then reviewed and reconciled by the general ledger accountant.

General ledger accounts must make sure that all expenses and credits are accounted for.
General ledger accounts must make sure that all expenses and credits are accounted for.

Although ledger books are now rare, the process of regularly tracking expenses is ubiquitous. Most of the time, it happens online or through specialized accounting software programs. Some of these programs will automatically compile entries across offices and departments, and many will generate reconciliation reports and summaries quite easily. There usually still is a need for human oversight, however. This most often comes in the person of the general ledger accountant.

In most companies, the ledger accountant is responsible for implementing and monitoring the financial tracking software. He or she usually must teach employees how to use the system and must enforce regular, honest entries. The accountant usually conducts random audits and keeps an eye on discrepancies from day to day or year to year.

Ledgers are an important part of corporate finance, but they are by no means the complete picture. The practice of ledger accounting usually must blend with larger corporate dealings, including mergers, acquisitions, profits and high-level sales. Tax accounting and planning also comes into play.

Most of the time, the general ledger accountant job description includes extensive interaction with other accountants. He or she must represent the daily financial transactions and petty cash expenses and must ensure that they are properly worked into the budget and overall financial landscape. In some companies, particularly small ones, the ledger accountant works on these expenses alone. General ledger accountant jobs generally are more entry-level positions, because the data they work with is relatively simple. In larger multinational settings, however, they might oversee many division-based professionals and might be considered more senior employees.

Regardless of the scope of their responsibilities or their seniority within an organization, ledger accountants are almost always held to the same standard as any other accountants. Specific ledger accountant requirements vary based on context but always include a basic accounting degree and usually include relevant local certifications and licenses. Many ledger accountants use their skills to advance to higher positions as time passes.

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