Professional accounting, which is also known as public accounting, is an accounting career in which an individual provides accounting services to individuals and/or organizations outside the organization in which the accountant works. (It is important to note that the term “professional accounting” can be used to refer to any accountant who is paid for his or her services; this specialty, as a result, is more commonly known as public accounting.)
Professional accountants analyze financial records; conduct audits; draft and/or file financial reports; draft financial statements (balance sheet, cash flow statement, income statement, etc.); help an individual or an organization locate the information necessary to file taxes. In addition, professional accountants help individuals or organizations identify discrepancies in the their financial records; record the receipts and invoices from their financial transactions; use invoices, financial records, receipts and other similar financial documents to track the individuals’ or organizations’ assets; verify journal and ledger entries; verify financial records; and perform other similar tasks for those individuals and/or organizations that need to hire an outside accountant.
Professional accountants may work under any of a number of different job titles depending on the specific tasks that they perform, but some of the most common job titles for professional accountants include accountant, external auditor (professional auditors may perform internal audits for the accounting firm in which they work, but they are typically considered to be external auditors because they do not usually perform internal audits), financial accountant, forensic accountant, public accountant, and professional accountant.
In most cases, an individual will be able to obtain a position in the subfield of public accounting with a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree in accounting from an accredited accounting school and a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license. An accountant is legally required to have a CPA license in order to file an organization’s financial reports; as a result of this regulation, a CPA license is typically required for a public accountant. Some employers also require an individual to obtain an Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV) certificate, a Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP) certificate, a Forensic Certified Public Accountant (FCPA) certificate, a Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) certificate, and/or another similar certificate related to the specific services that the accountant is offering.