The different types of accountants

Someone wanting to enter the accounting field can choose to train for a number of possible positions. While the general concept for an accountant is to maintain a system of accounting records, there are many possible paths to take that expand well beyond this baseline activity. The following list contains brief descriptions of the more commonly recognized types of accountants:

  • Billing clerk. This position is responsible for invoicing customers, submitting the invoices to customers by whatever means are required, issuing credit memos, and keeping the billing records up-to-date.

  • Bookkeeper. This position originates accounting transactions and compiles the information into financial statements. It also reconciles general ledger accounts. This position is responsible for, and likely personally handles, the invoicing of customers, processing of cash receipts, payment of suppliers, and tracking of fixed assets. This position also handles sales taxes and income taxes. This position is only found in a small accounting department.

  • Budget analyst. This position is responsible for coordinating the assembly of the annual budget, loading it into the accounting software, comparing it to actual results, and reporting on variances.

  • Cashier. This position handles and properly records incoming and outgoing cash, including the processing of bills, coins, credit cards, and debit cards. This can involve the use of a cash register. Accurate cash recordation is emphasized.

  • Chief financial officer. This is the top-level accounting position in a business. This position is responsible for the accounting, taxation, and treasury staffs, as well as for maintaining a proper system of controls, strategic planning, risk management, fund raising, investor relations, and investments.

  • Collections clerk. This position collects cash related to overdue accounts receivable by whatever means are most efficient and legally allowed, and will also recommend the recordation of some receivables as bad debts.

  • Controller. This position manages the accounting department. In that role, the position is responsible for all transactions, controls within the accounting department, and the production of financial statements and other financial reports.

  • Cost accountant. This position reports on the cost of activities, products, and processes. The position can involve participation in target costing teams, reviewing inventory, analyzing proposed product or services prices, and many other tasks.

  • Credit manager. This position is usually found in mid-size to larger firms, and is responsible for reviewing and granting customer credit requests, with the goal of maximizing revenues while minimizing bad debts.

  • Fixed asset accountant. This position records the cost of fixed assets as acquired and altered over time, as well as their subsequent depreciation and disposition; also includes the recordation of asset retirement obligations and impairment charges.

  • Forensic accountant. This position is involved with the examination of financial records when there is a suspicion of fraud, as well as the reconstruction of destroyed or damaged financial records. Thus, the position tends to be a third-party consultant that moves from job to job as required. This is considered a senior-level position, and should have an excellent grounding in audit engagements.

  • General ledger clerk. This position records all journal entries in the general ledger, and reconciles all accounts. This person may also prepare several disclosures that accompany the financial statements.

  • Payables clerk. This position records incoming supplier invoices, ensures that they have been approved for payment, possibly with three-way matching, and pays suppliers.

  • Payroll clerk. This position collects and aggregates time keeping information, calculates gross pay, subtracts payroll deductions to arrive at net pay, and issues payments to employees. This position usually requires an in-depth knowledge of payroll regulations, as well as the operation of payroll software.

  • Project accountant. This position monitors the progress of projects, investigates variances from the project budget, and ensures that project billings are issued and payments collected.

  • Tax accountant. This position collects the information needed to complete tax forms, ensures that tax reports are filed in a timely manner, and researches tax issues as requested, advising management on the impact of different corporate strategies.

Related Courses

Credit and Collection Guidebook 
Bookkeeping Guidebook 
CFO Guidebook 
Cost Accounting Fundamentals 
Fixed Asset Accounting 
New Controller Guidebook 
Payables Management 
Payroll Management 
Project Accounting