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Accountant

Accountants provide financial reporting and consulting services for organizations and individuals.

Also Known As:Auditor, Certified General Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, Chartered Accountant, Comptroller, Fraud Investigator, Professional Accountant
NOC Number(s):1111.2
Minimum Education:4 years post-secondary education/training
Employment Outlook:Job openings generated due to employment turnover. Occupational outlook currently unavailable.
Interests:M I D

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Accountant


Duties | Working Conditions | Personal Characteristics | Education | Related Legislation | Employment | Salary | Other Information | Related Occupations | Related School Subjects | Related Field of Study

Duties

Accountants work in business and industrial organizations, educational institutions, government and private firms that offer accounting services to the public. Duties vary from one position to another but, in general, accountants:

  • design and administer accounting and information systems that include records of assets, liabilities and business transactions
  • prepare budgets, tax returns and financial statements
  • analyze financial information to assist in planning financial management policies, business strategies and the control and use of business assets
  • provide personal and corporate income tax and estate planning services
  • provide internal and external auditing services (for more information, see the Internal Auditor occupational profile)
  • make recommendations regarding solutions to business and financial problems
  • provide support in litigation matters
  • serve as bankruptcy trustees and business valuators.

Accountants may have one of three professional designations:

  • Certified General Accountant (CGA)
  • Certified Management Accountant (CMA)
  • Chartered Accountant (CA).

Working Conditions

Accountants usually work in an office setting. Their hours of work vary depending on the organization and level of responsibility. Overtime often is required at company budgeting time, month end or in late winter and early spring (when public accountants are busy with year end corporate work and personal income tax returns). Depending on the position, some travel may be required.


Personal Characteristics

Accountants need the following characteristics:

  • good oral and written communication skills
  • critical thinking, logical analysis and problem solving skills
  • the ability to work alone and as part of a team
  • high ethical standards.

They should enjoy:

  • having clear rules and organized methods to guide their activities
  • developing innovative solutions to problems
  • directing the activities of others.

Educational Requirements

Training to become an accountant involves a combination of related post-secondary education and practical experience. Specific requirements vary depending on the professional designation: CGA, CMA or CA. Prospective students are strongly advised to check specific requirements and course suitability with the appropriate professional association, institute or society before enroling in post-secondary program.

To be certified by the Certified General Accountants' Association of Alberta, Certified General Accountants must:

  • have a bachelor's degree. CGA has agreements with post-secondary institutions that allow students to concurrrently study for the CGA designation as well as earn a post-secondary degree.
  • complete 19 courses. Individuals who have taken equivalent post-secondary education courses may be granted exemptions from the CGA courses. Courses may be taken prior to obtaining employment in the accounting field but the program is designed for people who are working full-time.
  • have a minimum of 24 months of practical experience at a professional level in a finance or accounting role.

To be certified by the Society of Management Accountants of Alberta, Certified Management Accountants must:

  • have a university degree with 17 prerequisite syllabus topics
  • pass the national CMA entrance exam
  • complete the two year Strategic Leadership Program while employed full time in a qualifying accounting-related position.

To be certified by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Alberta (ICAA), Chartered Accountants must:

  • have a bachelor's degree or an equivalent combination of education and experience
  • be employed with an approved CA training office
  • enrol in and complete the Chartered Accountants School of Business (CASB) program which includes online facilitated learning modules and group interactive learning meetings with facilitators
  • successfully complete the Uniform Evaluation.

Students progress through CASB learning modules while completing 30 months of paid work experience in an apporved training office. The Uniform Evaluation is generally completed before experience requirements.

In Alberta, the following post-secondary institutions offer degree programs with specializations in accounting:

  • Athabasca University offers a four year Bachelor of Commerce degree program with a specialization in accounting. Anyone 16 years of age or older may apply for this distance education program.
  • Grande Prairie Regional College offers a Bachelor of Commerce program with a specialization in accounting in conjunction with Athabasca University.
  • Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton offers a four year Bachelor of Commerce - Accounting degree program. Applicants must have a minimum overall average of 65 per cent (with no course grade lower than 50 per cent) in English Language Arts 30-1, Pure or Applied Math 30 and three other approved Grade 12 courses. Grant MacEwan University also offers a four year Bachelor of Applied Business Administration - Accounting degree program.
  • Mount Royal University in Calgary offers a Bachelor of Business Administration program with a specialization in accounting. The entrance requirement is an average of at least 60 per cent in English Language Arts 30-1, Pure or Applied Math 30, and three other approved Grade 12 subjects.
  • The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) in Edmonton offers a Bachelor of Business Administration - Accounting degree program.  Applicants must have a two year business diploma from an accredited Alberta post-secondary institution with specified coursework and a minimum GPA of C+. 
  • The Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) in Calgary offers a Bachelor of Applied Business Administration degree program with a specialization in accounting. Applicants must have a two year business administration or accelerated accounting diploma, or equivalent, with specified coursework and a minimum GPA of 2.3.
  • The University of Alberta in Edmonton offers a four year Bachelor of Commerce degree program with a specialization in accounting. Applicants must have completed a pre-professional year in a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science program with courses in English, economics, mathematics and statistics. Admission to this program is competitive based on performance in the required courses and a student's overall academic record.
  • The University of Calgary offers a four year Bachelor of Commerce degree and five year co-op degree programs in Management with a specialization in accounting. The entrance requirement is a competitive average in English Language Arts 30-1, Pure Math 30, and three of the following: Math 31, Social Studies 30, Biology 30, Chemistry 30, Physics 30, Science 30, a language 30 other than English, one five-credit Grade 12 subject.
  • The University of Lethbridge in Calgary, Edmonton and Lethbridge offers a four year Bachelor of Management degree in accounting and five year combined degree programs. The entrance requirement is an average of at least 65 per cent in English Language Arts 30-1, Pure Math 30, two other approved 30-level academic courses, and a fifth approved Grade 12 course.

CGA students can earn an Honours Bachelor of Commerce degree by distance education through Laurentian University.

The following post-secondary institutions offer two year Accounting or Business Administration diploma programs:

Admission requirements for these programs vary but generally include a specified minimum average in five approved Grade 12 courses such as English Language Arts 30-1 or 30-2, and Pure or Applied Math 30.

For current information about programs, admission requirements and mature student admission policies, please check post-secondary calendars or websites.

Section revised March 2013

Related Legislation

Certified General Accountant is a protected title under Alberta's Regulated Accounting Profession Act and Certified General Accountants Regulation. This means that to call yourself a Certified General Accountant, you must be a registered member of the Certified General Accountants' Association of Alberta (CGAAA). You do not have to be registered with CGAAA if you do not call yourself a Certified General Accountant; however, you must have a professional accounting designation such as CGA to provide public accounting services such as audits or review engagements.

To find more information on the certification process see Certified General Accountant Certification Process on the AlbertaCanada.com website.

Section revised June 2013

Employment and Advancement

Accountants work for a wide variety of organizations including:

  • businesses
  • governments
  • management consultant practices
  • corporate and personal tax preparation offices
  • banks
  • manufacturing companies
  • stock exchanges
  • credit offices
  • public accounting practices
  • educational institutions.

They may be salaried employees or work on a fee-for-service basis.

Experienced individuals who have professional accounting designations may advance to management positions or teach at the post-secondary level. Those in public accounting firms can move through the ranks of senior staff to become managers and partners. In industry, they can become:

  • controllers
  • treasurers
  • chief financial officers
  • senior executives.

In government, accountants may be employed as:

  • budget officers
  • internal auditors
  • accounting managers
  • information systems managers
  • senior managers or executives.

Accountants are part of the larger National Occupational Classification 1111: Financial Auditors and Accountants. In Alberta, 79 per cent of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Section revised October 2013

Salary

According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Financial Auditors and Accountants occupational group earned on average from $26.91 to $44.58 an hour. The mean wage for this group was $34.28 an hour. Accountants who have professional designations generally earn significantly more.

For more detailed information, see WAGEinfo.

Section revised February 2012

Other Sources of Information

Post-secondary institution calendars and websites (see Educational Requirements above)

EDinfo website: www.alis.alberta.ca/edinfo

Certified General Accountants' Association of Alberta website: www.cga-alberta.org

Institute of Chartered Accountants of Alberta website: www.albertaCAs.ca

Society of Management Accountants of Alberta website: www.cma-alberta.com


Related Occupational Profiles
Accommodation Manager
Accounting Technician
Economist
Environmental Economist
Internal Auditor
Oil and Gas Production Accountant
School Business Official
Systems Auditor

Related High School Subjects
Business, Administration, Finance and Information Technology (Financial Management; Information Processing; and Management and Marketing); English Language Arts; and Mathematics

Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
Business, Management and Administrative Studies

Produced October 2011
Top of Profile

For more information on career planning, occupations and educational programs, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website at alis.alberta.ca, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

The information contained in this profile was current as of the dates shown. Salaries, employment outlook and educational programs may change. Please check the information before making any career decisions.


Government of Alberta, Human Services