California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Accountants and Auditors in California

May also be called: Staff Accountants; Certified Public Accountants (CPA); General Accountants; Accounting Managers; Business Analysts; Cost Accountants; Internal Auditors; Auditors-in-Charge; Assurance Managers; Assurance Seniors; Financial Auditors; and Revenue Tax Specialists.

Specialties within this occupation include: Auditors.

What Would I Do?

Accountants and Auditors help to ensure that the nation’s firms are run more efficiently, its public records are kept more accurately, and its taxes are paid properly and on time. They examine, analyze, and interpret accounting records for the purpose of giving advice or preparing financial statements. They use a variety of computer programs, such as accounting, compliance, financial analysis and tax preparation software.

Accountants analyze financial information and prepare financial reports to determine or maintain records of assets, debts, profit and loss, tax liability, or other financial activities within an organization. They perform a broad range of accounting, auditing, tax, and consulting activities for their clients, which may be corporations, governments, nonprofit organizations, or individuals. For example, some Accountants concentrate on tax matters, such as advising companies about the tax advantages and disadvantages of certain business decisions and preparing individual income tax returns. Others offer advice in areas such as compensation or employee health care benefits, the design of accounting and data-processing systems, and the selection of controls to safeguard assets. Still others audit clients’ financial statements and inform investors and authorities that the statements have been correctly prepared and reported. This area is known as “forensic accounting.” Accountants, many of whom are Certified Public Accountants (CPA), generally have their own businesses or work for public accounting firms.

Auditors

Auditors examine and analyze existing accounting records to determine the financial status of an establishment and prepare financial reports concerning operating procedures. In California, Financial Auditors must hold current CPA licenses. This requirement does not apply to State Auditors, Program Auditors, and Tax Auditors in government agencies, whose duties reflect monitoring, performance, and compliance-related activities.

Accountants and Auditors are broadening their services today to include budget analysis, financial and investment planning, information technology consulting, and limited legal services.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Specific job duties vary widely among the four major fields of accounting: public, management, government accounting, and internal auditing. Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Prepare, examine, or analyze accounting records, financial statements, or other financial reports to assess accuracy, completeness, and conformance to reporting and procedural standards.Economics and Accounting
Compute taxes owed and prepare tax returns, ensuring compliance with payment, reporting or other tax requirements.Mathematics
Analyze business operations, trends, costs, revenues, financial commitments, and obligations, to project future revenues and expenses or to provide advice.Critical Thinking
Report to management regarding the finances of establishment.Active Listening
Establish tables of accounts and assign entries to proper accounts.Information Ordering
Develop, maintain, and analyze budgets, preparing periodic reports that compare budgeted costs to actual costs.Time Management
Develop, implement, modify, and document recordkeeping and accounting systems, making use of current computer technology.Computers and Electronics
Collect and analyze data to detect deficient controls, duplicated effort, extravagance, fraud, or non-compliance with laws, regulations, and management policies.Deductive Reasoning
Report to management about asset utilization and audit results, and recommend changes in operations and financial activities.Inductive Reasoning
Prepare detailed reports on audit findings.English Language
Review data about material assets, net worth, liabilities, capital stock, surplus, income, and expenditures.Reading Comprehension
Inspect account books and accounting systems for efficiency, effectiveness, and use of accepted accounting procedures to record transactions.Monitoring
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Most Accountants and Auditors work in a comfortable, well-lit office setting. Self-employed Accountants may work from home. Accountants and Auditors employed by public accounting firms and government agencies may travel frequently to perform audits at branches of their firm, clients’ places of business, or government facilities.

The work can be stressful, especially for Public Accountants during tax season when the hours are long and the clients numerous.

Accountants and Auditors who work for government, health care, and service industries often belong to unions such as the Service Employees International Union.

Will This Job Fit Me?

People who like to work independently; who perform well under pressure, comprehend information quickly, and possess good analytical and communication skills would like this type of work. The occupation of Accountant would appeal to someone who likes set procedures and routines, working with data and details, and carrying out projects.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

The variation in salaries for Accountants and Auditors reflects differences in size of firm, location, level of education, and professional credentials. Earnings often exceed $100,000 annually for CPAs who work in large, well-established firms, or who are partners in successful companies.

Wages

The median wage in 2016 for Accountants and Auditors in California is $74,745 annually, or $35.94 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2016Low
(25th percentile)
Median
(50th percentile)
High
(75th percentile)
California$57,881$74,745$97,750
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2016 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas

Benefits

Benefits generally include vacation, sick leave, group health insurance, and retirement plans. Some companies offer profit-sharing plans. Self-employed Accountants will need to pay for their own medical and dental insurance. CPA firms often pay for CPA exams, continuing education courses, and professional society membership dues.

What is the Job Outlook?

Growth in this occupation is driven by the increasing number of businesses and scrutiny of company finances, as well as the constant change of financial laws and regulations. In addition to openings resulting from growth, the need to replace Accountants and Auditors who retire or transfer to other occupations will produce numerous job openings in this large occupation.

Of all Accountants and Auditors working in California, about 40,000 (30 percent) are Certified Public Accountants with “active” licenses, according to the Board of Accountancy. Nationally, about 11 percent of Accountants are self-employed.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Accountants and Auditors is expected to grow faster than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Accountants and Auditors are expected to increase by 17.9 percent, or 28,000 jobs between 2014 and 2024.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Accountants and Auditors
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Estimated
Employment
Projected
Employment
Numeric
Change
Percent
Change
Additional Openings
Due to Net
Replacements
California
(2014-2024)
156,400184,40028,00017.941,700
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

Annual Job Openings

In California, an average of 2,800 new job openings per year is expected for Accountants and Auditors, plus an additional 4,170 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 6,970 job openings.

Estimated Average Annual Job Openings
Accountants and Auditors
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-
Projected Year)
Jobs From GrowthJobs Due to
Net Replacements
Total Annual
Job Openings
California
(2014-2024)
2,8004,1706,970
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Data for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

Accountants and Auditors generally require at least a bachelor’s degree. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that over 75 percent of working Accountants held a bachelor’s degree or higher in 2004. For tax management accounting, a master’s degree is desirable. Additionally, a college grade point average of 3.0 or higher is generally expected for job entry into accounting firms.

Previous experience in accounting or auditing can help an applicant get a job. More prestigious accounting firms may require applicants to have 5-10 years experience as a Public Accountant.

Many colleges offer students an opportunity to gain experience through summer or part-time internship programs conducted by public accounting or business firms.

Increasingly, applicants for Accountant positions are required to pass a criminal background check and receive fingerprint clearance.

Certified Public Accountants (CPA)

The California Board of Accountancy (CBA) requires Accountants who perform public accounting services as defined by Business and Professions Code section 5051 to be licensed as Certified Public Accountants (CPAs). Those who are self-employed individuals, who work for government agencies or other industries such as health care, are not required to be licensed.

There are currently two pathways for earning a CPA license, both which require applicants to submit transcripts and pay fees. Pathways 1 and 2 require the following:

  • A bachelor’s degree.
  • 24 semester units in accounting-related subjects.
  • 24 semester units in business-related or further accounting classes.
  • Passing the Uniform CPA Exam.
  • Passing an ethics course.



Pathway 1, designed for individuals who will practice only in California, also requires two years of general accounting experience supervised by a licensed CPA.

Pathway 2 is similar to the licensing requirements of many other states. For those who think they might want to practice in another state, Pathway 2 may be able to provide the professional mobility they desire. In addition to the shared requirements with Pathway 1, it requires:

  • 150 semester units (or 225 quarter units) of education.

  • One year of general accounting experience supervised by a licensed CPA.


Auditors

Graduates from accredited colleges and universities who have worked for two years as Internal Auditors and have passed a four-part examination may earn the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) designation from the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA).

Early Career Planning

High School students interested in pursuing a career in accounting should take business math, algebra, geometry, calculus, keyboarding, and computer classes to learn basic accounting software programs.

Apprenticeship and Work Study Programs

In many areas of California, Regional Occupational Programs (ROP) exist for students who want to learn about the accounting field. Some programs offer paid work-study positions. To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site.

Continuing Education

Eighty hours of continuing education are required every two years in order to retain one’s CPA license. The CBA Regulations section 87 outlines the requirements for obtaining qualifying continuing education.





Licensing and Certification

The California Board of Accountancy, as a part of the Department of Consumer Affairs, is responsible for examining and licensing Certified Public Accountants and enforcing the State laws regulating the practice of public accountancy.

California and all other states use the same Uniform CPA examination prepared by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. The examination is given twice a year in California at locations in Pleasanton, Sacramento, San Diego, and Pomona. Contact the agency that issues the license for additional information. Click on the license title below for details.

Although candidates are not required to pass all the parts at once, they must do so within three years of passing two or more parts of the first exam. A carefully planned, intensive review contributes to success on the exam.

Accountants can earn their Certificate in Management Accounting (CMA) from the Institute of Management Accounting, or the Certificate in Internal Auditing from the Institute of Internal Auditing. Both require lengthy written exams and experience. Although neither of these certificates is required by law, they are generally considered symbols of achievement and can help in career advancement. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

  • Search by Field of Study to find what programs are available and what schools offer those programs. You may use keywords such as: Accounting, Accountant, Auditor, Audit, Business, and Finance.
  • Search by Training Provider to find schools by name, type of school, or location.

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

Accountants and Auditors work in most industries. In addition to accounting firms, they work for insurance companies, health care, school districts, and government agencies, to name a few. About 11 percent of all Accountants are self-employed nationally. The largest industries employing Accountants and Auditors are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Accounting and Bookkeeping Services 26.7%
State Government 5.1%
Management of Companies and Enterprises 4.5%
Local Government 4.5%
Computer Systems Design and Rel Services 2.6%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Accountants often find jobs through listings posted on job sites or through newspaper advertisements. Some get leads through their associations, at campus career centers, or by attending job fairs. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at www.jobcentral.com and CalJOBSSM at www.caljobs.ca.gov.

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Accountants and Auditors.

  • Accountants – Certified Public
  • Accounting Services
  • Tax Return Preparation
  • Tax Return Preparation - Business

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

Experienced Accountants may advance to manager and eventually to partner. Some leave to open their own practices. Management Accountants may become senior-level supervisors or department managers. A few become controllers, treasurers, or chief financial officers.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Accountants and Auditors with links to more information.

OccupationOccupational
Guide
Industry
Report
Occupational
Profile
Budget AnalystsProfile
Cost EstimatorsProfile
Credit AnalystsProfile
Financial ExaminersProfile
Financial ManagersGuide
Tax Examiners and Collectors, and Revenue AgentsProfile
Tax PreparersProfile

Other Sources

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SystemCode
SOC - Standard Occupational Classification13-2011
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Accountants13-2011.01
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)CEI
   Auditors13-2011.02
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)CEI
CIP - Classification of Instructional Programs
   Accounting 520301
   Taxation 521601
TOP - Taxonomy of Programs (California Community Colleges)
   Accounting050200
   Tax Studies050210