Contrary to popular belief, the world of accounting is not filled with glitz and glamor. Day-to-day life for an accountant consists of a mix of accounting for recurring business activity, completing special projects and participating in the monthly "close.";By understanding the day-to-day ay activities that occur in accounting, you'll get a better understanding of how the accounting process works and how you can design it to work for your business.
For many entry-level accountants, a good portion of day to day activities is spent on the processing of recurring transactions. These transactions can consist of sales and production activity, purchasing, or payroll processes. In larger companies, some of these activities are sent offshore or automated, but accounting personnel must still review this work. In smaller companies, this work is sometimes replicated. For example, sales staff frequently record sales information using order forms and product ordering spreadsheets and the accountants then enter the information into the sales journal.
For transactions that do not happen on a daily basis, but are still frequent, accountants may process on a weekly basis. This is common for the review of subordinate's work, for transactions that are assembled in batches and processed all at once, and for performing periodic checks that the accounting system is functioning as desired. A key to weekly activities is to ensure that they are scheduled into work time. When employees are given daily activities that fill their workday, non-frequent tasks are often put off and not completed.
The monthly close procedure is the process of preparing monthly financial statements and clearing out temporary accounts. During monthly, and especially annual close, accountants often work long hours in order to ensure that the financial records are accurate and that errors have not been included in the financial statements. The workload for this time period comes in waves; junior accountants are usually busiest first as they prepare basic financial schedules, then senior accountants increase their workload as they product more technical reporting and review the work of junior accountants. Finally, accounting management reviews the collective work of the group.
The daily work of an accountant also includes work on long-term projects. For more senior accounting staff, this can be a large part of the work week. Typically, the head accounting manager, usually called the controller, identifies areas of improvement in the accounting system on a quarterly or annual basis. Accounting managers then assign tasks to senior accountants in order to alleviate these concerns. A common long-term project is the management of unclaimed accounts payable. When checks are issued to vendors who do not cash the checks, the funds must be identified and tracked. If the owners do not come forward, in many jurisdictions the funds become the award of the state under escheat laws. As this is a relatively common, but infrequent, occurrence, it is best managed on a long-term or as-needed basis.
- "Principles of Financial Accounting"; Larson, et al; 2005
John Freedman's articles specialize in management and financial responsibility. He is a certified public accountant, graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in business administration and has been writing since 1998. His career includes public company auditing and work with the campus recruiting team for his alma mater.