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What is an accountant?
Accountants organize the processes of finance and accounting and are often responsible for personnel or work as trainers.
The main focus of her work is to ensure that accounting functions smoothly, including the timely preparation of monthly and annual financial statements in accordance with HGB or international accounting regulations.
In smaller companies, the accountant, as the so-called sole accountant, also takes on the accounts payable, accounts receivable and general ledger accounting and carries out the dunning process. Accountants periodically make the provisions and accruals and create the asset analysis. In addition, they process tax areas (tax returns for sales tax, wage tax, income and corporation tax, prepare/check externally prepared tax returns) and prepare income statements and balance sheets.
In a managerial position and if there is no separate controlling department, they determine key figures from the balance sheets and develop profitability and liquidity plans, which form the basis for business decisions. They support the strategic-operative planning of a company and can be involved in important management decision-making processes.
The most important things in 5 seconds
- Education: completed commercial vocational training (preferably as a tax clerk)
- Starting salary: €45,000
- Top salary: €65,000
- Opportunities for advancement: Head of Accounting, Head of Accounts Receivable, Head of Accounts Payable, International Accountant (IHK)
What does an accountant do?
The complexity of the tasks is influenced by the respective industry, the size of the company and the (international) structure. However, the typical duties of a chartered accountant include:
- Organization of accounting processes
- Preparation of monthly statements according to HGB
- Preparation of the annual financial statements according to HGB
- Transfer to balance sheets according to tax law
- Responsible for all income and expenses, proceeds and costs
- Taxes including sales tax, summary reports (ZM) and tax returns (for sales tax, wage tax, income tax and corporation tax)
- Creation of statistics and evaluations
- Monthly closing reporting
- Provisions, accruals and creation of the fixed asset schedule, intercompany reconciliation including invoice
- Participation in liquidity planning, budget planning, cost center accounting, income statements, calculations, strategic planning
- First point of contact for tax authorities, auditors, tax consultants and banks
- Accompaniment of tax audits by the tax authorities
- Further development of internal processes and internal systems, e.g. booking guidelines, training of employees from other departments
- Technical contact for colleagues in accounting and for other departments
- Preparation of investment decisions by comparing financing options
- Reporting to banks and investors
How do you become an accountant?
An accountant usually has the following professional background:
- completed commercial vocational training (preferably as a tax clerk)
- Advanced training to become an accountant
- several years of professional experience in the accounting department of a company
- Good knowledge of MS Office (especially MS Excel)
- good knowledge of SAP/R3 FI/CO or knowledge of another common ERP system (e.g. Navision)
- Very good knowledge of preparing financial statements according to HGB, possibly IFRS knowledge
- Good knowledge of commercial and tax law
- possibly good knowledge of spoken and written English
- ideally first managerial experience
The accountant degree plays a special role because of its high degree of specialization and the required detailed knowledge. The level of the accountant exam is far above the level of a normal training qualification and is roughly comparable to the major in accounting as part of a business degree or the master craftsman in the technical field.
Further training as an accountant (IHK)
Further training to become a certified accountant (IHK) usually takes the form of part-time courses offered by chambers of industry and commerce, private schools and adult education centres. Depending on the type of course, the further training lasts one and a half to three years, and the content of the examination is also very demanding here.
Admission requirements for the exam to become a certified accountant (IHK)
- Successful completion of commercial or comparable training plus three years of relevant professional experience, for example in the financial accounting of a company or with a tax consultant
- University degree from an economics faculty followed by two years of professional practice or
- At least six years of professional experience related to business accounting (without successfully completing commercial training or a degree)
What does an accountant earn?
up to €65,000
Accountants can count on an annual gross salary of between € 45,000 and €65,000. On the one hand, the salary depends on personal qualifications and professional experience, but also heavily on the general conditions, for example the industry. In sectors such as chemicals/pharmaceuticals, plant and mechanical engineering or industry, a higher salary is generally paid than in the media, fashion/textiles, transport and logistics sectors, for example.
But the economic region also plays a role: an accountant who works in Hanover receives a lower average salary than an accountant in Hamburg.
What do you expect from the accountant?
In addition to strong analytical skills, accuracy and care are required of accountants. Since accountants act as intermediaries across departments and thus communicate with superiors, colleagues and business partners as well as with the management, strong communication skills and social skills are essential at all hierarchical levels. Due to their position of trust in the company, they are often given the task of managing projects, for example when introducing the electronic balance sheet or introducing a new IT system.
In addition, the ability and willingness for lifelong learning is an important personal characteristic, since accountants have to adapt to the complex and rapidly changing tax regulations and implement them accordingly.
Opportunities for advancement as an accountant
Accountants usually already have the technical know-how for the head of accounting. If you are aiming for a management position and you have the necessary social skills, this would be the career path of choice. The team management of an area, for example accounts payable or accounts receivable (if this position exists in the company) can be a first hierarchical career step.
In order to expand the theoretical knowledge in this area, further training as an international accountant (IHK) or similar further training in the areas of IFRS (e.g. CINA – Certificate in International Accounting) is recommended.
If you are interested in an international orientation and have a good knowledge of English, you can further your professional development by moving to an (international) company with more complex accounting requirements.
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