What Does a Government Accountant Do?

If you have ever considered becoming an accountant, one specialty you should consider is becoming a government accountant. Typically, when people think about becoming accountants, one of the first things that come to mind is working for a large accounting firm or a corporation. However, what many may find surprising is that there is actually a huge demand for accountants working within the government sector. Government accountants are hired at all levels of government. They work in multiple capacities for city, state and federal government agencies providing a range of services such as auditing, bookkeeping, enterprise risk management and forensic accounting.

Educational Requirements

In order to become a government accountant, you will definitely need to study accounting at an accredited undergraduate institution. It does not matter if the program is online or not; it just matters that the program is recognized by a national and regional accrediting body. In an undergraduate program, you will take a wide variety of classes in economics, business management, financial accounting, mangerial accounting, finance, business law, business communication and income taxation. Some schools might offer subspecialities in government accounting, where you will take courses in public accounting, auditing, etc. Some government agencies might prefer potential candidates to have a master’s degree in public accounting. Again, it does not matter if the program is offered online. Just make sure the program is accredited. During both undergraduate and graduate studies, it is recommended to seek an internship or some sort of field experience working at a government agency. This could mean getting an internship with a city’s finance department, working with a state comptroller’s office or possibly even with the federal government. There are a plethora of routes you can take; just ensure your internship experience matches your career ambitions.

Government Accountant Careers

If you decide that you want to pursue a career as a government accountant, there are a variety of roles available. Some of these roles include becoming a government auditor, certified public accountant, fraud examiner, financial comptroller, government financial manager, financial analyst, budget analyst, budget director or a grants administrator. At the city or county level, most accountants will find jobs managing city agency budgets or working with school districts when it comes to financial management. At the state level, many accountants again will oversee budgets for large state agencies and also might work as an auditor, ensuring that government funding, contracts and other forms of government finance are used properly. At the federal level, many people end up working for the Internal Revenue Service as tax accountants, forensic accountants, auditors and investigators. Many people also at the federal level work for the General Accounting Organization, providing statistical analysis of federal legislation costs and benefits.

Government Accountant Salaries

Salaries for government accounts is pretty much on par with salaries for regular certified public accountants that work for larger corporations. However, salary will vary based on employer, geographic location, years of experience and role. According to the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the the average accountant or auditor made a salary of around $63,000 in 2010. The average hourly wage is around $35. Sometimes, salaries in the public sector might be lower than the private sector when it comes to accounting, however one of the biggest benefits with working with a government agency is the high level of stability. Usually public sector or government accounting jobs have low turnover and many people are able to spend twenty to thirty years on their jobs.

In the end, deciding to become a government accountant is a great career choice. There are many career paths one can take within the public sector. Just do your due diligence and choose the right accounting program that will prepare you for your career in government accounting.