General Accounting

What Are the Different Types of Accountants and What Do They Do?

by Envoice
13 min read
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When most people think of accountants, the first thing that comes to mind is someone who helps you file your taxes. While this is one role that accountants play, they actually do much more than just tax preparation.

In fact, there are several types of accountants who specialize in different areas. Deciding which type of accountant is right for your business can be challenging, especially if you’re new to the world of business accounting. So let’s discuss the role of each to help you make the right choice.

What are the Different types of Accountants?

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

Certified Public Accountants, or CPAs, are responsible for handling the financial books of businesses and individuals. They perform various tasks, including preparing accounts payable, tax returns, auditing accounts, and other financial documents.

To become a CPA, you must pass a rigorous exam administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants or a similar organization.

Sectors would require this kind of accountant:

CPAs are responsible for handling the accounts of small businesses, large corporations, and nonprofits. They can also work with individuals by providing financial advice.

Tax accountant

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A tax accountant is a professional who helps individuals and businesses file their taxes each year.

Given that they know all the deductions and loophole strategies, they can provide advice on how to minimize your tax liability and can represent you in front of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) if you are audited.

You can become a tax accountant via a technical degree program and work your way up by obtaining accounting-related certifications as you gain experience. You can also attend training courses in accounting, such as taking an online course.

Sectors that would require this kind of accountant:

Industries that would need the help of tax accountants include real estate, manufacturing, retail, and many more. These industries have complex tax laws that must be followed in order to stay in compliance.

Management accountant

A management accountant is responsible for the organization’s overall financial health. They provide insights and recommendations to business owners and managers to help them make sound financial decisions.

Management accountants use financial information to plan and manage a company’s resources. This may include preparing financial reports, overseeing budgeting and forecasting, and performing cost-benefit analyses.

An accounting degree awarded by a university is the most common qualification for aspiring management accountants. But Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in accounting may not be sufficient to prepare a student to be a Certified Management Accountant. So if you’re a fresh graduate, do not slow down in your studies and try to pass the exam with flying colors.

Sectors that would require this kind of accountant:

Management accountants are in high demand across a variety of industries. Companies of all sizes need professionals who can provide insights into financial data and make sound decisions that will help the business grow.

Financial accountant

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A financial accountant is responsible for maintaining the general ledger of a company. This includes recording, categorizing, and summarizing financial transactions to provide accurate and up-to-date information about the financial status of the company.

Financial accounting is different from managerial accounting, which is focused on providing information to company managers to help them make decisions about operations and strategy.

Financial accounting is regulated by Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), which provide guidance on how financial statements should be prepared and presented. Accountants need a  strong understanding of GAAP in order to prepare accurate and compliant financial statements.

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Sectors that would require this kind of accountant:

Financial accountants typically work in accounting firms, corporate finance departments, and government agencies. They are employed by a wide range of businesses, including small businesses, large corporations, and nonprofits.

Government accountant

Government accounting is a complex field that has its own set of state and federal regulations, so they must have a strong understanding of both accounting and finance.

In addition to their knowledge of accounting and finance, government accountants must also have excellent communication skills. They must be able to clearly explain complex financial concepts to government officials and the general public.

To become a government accountant, you must pass the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam. Once you have passed the CPA exam, you will be eligible to apply for certification from the Government Accounting Office (GAO) or some other governmental accounting standards board.

Sectors that would require this kind of accountant:

A government accountant operates in the accounting department of any government agency. The department is responsible for filing and preparing the company’s financial statements for the agency. They make it possible for the government entity to maintain a balanced budget, collect taxes, and manage public funds.

Forensic accountant

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Forensic accountants are trained to investigate financial crimes. They use their skills in forensic accounting by auditing and investigative techniques to detect and investigate cases of fraud and embezzlement.

A forensic accountant often works with law enforcement agencies to investigate white-collar crimes such as money laundering, securities fraud, and insider trading.

In addition to working on criminal cases, forensic accountants may also be involved in civil litigation by verifying financial documents for divorce cases or contract disputes. They may also call them to testify in court as expert witnesses.

To become a forensic accountant, you must pursue a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) designation. To become certified, candidates must pass an exam and have two years of professional experience in fraud examination. [1]

Sectors that would require this kind of accountant:

Companies and organizations of all sizes need the skills of forensic accountants to investigate potential financial crimes within their companies. In addition, many government agencies rely on forensic accountants to detect and prevent fraud and any other financial crimes


Auditors play an important role in ensuring the accuracy of financial records. They examine documentation and interview employees to verify that transactions have been recorded correctly. In addition, they may also identify discrepancies and errors, which can then be corrected.

Auditors often work with large businesses and organizations, but they can also be employed by smaller companies.

In either case, their ultimate goal is to ensure that financial statements are accurate and reliable. As such, they play a vital role in maintaining the integrity of financial records. 

Auditors typically have a Bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field. Some also become certified public accountants (CPAs).

Sectors that would require this kind of accountant:

An auditor could work for public accounting firms, private companies, or governmental organizations to ensure that individuals and businesses are complying with tax laws and to provide financial information to the public.

Project accountant

Project accounting is a specialized subset of accounting that deals exclusively with the finances of projects. They play a critical role in any organization that undertakes large, complex activities such as construction projects. They track spending, prepare invoices, and report on the project’s overall financial health.

Because of the nature of their work, project accountants must have a strong understanding of both accounting principles and construction procedures.

Project accountants work closely with project managers and sometimes even external suppliers. They must be able to effectively communicate with both financial and construction personnel in order to maintain accurate financial records and keep the project on track. 

Additionally, experience with project management software can be beneficial. If you have the required skills and experience, then a career as a project accountant may be right for you.

Sectors that would require this kind of accountant:

A project accountant is someone who would be required in the engineering or construction sectors. They would work with the project manager to ensure that the project is on budget and that all invoices are accounted for.

Investment accountant

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Investment accountants are responsible for external financial reporting, managing, and tracking a company’s investments. They work with a variety of investment instruments, including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and many more.

Investment accountants must have a strong understanding of accounting, investment principles, and financial regulations. They must be able to effectively communicate with both financial and investment personnel in order to maintain accurate records and track the performance of the investments.

Becoming an investment accountant requires a bachelor’s degree in accounting from an accredited university, and you must be a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Some states require investment accountants to take continuing education courses and mandate that they complete certain hours of work experience related to investments. This is to ensure that only those who are properly qualified and prepared can perform the important role of safeguarding investors’ assets.

Sectors that would require this kind of accountant:

Investment accountants typically work for banks, investment firms, or asset management firms with many different investments. Some may also work for the government or regulatory agencies.

Cost accountant

A cost accountant is responsible for tracking and managing the costs associated with a company’s operations. This includes supply chain management and the business’s direct and indirect operating expenses. Cost accounting is an important part of financial management as it can help a company to control its expenses and improve its bottom line.

A cost accountant typically works closely with other financial professionals, such as auditors and controllers. In larger organizations, cost accounting may be its own department, with multiple accountants working under the supervision of a manager. Regardless of the size of the organization, a cost accountant must be highly detail-oriented and have strong analytical skills.

Sectors that would require this kind of accountant:

Cost accountants can work in a variety of industries, including manufacturing, healthcare, and mining. Larger organizations typically employ them, but some may work for smaller companies or accounting firms.

Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA)

The Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation is a professional credential that recognizes the expertise of accounting and finance professionals who work in business. The CGMA designation is earned through a process of education, experience, and examination.

Those who earn the CGMA designation demonstrate their commitment to the highest standards of ethical and professional conduct. The CGMA designation is recognized by businesses and organizations worldwide as a mark of excellence in management accounting.

CGMAs are sought-after by employers for their skills in financial analysis, decision-making, strategic planning, and international financial reporting standards. 

The CGMA designation is your passport to a successful career in management accounting. With the CGMA designation, you can take your career anywhere in the world. [2]

Sectors that would require this kind of accountant:

As the business world continues to globalize, the need for qualified accountants who can operate across borders increases. The Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation is one way to show that you have the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in a global environment.

Financial controller

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A financial controller is a senior-level executive who is responsible for the financial planning and management of an organization. They work closely with the chief financial officer (CFO) and accounting department to produce financial reports and monitor the company’s overall health and performance.

They also develop and implement financial policies, procedures, and controls. In addition, they may oversee budgeting, taxation, and investment activities.

Government agencies and nonprofit organizations have become increasingly complex and regulated in recent years. That is why financial controllers play a vital role in ensuring that a company operates within its legal and financial guidelines.

They provide essential information that helps managers make informed decisions about where to allocate resources and how to respond to financial risks. As such, they are an important part of any organization’s management team.

Many companies require financial controllers to have a postgraduate qualification in business administration or accounting. It is also helpful if they have previous experience working in a similar role within the same organization or another company.

Sectors that would require this kind of accountant:

Financial controllers usually operate in large businesses, such as banking and financial services, property development, manufacturing, and wholesale or retail trade.

Financial Advisor

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A financial advisor provides professional advice and guidance to clients regarding their finances. Financial advisors typically have a background in accounting, finance, or economics. They use this knowledge to help clients make informed decisions about how to best save, invest, and spend their money.

Financial advisors often work with clients hoping to retire soon or who are already retired and need help managing their retirement savings.

In addition to providing advice on investing and saving money, financial advisors also help their clients plan for significant life events such as buying a home or sending their children to college. By working with a financial advisor, clients can feel confident that they are making the best possible decisions concerning their finances.

Most financial advisors must be licensed by the state where they plan to practice. To obtain a license, a financial advisor must pass an exam that tests their knowledge of financial planning and investment strategies. Individuals who meet these requirements can find meaningful work as financial advisors and help people invest in their future. [3]

Sectors that would require this kind of accountant:

Financial advisors can provide a valuable service to businesses but are most likely sought after by individuals or families. Financial advisors also usually work in the banking and financial services industry.

How to find a reputable accountant that you can trust

When finding a reputable accountant you can trust, it’s essential to do your research. There are many qualified accountants available, but not all of them have the same level of technical accounting skills.

Here are a few things to look for when choosing an accountant:

  • Make sure the accountant is qualified and has the appropriate certification from a professional body.
  • Ask for referrals from friends, family, or other businesses.
  • Check out online reviews of the accountant’s services.
  • Ensure the accountant is up to date on the latest changes in taxation law.
  • Ask about the accountant’s fees, and be sure to get a written quote.


Now that we’ve explored the different types of accountants and what they do, it should be easier to decide which type of accountant will benefit you the most.

If you are a small business owner, you might benefit most from hiring a CPA. However, if you are an individual with complex financial holdings, you might need to hire a financial or management accountant.

If you need help determining which type of accountant is right for your business, reach out to us and we’d be happy to provide guidance.


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