Who needs an accountant
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In accounting, a close eye for the details is essential - this applies to all companies, but especially to capital market-oriented companies that are in the public eye. There are regular reports in the Federal Gazette in which companies publish accounting errors that the German Audit Office for Accounting (DPR) has found in them.
A couple of examples: Bastei Lübbe reported too high goodwill, DVB Bank reported its loss too low and Adidas rated a brand too high. Such mistakes cast a bad light on companies. If the accounting is difficult to penetrate and confusing, it can even offer a target for short sellers: This was the case with the financial services provider Grenke or the investment company Aurelius.
These are the tasks in accounting
These and other examples show what can go wrong if inaccuracies or even errors occur in bookkeeping - also known as accounting. The accountant is responsible in the company's external accounting for operational accounts receivable, accounts payable, asset and general ledger accounting as well as dunning and general accounting tasks. In some cases, he or she is also responsible for payroll accounting. In addition, the accountant prepares the monthly, quarterly and annual financial statements in accordance with HGB and, if necessary, transfers them to the International Accounting Standards IFRS. The associated intercompany coordination is also the responsibility of an accountant.
In addition, the accounting staff look after tax issues and work closely with tax advisors and auditors. For this, knowledge of a common ERP system such as SAP, Hyperion, Oracle, Lexware or Navision and a consolidation software (IDL) are essential. In addition, an accountant should also be familiar with group accounting and be financially secure in accordance with the German Commercial Code (HGB). From the employer's point of view, this is also desirable for IFRS or US Gaap. If you can look after international companies abroad, that's an advantage, say HR consultants.
Accountants need these soft skills
In addition to these technical requirements, some soft skills are also essential for accountants. You should have a good understanding of numbers and be analytical, accurate, detail-oriented, loyal and trustworthy.
Training and studies to become an accountant
There are different career levels in accounting: the simple clerk in accounting, the accounts payable / accounts receivable accountant, the financial accountant, the main accountant / sole accountant, the accountant, the international accountant or the specialist in the field of consolidation / group accounting. Further career steps can include promotion to Head of Accounting, Head of Finance and Head of Finance and Accounting.
When it comes to the simpler activities in accounting, it is rare to have a degree. However, if you want to rise above the level of clerk to head of accounting or finance, a degree with a focus on accounting, accounting or controlling is often the rule, if not absolutely necessary. Once you've got that far on the career ladder, the step to CFO is quite conceivable and possible, even if only some of today's finance directors come from accounting.
Accountant in Germany
In Germany, even the smallest companies with around five employees or more need accountants. Smaller companies with up to 100 employees often employ accountants, but are looking for generalists who can cover the entire range of accounting tasks. In addition, many of these small businesses rely on self-employed accountants. The larger a company is, the more specialists are needed who can also perform international tasks.
Accountants with a qualification as a balance sheet accountant (national or international) and possibly a degree are particularly in demand. But only a few dare to step out of accounts receivable and accounts payable and into topics from national and international accounting. It can be financially worthwhile.
That's how much an accountant earns
Accounting clerks earn the least, starting with an annual salary of 31,250 euros. Accounts payable and accounts receivable accountants earn only marginally more. Financial accountants, on the other hand, receive more: their earnings start with 37,750 euros and can rise to 68,500 euros.
As a chief accountant and accountant, salaries of up to 89,000 euros are included. Anyone who dares to do international accounting can even earn six figures. The fixed salary can also be topped up with a variable bonus. A company car can also be included in the remuneration package for managerial positions.
sarah.backhaus [at] finance-magazin.de
You can find a detailed overview of the various job profiles in the finance sector - including training, career paths and salary developments - on our Jobs in Finance topic page.
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