Government accountants and auditors maintain financial records for government agencies, and audit businesses in the private sector that are subject to government taxation or regulation. They make sure revenues due to Federal, State, and local governments are received. They also ensure expenditures are made in accordance with laws and regulations. Some are employed by the Federal government and work for the Internal Revenue Service. Others work in the government areas of financial management, financial institutions examination, or budget analysis and administrations.
Due to the importance of their work being true and accurate, government accountants and auditors should have a high degree of personal integrity. They must also be good written and verbal communicators because they are constantly required to explain and interpret their work to clients. They need to be able to work with computer systems, including accounting software packages, and they need to be good at working with people. They also should have strong mathematics skills, and an ability to quickly analyze, compare, and interpret facts and figures.
In 2002, government accountants and auditors earned a median annual salary of $47,000. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $30,320, and the highest 10%, who earned more than $82,730. The following shows the median annual salaries for the industries employing the highest numbers of government accountants and auditors:
- Federal government - $51,070
- Local government - 44,690
- State government - 42,680
Training and Education
Most candidates for government accountant and auditor positions need to have at least a bachelor's degree to qualify. Some employers require a master's degree in business administration with an emphasis in accounting. Experience in the accounting field, such as through a college internship program can be very advantageous for applicants. Another advantage is knowledge of computer accounting applications. Job seekers can gain a unique advantage in the job market by becoming certified as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Most States require CPA candidates to have at least 150 college semester hours of accounting, but a few do not. Candidates should carefully research the licensing requirements of the State in which they wish to be certified. However, all States use the same Uniform CPA Examination. The exam is rigorous, consisting of four parts spread over two days of testing. Candidates must usually pass at least two parts, and then pass the remaining parts over a specific period of time. CPAs can specialize even further by obtaining Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV), Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP), or Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) certifications. A government accountant or auditor can become a Certified Government Auditing Professional (CGAP) or a Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM) by passing exams and demonstrating certain amounts work experience.
Between 2002 and 2012, the number of government accountants and auditors is expected to increase about as fast as the average. Growth will be due to factors such as an overall increase in the number of businesses, evolving financial laws, the growth of international businesses, and rising scrutiny of company finances. In the wake of recent accounting scandals and an increased awareness of financial crimes, the demand for forensic accountants is expected to rise. Job openings will also result from the need to replace workers who retire, transfer occupations, or leave the labor force for some other reason. The best job prospects will go to those who pursue and obtain CPA status. Those with a master's degree, or who specialize in areas such as international business, specific industries, or current legislation, will also have a large advantage.