While accounting is generally considered an office job, with a standard 40-hour week, the reality can be quite different, depending on the field of accounting, the level of responsibility, the seasonality of the work, and whether an accountant works in private industry, in a public accounting firm, or has a private accounting practice.
Compare How Different Fields Affect the Hours Accountants Work
Evaluate the hours worked by management accountants in private industry according to the role they play. Accountants working in the Controller’s department make have a more stable work schedule spread out over the year than accountants who work in budgeting, who will have a heavier workload during budgeting periods.
Factor in the nature of the business. Accounting work is ongoing, but there may be fluctuations based on business activity. In a business with a relatively even flow of transactions throughout the year, the hours worked by accountants will probably be more stable. In a business with peak seasonal activities, accountants may have to work extra hours during those peak periods to keep up with the flow of transactions.
Consider the seasonality of tax accounting work. During tax season, accountants can expect to work much longer hours, especially public accountants providing tax services to clients. Accountants working in the tax department of a company in private industry can also expect to work more hours in assembling information and preparing the company’s annual tax return.
Keep in mind the nature of auditing. Many independent auditors have their peak season at the beginning of the year, especially in preparation for the release of companies’ annual earnings reports and financial statements. Auditors will generally work very long hours during this period.
Consider How Different Situations Can Affect the Hours Accountants Work
Think about how the size of the company affects the number of hours accountants work. In a small company, an accountant may be required to multi-task, with responsibility for virtually all financial and accounting functions, which can translate into longer hours. In a large company, accounting duties and responsibilities will most likely be segregated, allowing for a more stable and predictable schedule.
Take into account that a start-up operation may involve more overtime in getting the books, internal controls, accounting and administrative systems set up. An accounting position in an established company, in operation for many years, may involve a more standard working schedule.
Consider how the level of responsibility affects the number of hours an accountant works. While recently hired accountants may work additional hours to prove themselves and to gain experience and recognition, as accountants advance in their careers, the additional responsibilities they assume may mean more working hours.
Keep in mind the cyclical nature of accounting. Working in private industry may involve a relatively normal schedule, but there can still be peak work demands during the monthly and annual closing of the books, during budgeting and reporting periods, during tax preparation season, and when internal or independent auditors are visiting.
Compare the hours worked in project accounting versus hours worked in a normal ongoing operation. Projects by their nature involve strict deadlines and accountants generally work more hours throughout the project and especially when faced with deadlines for setting up the accounting records, preparing budgets and forecasts, and progress reports.
Take into consideration the travel time when working at different client locations as an auditor in public accounting, or visiting the company’s different facilities when working as an internal auditor in private industry.
Compare the hours worked by an accountant in his or her own accounting practice with the hours worked by an accountant in a salaried position with an employer. Having your own accounting practice provides complete flexibility, but earnings potential is directly related to billable hours of work for clients.
When comparing the hours accountants work, keep in mind the different fields of specialization and the different environments in which accountants work.
Browse blogs by accountants to get some personal insights and real-life experiences regarding working hours. Accounting for a Detoured Economist: Why Auditing = Appalling Hours and Tremendous Turnover: www.cloudfirstsolutions.co.