Many people, myself included before I started my co-op term, have no clue as to what an accountant does. None. A lot of people refer to accountants as “bean-counters” and assume that our most difficult task of the day is adding up a column of numbers. If you had asked me what I would be doing on my co-op term there is no way I would have been able to tell you. Even after Audit 1 training in Calgary, I still had no clue what I would be doing. Thankfully, I started with an amazing group of people who were all very supportive and all helped each other get through the first couple weeks.
So what exactly does an accountant do?
This question is difficult to answer. My peers and I have had very different experiences while working at our firm. This next piece is strictly from my point of view, many of my co-workers have worked much longer hours than I have, I was extremely fortunate.
Winter 2012 – Busy Season
0600 – Wake up, and get ready to head off to work
0730 – 0800 – Arrive at work, turn on computer, reply to emails and get started on the days tasks
- During busy season I worked on a variety of different engagements, I did Notice to Readers (which is basically creating the financial statements for smaller incorporated companies), personal and corporate tax returns as well as a variety of smaller Audits. I gained a lot of knowledge through this work as I was able to work through entire files by myself, I learned a lot about different tax deductions and credits as well as working with investments which is something I have just recently gotten into myself.
1200 – Eat lunch
- Some days I would eat at my desk while working so that I could leave the office at a decent time (decent meaning 6pm)
- Other days I would take lunch if some of the people I started with were in the office. This is a nice way to break up your day, although it meant you needed to stay longer.
1500 – Coffee – I needed coffee at this point as I was mentally exhausted; a group of us first years would generally head down to the local Starbucks for a latté
1800 – 1900 – On a good day this is when you are heading home, a lot of my co-workers worked till 9pm or ever midnight. Busy season is extremely draining… there is a TON of work to do
While this may not sound like the most ideal day, or you may be thinking who would ever sign up to do something like this? summer is a lot more relaxed, there is a lot less work to do and there is a lot more flexibility in your days.
Yes, working at a large accounting firm is draining, I was tired. But, I learned a lot and when working at a large, international company you have a greater potential to grow your career. Like I said before, I was lucky I didn’t have to work those 15 hour days, and I really didn’t work a lot of weekends. While 10 hours a day of work by no means should be normal, I don’t like to complain because a lot of my co-workers worked more.
So that’s my take on what accountants do: get up ridiculously early, work like crazy, drink coffee, and then go home.
Just kidding! We learn a lot about the operations of many companies, focus on how to best reduce taxes, Audit things, reconcile investment accounts etc. That may sound boring to the average person, but to me it’s actually very interesting. I love working with investments and ensuring everything balances makes my type-A-OCD heart sing.