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Vault Career Guide to Accounting

The Typical Day in Accounting


The day of a staff accountant will vary significantly based on the time of year, type of work being performed and the status of the work being performed. The length of the day can vary from eight hours a day when on an engagement with time to spare to a 20-hour day on engagements with tight time constraints.

In order to really understand the life of an auditor, you have to understand the audit cycle and the times that are the busiest for accountants. The length of the day and week and the stress level of those days will vary greatly depending on the client, the time of year and the audit team.

During busy season, most audit firms have a rule that no one is allowed to schedule any vacation, regardless of the reason. So don't schedule your wedding during busy season, and don't plan to go skiing a lot if you're working on public clients with a December 31 fiscal year. Plan on saying goodbye to your friends and family, home-cooked meals and relaxing afternoons on the porch.

Plan to catch up on your social life as the busy season ends. After busy season, work will slow down significantly; you may even have some time when you're not assigned to a client. Enjoy that downtime while you can.

A Typical Long-Term Engagement Schedule
September - OctoberSenior managerPlan the audit:
  • Identify audit risks
  • Determine hours, budgets, etc.
  • Draft audit timelines
January - AprilEntire audit teamComplete the audit Issue financial statements and press releases
Partner onlyAttend the audit committee meeting

If you're working on short-term engagements, you will inevitably work on more than one engagement at a time during busy season. Small clients will drag on well into other audits and will continue to haunt you as busy season progresses. If you work on a long-term engagement, you may be working on only one client, but within that client, don't be surprised if there are 30 to 50 different sets of financial statements that need to be reviewed. It is the nature of managers and partners to work on multiple engagements, but they're not involved in the nitty-gritty of the audit. They tend to remain at a higher level reviewing and discussing issues rather than all of the audit work.

© 2008