Accounting

Government Accountant

Government accountants are employed at all levels of government - federal, state and local. At the federal level, government accountants manage public funds, investigate white-collar crime, perform financial statement audits for government agencies and conduct research on emerging accounting issues. At the state and local levels, government accountants manage the use of local revenues, investigate frauds, perform financial performance and compliance audits, and recommend corrective action where needed.

Benefits of the CFE Credential

Government accountants have the important duty of managing the use of federal, state and local taxpayer dollars. Government accountants ensure that governmental bodies are transparent, efficient, ethical and responsible in their use of funds. Since a major part of what government accountants do is investigate and combat white-collar crime, the CFE is an invaluable credential. Additionally, government agencies involved in the ACFE Law Enforcement and Government Alliance (LEGA) officially recognize the CFE credential in hiring and promoting practices.   

The ACFE’s Global Salary Study found that CFEs earn a 34% income premium over their peers without the credential, which demonstrates the value employers place on the credential. The study also provides valuable information and comparisons helpful to all anti-fraud professionals in benchmarking their compensation levels and career growth. The training, fraud resources and continuing education provided by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) will help in any stage of your career path. Refer to the Compensation section below for more information about the compensation ranges for several different accounting job functions. 

Job Types

On the federal level, government accountants might work for the General Services Administration (GSA), Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service and U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). These entities perform financial statement audits on government agencies and investigate white-collar crime. Federal government accountants can also testify before legislative committees on audits or tax legislation. 
 
State and local government accountants manage local revenues, conduct local white-collar crime investigations, and perform compliance and financial audits of state and local government entities. They must comply with the laws and regulations specific to their state and city. 

Education

A bachelor’s or master’s degree in accounting, finance or a related field is recommended for government accountants. Many companies encourage becoming a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Chartered Accountant (CA), Certified Internal Auditor (CIA), Certified Government Auditing Professional (CGAP), and/or Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM). 

Knowledge, Skills and Abilities

It is important to plan and conduct an honest self-assessment of your knowledge, skills and abilities. In particular, employers are looking for:  

Knowledge Skills Abilities
Fund accounting  Testifying as an expert witness Analytical
Generally Accepted Government Accounting Standards (GAGAS)    Interpersonal communication
Computer systems and applications   Written communication
Government structure and function   Verbal communication
Financial data analysis   Independence
Evidence integrity analysis    

Compiling information

   

Eliciting other experts’ assistance

   

Maintaining documentation

   

Damage assessment

   

Tracing illicit funds

   

Locating hidden assets

   

Due diligence reviews

   
Forensic intelligence gathering    

Compensation

Income level varies depending on education, experience and certifications. Below are compensation ranges of several different potential government accounting job functions taken from the 2020 Compensation Guide for Anti-Fraud Professionals

 

Government Accountant Compensation Guide for CFEs and Non-CFEs