The following responses were contributed by Tony Riggs, an accountant for Grant Thornton, a Washington-based accounting firm, during an interview with the Washington Post. The material is intended to provide students with an idea of what working as an accountant might be like, and some steps the student can take to prepare now for a career in that field.

Riggs, 25, is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (A.I.C.P.A.). He is a graduate of Springbrook High School in Silver Spring, Md., and Florida A&M University. He resides in Silver Spring. NATURE OF THE WORK

"I'm an auditor for a public accounting firm. The way it works is, a client, usually a business, hires us to perform an audit {examination} of their financial statements. We go to their premises, where they provide us with their books {financial records}. We then determine if what we find is reasonably and fairly stated, according to financial accounting principles.

"{Besides auditing} there are two other major components of accounting: tax, in which we help clients plan and meet their tax objectives; and management consulting, which can consists of such things as setting up an {in-house} accounting system for the client, or transferring an existing manual accounting system onto computers.

"Accounting is a popular field that can have good advancement potential and can pay well, but it is very competitive. Most accounting students try to get hired by large firms, but these firms can afford to be selective, and usually take the cream of the crop." EDUCATIONAL REQUIREMENTS

"Almost all accountants are college graduates with a B.A. or B.S. in accounting. It's important to be serious about accounting when taking it in school to gain a strong foundation early. In accounting, more so than most other courses, each course is based on the premise that you have a solid understanding of the previous courses. I also recommend taking internships each year, so you can gain experience while still in college.

"Most accountants go on to take the Certified Public Accountant {C.P.A.} exam. {To earn one's C.P.A.} adds some prestige and credibility, but it's extremely difficult to pass. It's a 19-hour exam {over three days} that covers everything from accounting practices and theory to business law. I recommend taking the test while the information you learned in school is still fresh in your mind, because it's more difficult to find the time to study for the exam after you've started working.

"Salaries for first-year accountants range from $21,000 to $30,000 per year, depending on experience, and if you are working in public or private accounting." MATCHING YOURSELF WITH THE WORK

"It's hard on your time. You can work long hours and lots of weekends. When you're in school, you're thinking, ' I'll start working, make money, and have some fun.' But in reality, it's not that easy. Sometimes, especially during the busy season, the only thing you want to do after work is go home and go to sleep. It's what we call the 'burnout' factor and it's harder for the younger accountants, but it's part of the job. Discipline is the key. Accounting is not an easy field to begin with, and if you aren't disciplined, you probably shouldn't even venture into it."