If you consider yourself a master at numbers, balancing your checkbook, maintaining a budget, or you simply enjoy mathematics, you might want to consider a career as an accountant.

What is the role of an accountant? Typically, an accountant takes care of the financial operations of a business, organization, franchise or company; this could include among other duties collection and maintaining accuracy so everything within the business runs efficiently.

Additionally, accountants are often asked to prepare and maintain other records, as well as keep them up to date. Ensuring taxes are paid correctly and in a timely fashion could also be part of an accountant’s job.

Accounting Overview

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Many consider accounting an important part of any business for several reasons including that the US Government requires reporting all financial data to the IRS for taxes. This is important because the dollar amounts for income and expenses reported by a firm, business, organization and the like, also must be accurate and in sync with the firm’s records.

Landing a job as an accountant can be a fulfilling career path and perhaps one that could last years since there is room for advancement.

Most individuals who become accountants work full time; in 2016 about 1 in 5 worked more than 40 hours per week. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program in 2016, there were 1,397,700 accountants.

Accounting is a popular career for both men and women, however, the US Census Bureau reported in 2016 there were more female accountants:

  • 1.16 million female accountants in the workforce
  • 707,354 male accountants in the workforce

This means 62.1 percent of accountants and auditors were female, making them the more common gender in the occupation, according to the report.

As for age, the average age of male accountants in the workforce in 2016 was 43.3 and for female accountants the average age was 44.4; the most common race/ethnicity for accountants in 2016 was white., according to the report.

In the same 2016 report, the average salary for a male accountant was $91,158 and for a female, it was $62,114.

Skills Needed

Besides excelling in numbers, to be a successful accountant some of the other skills often sought by potential employers include:

  • Being organized;
  • Possessing great time management;
  • Good communication;
  • Leadership qualities;
  • Good at multi-tasking; and are
  • Patient and thorough.

If you think you have the skills to make a successful accountant, there are certain educational criteria that must be met before you start combing over a business owner’s books.

Steps to Become an Accountant

If you decide to major in accounting, there are several avenues to consider:

  • Associate’s degree programs, which provide entry-level opportunity, usually take two years.
  • A bachelor's degree program generally takes four years.
  • Master's degree programs and a Master of Business Administration degree generally require approximately two years.

Most accountant jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field. Some employers like to hire potential employees who have a master’s degree, either in accounting or in business administration with a concentration in accounting.

Besides two-and four-year colleges and universities from coast-to-coast there are other select schools that offer specialized programs, such as a bachelor’s degree in internal auditing. Often, those with associate’s degrees, as well as bookkeepers and accountants who meet the education and experience requirements determined by their employers, land junior accounting positions. They also can climb the ladder to accountant positions by exhibiting their accounting skills on the job.

For even more on-the-job experience, summer internships or part-time internships are often offered by colleges and public accountant firms or business firms where you can gain more first-hand skills.

Career Path

After you graduate and earn a degree, you should start searching for entry-level jobs in accounting.

Some places to consider would be a small office, retail business, medical office, or mom-and-pop shops where you can start in a junior role and build your skill set.

Other places to look might include law firms, medical offices, chain stores, restaurants and even auto industry businesses.

Room for Advancement

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Accounting is the type of profession where you can move up the ladder if you have both drive and aspiration and are willing to consider additional education and certification when necessary.

Even entry-level public accountants can move up to senior positions that offer more responsibility. Often people in these entry-level roles do well and become anything from supervisors to managers, or partners; open their own public accounting firm; or become executives in management accounting.

Management accountants may start their careers as cost accountants, junior internal auditors, or even trainees for other accounting roles. After working hard and moving up within the organization, they could become an accounting manager, top cost accountant or a budget director. Some management accountants also move on and become controllers, treasurers, financial vice presidents, CFOs, and even at the highest level, corporation presidents and CEOs.

When it comes to accounting, the possibilities are endless since most businesses and companies need someone to keep track of what they are spending and paying out, and the role gets even more complex the larger the business, whether or not it is publicly traded, how many states or countries it is located in and other factors that add to the complexity of the role.

Higher Degrees and Certification

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Once you gain solid experience at a smaller office, business or family business as an accountant, you might want to consider going back to school and earning a master’s degree.

Universities and colleges around the country, as well as specialty and business schools, typically offer various master’s degree programs.

The advantage of earning a master’s degree is that you might be able to make a higher salary as an accountant.

If you decide to go back to school and earn a master’s degree, or an MBA with a concentration in accounting, the next step is to get licensed as an accountant.

The following are some of the many jobs listed that you might want to pursue after obtaining a master’s degree in accounting or an MBA specializing in accounting:

  • An actuary
  • Appraisal and valuation professional/specialist
  • Auditor
  • Budget analyst
  • Compliance manager
  • Forensic accountant
  • Internal auditor

Lastly, once you have accomplished all these steps, consider pursing certification as an accountant, which means you will be labeled a professional Certified Public Accountant. This would entail taking additional courses and an exam before you are officially certified. Once certified, you can open your own accounting practice and/or become a partner in an established accounting firm.

However, if you don’t plan on a career as an CPA or to work for a public accounting firm, becoming a CPA is not a necessity for a successful career in the industry.

Just know you are not considered a professional accountant until you get a certification, for example, until you are accountable to a credible CPA organization.

Best Places to Work

Choosing accounting as a career path is a popular choice for men and women. Overall, jobs in accounting appear to be a plenty and vast, for example in 2018, more than 8 billion workers were working as accountants according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Additionally, the forecast for the field of accounting looks bright, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and it is only going to get better for future job seekers. Employment of accountants is expected to grow 10 percent from 2016 to 2026, quicker than the average for all occupations. In general, employment growth of accountants is projected to be tied to the health of the overall economy.

As the economy climbs, more employees will be needed to prepare and examine financial records across the board.

In the end, accountants are important and necessary for many businesses, firms and organizations around the country and world.

The top accounting and auditing firms worldwide are: Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young and KPMG, also known as the “Big Four,” and had combined revenues of around 134.28 billion U.S. dollars in 2017, employing almost 945,000 people.

Should you decide to purse a career in accounting, you now have the information and tools needed to become as successful as choose. Again, accounting is considered to be a fine career choice for anyone who is a master at numbers and who enjoys keeping things checked and balanced.