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 of financial documents and reports and maintaining accuracy in data entry so that everything on the accounting side of 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 accounting jobs. The many careers options for a position within the accountanting profession span the breadth of the business world and include training and earning a license as a certified public accountant (CPA) by passing the Uniform CPA exam or professional certification as a certified management accountant, certified internal auditor, and more. You can earn an entry level position with an associate degree and then, with work experience or complete another, advanced degree from an accounting program, find work as a financial analyst, in general financial accounting, cost accounting, forensic accounting, accounting technology, as an accounting manager or other financial management, and so much more.


Accounting Overview

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Many consider accounting an important part of any business for a number of reasons, including that the US Government requires reporting all financial data to the IRS for taxes and some info must be reported to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). This is important because the financial report for income and expenses reported by a firm, business, organization and the like, also must be accurate and in sync with the content of corporate records.

Landing a job as an accountant can be a fulfilling career path and perhaps one that could last years, or your entire career, since there is so much room for advancement for accounting professionals.

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% of accountants and auditors were female, making them the more common gender in the accounting profession.

As for age, the national average age of male accountants in accounting jobs 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.

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

Skills Needed

Besides excelling with 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 skills
  • Leadership qualities
  • Good at multi-tasking
  • Patient and thorough
  • Analytical skills

If you think you have the skills to make a successful accountant, there are certain education requirements that must be met before you start combing over a business owner’s books. This is, of course, depending on the type of postition in the accounting field or accounting certification you aim to achieve.

Steps to Become an Accountant

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

  • Associate degree programs, which provide entry-level opportunities, usually take two years.
  • A bachelor's degree program generally takes four years.
  • Master's degree programs and a Master of Business Administration degree both generally require approximately two years.
  • For those who want to earn professional licensure, such as those who wish to be CPAs, you'll need to earn at around 150 credit hours from a college or university (including specific coursework that will provide the required knowledge), complete a full year of work experience in the state where you plan to be licensed, pass the Uniform CPA exam offered by the AICPA, and complete continuing education requirements.

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, so that they can move into an accounting manager position more easily.

Besides two-and four-year colleges, and universities from coast to coast, there are also schools that offer specialized programs, such as a bachelor’s degree in internal auditing. Often, those with associate degrees, as well as bookkeepers and accountants who meet the education and work 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 for students by colleges and public accountant firms or business firms where you can gain more first-hand skills and ensure that you already have experience when you find your first position.

Career Path

After you graduate and earn an accounting degree, you should start searching for entry-level jobs in accounting, depending on your personal interests in the field.

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 while gaining accounting experience.

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 can 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 pursue 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.


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