Deciding to enter a career in accounting is an excellent idea. This is because accountants will always be in demand, and there is also a lot of potential for growth, both within companies and by moving between companies. The list of different careers in accounting is almost endless, and they exist on all levels, from entry to executive. It is important, therefore, that you know what your personal career goals are, so that you can gain the right education and experience to attain your ideal career.
General Accountant Job Description
All accountants have a number of similar duties, which all revolve around numbers – tracking them, analyzing them, presenting them, implementing them, and so on. You can do this across all types of industries and types of organizations. You may also be able to take on a government position, although you will usually require some additional qualifications for that.
Skills and Experience You Should Work On
To be an accountant, you must be excellent in mathematics. You have to be able to understand the language of numbers, which means you require strong analytical skills, and also excellent communication skills. You have to have critical thinking and interpersonal skills, as well as being very organized and detail orientated.
Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
When people think about jobs in accounting, they often immediately think about the CPA. However, a CPA is not actually a job, but rather a certification. It is offered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and those who pass the exam (only 50% of those who take it do) prove that they have the necessary skills to be the best possible accountant. License is conditional, meaning that continuing education credits have to be met as well.
How to Choose a Career in Accounting
Because the field of accounting is so wide, it is important that you consider your options and personal likes and dislikes. It is advisable to start by thinking where you want to work, i.e. a public, private, nonprofit or voluntary organization. After that, you may want to consider the industry itself. Finally, you can narrow it down to the actual position in an actual company. This may give you a better idea of which degree program to go for, and which specializations and certifications, if any, you should try to obtain.
Types of Accounting Certifications
Some of the many accounting jobs do require certification. This is why it is so important that you consider your career goals before you enroll in a university, because you may need to choose a curriculum that prepares you for a certain exam. Some of the most common certifications include:
- CPA (Certified Public Accountant)
- CIA (Certified Internal Auditor)
- CFE (Certified Fraud Examiner)
- CISA (Certified Information Systems Auditor)
- CBA (Certified Bank Auditor)
- CGAP (Certified Government Auditing Professional)
- EA (Enrolled Agent)
- CCP (Certified Payroll Professional)
- FPC (Fundamental Payroll Certification)
- ABA (Accredited Business Accountant)
- AFE (Accredited Financial Examiner)
- ATA (Accredited Tax Advisor)
- ATP (Accredited Tax Preparer)
- CB (Certified Bookkeeper)
- CSFA (Certified Financial Services Auditor)
- FA (Certified Forensic Accounant)
- CPEA (Certified Professional Environmental Auditor)
- CQA (Certified Quality Auditor)
- FCPA (Forensic Certified Public Accountant)
Careers in Accounting
The table below highlights some of the most common careers in accountants and what the job descriptions are.
|This is usually a generalized name for a variety of roles. Most accountants specialize in areas such as tax accounting or forensic accounting. Most accountants, however, work in family office practices.
|This is an entry level position and usually means that you will assist someone like an accountant, book keeper, financial examiner or cost estimator.
|This is a similar position to the accounting assistant. You will work together with accountants to make sure all the books are kept properly. Much of the work you do will be administrative in nature, and you will usually work in a very busy office.
|In this role, you will not only deal with various accounting-related duties. You will also manage other members of staff within the same department. Depending on your qualifications, you can also grow in your own role, sometimes up to Chief Financial Officer or even Chief Executive Officer.
|Accounts Payable Clerk
|You will make sure that all the bills of your organization are paid on time. Sometimes, you may also have to record invoices in purchases journals.
|Accounts Receivable Clerk
|You will be responsible for keeping track of any and all incoming payments, as well as tracking these moneys. If bills are unpaid, you will have to take further steps to collect them.
|As a bookkeeper, you will use software and technology to keep track of all financial transactions. You may also have to create records, financial reports, income statements, and balance sheets. Finally, you will be responsible for finding discrepancies, and addressing these together with your superior.
|In this role, you will try to make sure that the goals of a project can be achieved within a given budget. This will include monitoring spending and preparing budget reports.
|Certified Internal Auditor
|You will examine financial records, making sure they are accurate and properly managed. You will also offer recommendations to senior management, manage recommendations, track expenditures and revenues, and observe industry trends.
|Bachelor’s and CIA
|Chief Financial Officer
|This is one of the most important roles someone with a degree in accounting can achieve. You will be responsible for the full financial management of the organization you work for. This includes people management, budget, taxes, mergers & acquisitions, computer systems, and more.
|Comptroller or Controller
|You will oversee the entire accounting department of the organization you work for. You will ensure bookkeeping is properly maintained and you will perform audits. You will have systems in place to ensure all financial transactions are properly recorded, and you will also analyze income and expenditures, ensuring the company is able to maintain a healthy financial status. Some of the most important specialized roles that comptrollers can hold include Bank Examiners and Senior Policy Accountant.
|Bachelor’s and CPA
|CPA is a blanket term for many parts of accountancy. As such, you can hold responsibility for a range of different financial functions, which include:
· Asset management
· Public accounting
· Risk assessment
· Tax planning
· Risk management
· Internal reviews
· Financial compliance
|Bachelor’s and CPA
|As a forensic accountant, you will focus on financial crimes. You will often work for the government, although you can be independent as well. You will also often be called upon as an expert witness in a court of law. They are often referred to as the private investigators of the financial world.
|In this role, you will work solely for the government, be that local, state or federal. This is one of the most personally rewarding careers in the field of accounting.
|In this role, you will make sure all employees within the organization you work for are paid properly and on time. You will also collect relevant records, including time sheets, sick leave, annual leave, overtime, and so on. Your role is highly clerical in nature and will include a number of administrative duties as well.
|You can work in private and public sector organizations alike. Your role is to track the financial activities and monitor all financial data. Usually, you will also have to prepare a range of financial reports for senior managers, and they will use this to make decisions in terms of financial strategies.
|As a tax accountant, you will focus on the accounting that is related to taxes. This includes payments, tax returns, tax audits, and more. You may work for an organization, be self-employed, or work as a consultant. You will also be very aware of the various taxation laws and you must be able to monitor compliance for the organization you work for or represent. This means you must have the highest levels of ethical standards and be passionate about research.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected a job growth of 11% in demand for all accountants and auditors between 2014 and 2024. This is a higher than average rate. The best prospects are for those who hold a CPA certification. In 2014, some 1,332,700 accountants were employed across the country, and it is believed that, by 2024, there will be 142,400 more.
A number of factors drive growth and change in the world of accountancy. Corporations, the globalization of business, and innovations in technology are making the field of accountancy increasingly complex. Additionally, since the collapse of Enron, new laws have emerged, including the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. This means that accountants need to have more specialized knowledge in order to ensure compliance is always maintained.
Geographical location is also a contributing factor in the job outlook for accountants. The 10 best places in the country to work in terms of demand and salary are:
- New York, NY
- Houston, TX
- Boston, MA
- Chicago, IL
- Washington, DC
- Phoenix, AZ
- Philadelphia, PA
- Denver, CO
- Minneapolis, MN
- Seattle, WA
It is very difficult to give a true average salary for accountants. The BLS has set it at $65,940 per year. However, this is for someone who holds a bachelor’s degree, and most accountants, and particularly CPAs, hold a master’s degree. The table below highlights the average salaries for different sectors, which highlights some of the differences that exist.
|Finance and insurance
|Management of companies and enterprises
|Accounting tax preparations, bookkeeping, and payroll services
Resources and References:
- American Institute of Certified Public Accountants – Information on careers for CPAs. (AICPA.org)
- Occupational Outlook Handbook: Accountants and Auditors – Job outlook for auditors and accountants. (BLS.gov)
- Public Law 107-204 – July 30, 2002 – Text of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. (SEC.gov)