Many people believe that accounting is a one-dimensional career path. That said, as technology continues to advance and business becomes increasingly complex, the role of accountants has become more dynamic. Accountants are no longer limited to crunching numbers. Instead, they are strategic consultants on the overall health of a business.
Beginning a career in accounting is a wise choice as there have been forecasts for substantial growth in the industry, with an increasing demand for accounting professionals and a high median salary. This proves that there is no time like the present to join the field.
After you have determined that an accounting career is best for you, you will quickly learn that the field is more diverse than you may have imagined, with several possibilities to apply your skills in various areas.
It should not be surprising that the demand for accounting specialists will continue to evolve. There were more than 1.3 million accounting jobs in 2021, according to EMSI. That number is projected to rise by 6.1% over the next decade to over 1.4 million jobs.
Those interested in pursuing a career in this field can enroll in an MBA accounting degree online at Suffolk University. The program’s concentrations allow you to add to your business background and effectively tailor your degree to your career objectives.
- 1 Why accounting?
- 2 Path planning for an accounting career
- 3 Career pathways in accounting
- 4 Popular specialization paths in accounting
Accountants are skillful professionals with various job prospects and opportunities in many sectors. If you are particularly adept at organizational and mathematical tasks, securing a job as an accountant can offer you strong earning potential and professional growth opportunities. The typical activities and duties of accountants include:
- Managing pay systems.
- Handling balance sheets for commercial transactions.
- Working on financial statements to display monetary data.
- Creating and assessing tax documents.
- Offering advice regarding financial processes to clients and senior executives.
- Evaluating fiscal statements for compliance with federal regulations and accounting policies.
- Ensuring the accuracy of reports via reconciliation.
- Reviewing finances to guarantee that the information is free from discrepancies, errors, and signs of possible fraud.
- Disclosing stock information to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
- Overseeing accounting processes to recognize efficiency-improving opportunities.
Path planning for an accounting career
Most accounting jobs require the same fundamental skillset, which involves being excellent with numbers, interpreting data, and being analytical, among other essential competencies. Each prospective career path calls for different skill requirements and training. Below are the factors worth considering.
The overall career outlook
Before taking things further, consider the overall outlook of the accounting career. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the accounting profession is expected to grow by 6% from 2021 to 2031, which is nearly as fast as the average for all jobs. This rate is linked to the expected economic growth and continued requirement for financial reporting experts.
Your income as an accountant may depend on various factors, including your job role, the region where you are employed, and the industry in which you practice your craft. Your overall experience and education level will also decide your income. According to the BLS, the median pay for an accountant is $77,250 per year.
Your desired work environment
Your work environment may vary based on the nature of your accounting job. Some types of accounting – e.g., managerial accounting – have a relatively consistent pace, where the accountant’s workload may be similar on a day-to-day basis. Other branches of accounting – tax accounting, for instance – may have hectic schedules (typically during the early spring around tax season) and then have slower periods.
Consider the type of work environment that suits you well. Do you constantly need change and variety to remain engaged? Do you handle working under pressure well? These questions may help with your final decision.
Accountants usually work in office settings in companies varying from smaller agencies with only a few staff members to large corporate offices. A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) can also work as an independent, self-employed contractor, making their work environment flexible.
Your current level of education or what you aim to obtain
A majority of professional accounting jobs call for a bachelor’s degree. You may need to consider enrolling in a bachelor’s in accounting to achieve the added credential if you have completed an associate degree. This will make a massive difference when you are vetted for a new role.
Although most accounting jobs do not require a master’s degree, if you aim to sit for the CPA, you may require 150 hours of college credit to be able to take the exam. As most bachelor’s degrees require 120 credits, you may need to complete an additional 30.
Another factor to consider is that these credits do not need to be in the accounting field. They can also be at the graduate or undergraduate level. Some prefer to complete this requirement by completing a master’s in accounting or an accounting certificate based on the number of credits they must finish to achieve the 150-hour requirement.
Some also see this as an opportunity to look into a new subject area and may choose to pursue a certificate or an MBA in a similar field.
The type of company you aim to work for
Essentially, accountants are required in nearly every type of company – small or large – throughout all sectors. Therefore, it is up to you to determine where you will fit best. Consider your goals. Do you aim to work for a consulting company with various clients, or would you rather be in an accounting team in a non-profit or private corporation?
Your gravitation toward particular accounting fields will also help you narrow down the types of businesses you want to work for. If you are enthusiastic about internal auditing, consider larger companies. If you prefer working independently, you may do better as a financial consultant.
Sitting for the CPA
This is a crucial question to consider when you are beginning to contemplate your career path in accounting. Although sitting for the CPA promises increased job opportunities in new sectors, it also takes a lot of resources, time, and hard work. Moreover, it is optional for many accounting jobs. Take your time to carefully consider your goals to ensure that if you decide to take on this challenge, you are utilizing your time wisely.
Career pathways in accounting
Considering its many uses, accounting is among the most guaranteed ways to start a professional career. You can launch nearly any business career by learning basic business skills.
Accounting experts are needed in the private, public and governmental sectors. Your chosen working style, job focus, and environment can help determine which accounting path works best for your career.
You can choose to switch from one region to another after gaining experience and deciding to specialize in a specific accounting job position or industry. Learning about the main sectors where professional accountants work can help you as you plan your future. Below are the main career pathways in accounting.
Private accounting, also known as industry or corporate accounting, is a career pathway involving working for a single company within its finance department. In other words, private accounting is mainly focused on the internal workings of agencies, businesses, and governments. Private accountants typically work for one company, handling reports and doing analyses for internal accounting transactions.
As they work for a sole business, private accountants usually work to maintain a certain level of consistency that’s different from public accounting. Their everyday routines are more consistent and predictable for a particular industry. The deadlines are also more predictable, and the working hours are standardized. Travel is also limited.
After you acquire experience as an accountant in a particular area of commerce, you may look for management opportunities for leading and supervising other staff members in accounting.
Some private accountants aim for the role of management accountant. Management accountants work with senior executives to advise on fiscal matters impacting the financial well-being of a corporation.
Yet another career path for aspiring accountants to choose is public accounting. This particular field entails working with businesses and individuals via contracts. Simply put, public accountants are not hired by a single client, meaning that they are not part of the client’s internal corporate setup.
Businesses lacking accounting staff hire companies to offer accounting services. Public accountants can either be allocated to a specific client or may work for a host of businesses, offering their services on an established schedule.
Based on their clientele, public accountants may work for any industry. Public accounting offers you a wide range of experience and may prove an advantageous way to start your career, even if you specialize in a specific industry. You can focus more on taxes, audits, or general accounting work for public corporations and individuals.
However, public accounting demands flexibility because workloads and routines may change based on client requirements. You can take on varying tasks from one contract to another in a fast-paced working environment to complete multiple projects and meet deadlines collectively. A public accounting career may call for longer working hours and frequent travel outside the office to meet clients.
The federal government hires accountants for assistance in overseeing the immense financial resources of the US, from budgets for numerous agencies and departments to taxes. Governmental accountants may offer their services to the government at various levels – i.e., city, state, country, and federal. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) hires many accounting experts to deal with reported tax information and outgoing and incoming funds.
An accountant who works for the government may expect consistent, steady, and routine-based work with days off for federal holidays, a structured working environment, and incremental pay.
Popular specialization paths in accounting
As your career progresses, you may specialize in varying accounting disciplines. Whether you go for the public, private, or government path – or switch between them – specializations allow you to qualify for newer positions and move forward with your career. Below are the most popular disciplines you can consider.
Tax accountants specialize in taxation. They manage corporations’ and individuals’ audits, fiscal records, and tax returns. When tax accountants work with individuals, their duties include assisting customers in correctly completing tax forms. They also offer advice on financial decisions. They may also help clients by advising them on how they can reduce the tax they must pay. On the other hand, tax accountants working in a corporate setup often need more experience as corporate taxes are a lot more complicated than individual ones.
Auditors review clients’ financial statements and ensure that all the information has been recorded accurately based on tax laws. The clients that these professionals serve are usually large companies required by the SEC to conduct regular audits by third-party auditors.
On the other hand, government organizations, private corporations, and individuals may employ auditors either as a prerequisite from the IRS or as a means to check whether their finances are up to the mark.
Auditors are required to abide by stringent procedures established by the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (IAASB). Most auditors must have a CPA license, proving that they know the main accounting principles.
Management accountants assist companies in making better financial decisions by planning for business expenditures, creating budgets, supervising investments, and establishing strategies to improve performance.
Management accountants combine various skills, including business strategy, accounting, and management techniques. These professionals often work closely with the managerial team. They are essentially there to help those at the board level answer complicated questions. Management accountants must have excellent attention to detail, communication, problem-solving, and numerical and analytical skills.
Financial accountants evaluate their company’s financial health and performance. These experts create reports for external parties and act as consultants for executive managers. They also keep track of their financial transactions. Financial accountants must employ the correct procedures to create financial reports, which are then forwarded to shareholders and regulators.
They closely monitor company outgoings, incoming, and liabilities. Professionals in this field must have a degree, professional certification, and registration as chartered accountants (CA) or CPAs to work in this field. These individuals must also display excellent organizational and analytical skills.
Are you interested in pursuing a career in accounting? If so, why not look into enrolling in an accounting program today?