Accounting careers come in a variety of forms, and many of them pay well. The typical annual wage for accountants and auditors, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), is little over $71,000. Strong job prospects for entry-level roles are often brought on by the great demand for these individuals, but the number of graduate students entering the market frequently makes employment with the best companies quite competitive.
Accountants typically work with multiple clients at once and are tasked with solving complex financial problems. As such, successful accountants typically have strong organizational, communication, and problem-solving skills.
Accounting Career Summary
The outlook for careers for an accounting major is largely positive. The BLS projects the demand for accountants to grow by 6% between 2018 and 2028. While the industry continues to add jobs at a steady rate, technological change is expected to impact future roles of accountants; however, these changes are only expected to change job functions rather than decrease the demand for these professionals.Two factors largely affect salaries for accounting professionals: education and professional experience. Professionals with many years of industry experience tend to enjoy much higher salaries than entry-level accounts. For example, while an entry-level CPA earns about $52,000, a mid-career accountant can expect an average salary of almost $70,000.
Skills Gained With an Accounting Degree
An accounting degree teaches students diverse and transferable skills, such as analytical reasoning, communication, and organisational competencies. Accountants can continue to hone these skills by pursuing certifications and gaining professional experience.
As professionals advance in their accounting careers, the following skills become increasingly important.
- Analytical Skills
- Organisational Skills
- Attention to Detail
- Math Skills
Accounting Career Paths
The majority of accounting programmes provide specialisations that train students for specialised employment in accounting. For instance, students wishing to become CPAs can focus on public accounting. Students interested in auditing or fraud investigation as jobs can also seek concentrations in such fields. Programs and degree levels have different concentration requirements, so students should study the precise offerings of their potential colleges.
Accounting students who do not pursue concentrations can prepare for different career paths within the field. Read on to learn more about how to begin a specific career in accounting.
For all accounting positions, a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a closely related field is typically necessary. Although a bachelor’s degree is typically required for entry-level positions, some employers may favour candidates with master’s degrees. For accountants who want to advance their careers, two alternatives are a master’s degree or CPA certification. To be eligible for the CPA exam, candidates must hold a bachelor’s degree and complete an additional 30 credits; the exam calls for 150 postsecondary credits, but bachelor’s programmes often only offer 120 credits. Because of this, many students decide to finish a master’s programme before submitting an application for CPA certification. This allows students more time to study and accumulate the required credits to qualify for the exam.
Both options help build highly specialized skills and typically lead to salary increases and new career opportunities as financial managers, finance directors, and accounting managers.
Associate Degree in Accounting
Graduates with an associate’s degree in accounting are prepared for entry-level positions as financial clerks, account collectors, and bookkeepers. Students who enrol in an associate’s degree programme in accounting learn the fundamental principles and techniques of accounting, including budgeting, cost accounting, payroll accounting, and tax preparation.
With this degree, students learn how to use accounting software, prepare financial reports, and evaluate financial data. To expand their job options, accountants with an associate degree can also transfer into a bachelor’s programme.
What Can You Do With an Associate in Accounting?
- Bill and Account Collector
- Financial Clerk
Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting
Graduates with a bachelor’s degree in accounting work in public accounting, financial services, managerial accounting, and other subfields. This degree can also lead to a career as an auditor, budget analyst, cost estimator, or tax examiner.
During a bachelor’s program, students study fundamental concepts in accounting and auditing, including fraud examination, accounting ethics, and tax reporting. Graduates qualify for certifications that can help advance their careers.
Prospective accounting students can learn more about the top online bachelor’s in accounting programs.
What Can You Do With a Bachelor’s in Accounting?
- Budget Analyst
- Cost Estimator
- Tax Examiner
Master’s Degree in Accounting
Earning a master’s degree in accounting prepares accountants for roles with greater responsibilities and higher salaries. Most CPAs, for example, hold a master’s degree. Additionally, many management-level accounting positions, such as financial managers, accounting managers, and finance directors, require a master’s degree.
During a master’s program, accounting students typically complete specialized training in a concentration, such as public accounting, managerial accounting, or fraud examination. Accountants with a master’s degree qualify for CPA certification.
What Can You Do With a Master’s in Accounting?
- Certified Public Accountant
- Financial Manager
- Personal Financial Advisor
- Accounting Manager
- Finance Director
Sources: BLS and PayScale
Doctorate Degree in Accounting
Graduates with a doctorate in accounting are prepared for many of the top jobs in the industry. A PhD in accounting enables an accountant to work in management, academia, and research. Students in a doctoral programme finish specialised coursework, improve their research abilities, and collaborate with a faculty advisor to finish a dissertation.
As the highest level of accounting education, a PhD prepares graduates for management-level careers and positions as chief financial and executive officers. Doctoral-level accounting specialists can work in research, public policy, financial management, and other managerial positions. Additionally, a doctorate satisfies the requirements for the CPA exam. Additionally, a doctorate is often required for accountants who want to teach or do research.
What Can You Do With a Doctorate in Accounting?
- Accounting Professor
- Chief Financial Officer
- Chief Executive Officer
Certificates in Accounting
Accountants can also opt to pursue certificates to advance their careers. Prospective accountants without a bachelor’s degree can pursue undergraduate certificates, while those with a bachelor’s can earn graduate certificates in accounting.
Certificates generally require less time and money than a degree. Certificates provide specialized training in fields like bookkeeping, financial accounting, and forensic accounting.
- Undergraduate Certificate in Accounting
While earning an undergraduate certificate in accounting, students usually complete 20-30 credits of coursework. Accounting students can typically complete these programs in under a year. Graduates are prepared for specialized roles, such as bookkeepers.
- Graduate Certificate in Accounting
A graduate certificate in accounting can help accountants earn the 150 postsecondary credits required to sit for the CPA exam. Most graduate certificate programs take under a year to complete.
How to Advance Your Career in Accounting
There are several methods to boost your earning potential and enhance your career after receiving an accounting degree. Although a master’s programme is the quickest route to a new career and better pay possibilities, many working professionals might not have the time or resources to do so. Online and certificate programmes are excellent choices that frequently demand less dedication.
Additionally, many accounting professionals choose to pursue CPA certification after earning their bachelor’s degree; however, eligibility for this exam requires accountants to earn an additional 30 credits.
Although pursuing certification can be rigorous and demanding, CPAs are highly regarded in the accounting field and typically secure top jobs and salaries.
Earning CPA certification is arguably the best approach to develop your accounting profession. In general, this accreditation results in higher salaries, greater work prospects, and more responsibility. It is possible to get this certification without a master’s degree, even though some experts advise doing so before taking the exam. The chartered financial analyst (CFA), certified management accountant (CMA), and enrolled agent (EA) credentials are further significant credentials.
Your ability to carry out duties like budget and investment evaluations is validated by your CFA certification. Professionals aiming to enhance their careers in finance will particularly benefit from it. Students who are interested in government accounting might think about getting their EA certification, which attests to your tax experience and qualification to represent the IRS. Your cost management, forecasting, and auditing skills are validated by your CMA certification. For people wishing to develop into managerial accounting responsibilities, this kind of accreditation is helpful. Although the CPA is often regarded as the best accounting credential, it might not be the best choice for you. If you’re seeking an accounting certification, think about your emphasis area and professional objectives.
Mastering new programs like Quickbooks and SAP can add substantial value to your professional resume. Additionally, pursuing continuing education demonstrates a desire to learn and stay relevant as the field evolves. Many continuing education programs offer certifications upon completion, which can help further demonstrate your skills and knowledge to your employer. These proficiencies can lead to pay raises and increased responsibilities in your current role.
What Happens Next
Increasing your network of connections through activities like joining a professional organisation or networking with coworkers can open up new job opportunities at your present employer or with other businesses. Participating in accounting organisations might give you access to new resources. These groups actively assist its members in connecting with colleagues around the nation, getting ready for certification exams, and accessing new employment prospects.
Another way to advance in your career is to find a mentor. Experienced accountants can help you find your intended professional path and connect you with a variety of companies and organisations. No matter if your objective is to obtain certification or to enhance your knowledge and skill set, a mentorship can help you stay on track and land the job you want.
How to Switch Your Career to Accounting
There are various methods to change careers and enter the accounting field. You must first, however, satisfy the minimal educational requirements. A bachelor’s degree in accounting or a closely related subject is necessary for the majority of entry-level accounting positions. However, to enrol in a master’s programme in accounting, you often need not need a bachelor’s degree in accounting. Often, all that is required for students to obtain a fundamental understanding of accounting methods and principles are a few core classes. For students who already hold a bachelor’s degree, earning certification in a particular field is an additional option. Even for seasoned accountants, these examinations are very challenging, yet it is possible to pass them without having worked in the business. Professionals without a college degree might want to think about enrolling in an online accounting programme since these programmes often provide greater flexibility and affordability than on-campus programmes. The best accounting schools frequently offer assistance with job placement and can guide you towards the style of accounting that will work best for you.
Where Can You Work as an Accounting Professional?
- Accounting, Tax Preparation, Bookkeeping, and Payroll Services
- Management of Companies and Enterprises
- Insurance and Employee Benefit Funds
- Financial Services
- Management Consulting