Accountants drive business in all industries, which helps companies achieve success. Choosing a career path in accounting means your skills will always be in demand and well-paid. And with the right training and qualifications, you can provide accounting services to companies all over the world.
In this article, we’ll discuss the role of an accountant in the workforce, including:
What does an accountant do?
How to determine if accounting is the right career for you
5 Specialization paths in accounting
How to become an accountant
What is an accountant?
An accountant is a trained professional who carries out accounting tasks such as auditing, financial statement analysis, and account analysis. Accountants can work with an accounting firm or within the accounting department of a company. Some go into private practice.
Accountants are important because they help maintain the financial well-being of individuals and organizations. They are in charge of managing financial statements and records, as well as achieving and maintaining compliance with tax laws and regulations. They can advise clients on making informed financial decisions by overseeing income and expenses, helping them to steer clear of errors that could lead to legal issues or financial volatility.
Are accountants in demand? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the answer is yes. Employment of accountants is projected to grow six percent from 2021 to 2031, with approximately 136,400 openings projected each year over the decade.
Is accounting a good career path?
It depends on your personality, goals, and skills, but in general, yes. If you are looking for a career where you can utilize your math and technical skills to help companies or individuals with their financial issues, plans, and goals, it might be a good choice. And it pays well, too, with a median annual wage of $77,250 as of May 2021. However, like any career field, being an accountant has its pros and cons.
Accounting is a stable, well-respected field that is in high demand
Companies of all sizes and in all industries require accounting services
A clear career path with good potential for career advancement
Can start your own firm and be your own boss
Day-to-day tasks may lack creativity
It requires specialized training, licenses, and education
The work can be stressful with long hours
Accounting can be repetitive, performing the same financial and tax issue tasks on a daily, quarterly, or yearly basis
Is accounting good for introverts?
It can be, especially if you’re good at problem-solving and data analysis. Accountants often spend a lot of time working independently, with less team collaboration than other professions. Many introverts thrive in this type of environment with fewer distractions. However, communication skills are very important in the accounting field, as accountants need to be able to clarify financial concepts and explain their work to managers, co-workers, and clients.
5 Potential accounting career paths
Accounting isn’t just one job in one industry, and there isn’t “one way” to become an accountant. Within the areas of private and public accounting, there are many types of accounting professionals, each with a specialized focus. While most accounting careers require the same basic education and skills, once you've built your foundation, you can pursue just about any field or area of expertise that fits your interests. While the list is vast, here are five popular accounting career paths you can choose:
Certified Public Accountant (CPA) has passed the Uniform CPA examination, and can work in areas such as tax preparations, audits, and financial planning. Some CPAs choose to specialize in one of those areas.
Forensic accountants are CPAs who utilize investigative skills to examine a company’s or individual’s financial records, seeking evidence of crimes, which may be included in charges such as fraud or embezzlement. They are often employed by insurance companies, banks, and law enforcement agencies, and may act as an expert witness in trials.
Government accountants work with local, state, and federal governmental entities to manage their financial records and ensure that they follow the set rules and regulations regarding expenses and collecting money. They may manage public funds, investigate financial fraud, perform audits, and recommend corrective action when necessary.
Management accountants estimate a company’s cash flows, advise upper management, create budgets, and analyze the risk/reward for short and long-term projects.
Auditors go over a company’s financial records to ensure that they are accurate and compliant with tax laws/regulations. They flag any discrepancies and help resolve them. Auditors also help shield organizations from fraud and assist with increasing business efficiency.
Other areas of specialization for accountants include:
How to plan your accounting career path
While all accountants need to be analytical, good with numbers, and have strong data interpretation skills, each accounting career path entails somewhat different skills and education, from a bachelor's degree to higher-level licensures and specialist certifications. From start to finish, plan on it taking three to five years to become a qualified accountant.
Here are four steps you’ll need to take:
Get a college degree. Most accounting jobs require, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree in accounting or business administration.
Consider an internship. While you're finishing up your degree, or immediately afterward, an internship might be a good step. This can help you gain skills and experience while developing your professional network, which can enhance your chances of getting a job.
Pick an area of specialization. Take into consideration your strengths, goals, and preferences. You might also want to think about the job market as a whole and choose an area with higher growth and a stronger outlook to increase the chances of finding a job.
Consider your options for certification. Most companies require their accountants to be CPAs in addition to having a bachelor's degree. Other certifications to consider, depending on your chosen specialty, include:
Certified Financial Analyst (CFA)
Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE)
Enrolled Agent (EA)
Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)
Certified Management Accountant (CMA)
You can also consider obtaining a master's degree along with your certifications to qualify for higher-paying positions and future promotions.
If you’ve got the natural skills and interests, a career in accounting might be right for you. Accountants are respected professionals, and you can become a trusted consultant for individuals, companies, and organizations while providing valuable input for major business decisions. Remember, accountants are needed at every company, and all areas are affected by the work of the accounting team.
To find the perfect accounting job for you, check out our Job Search tool on Career.io!
An accountant is a trained professional who carries out accounting tasks such as auditing, financial statement analysis, and account analysis.
Accountants can work in the public or private sector, in a variety of industries.
Accountants are in demand, as the field is projected to grow six percent from 2021 to 2031.