Whether working for the government or for a company, an accountant's primary concern is the organization and filing of financial records. While a bachelor's degree in accounting is a common degree held by accountants, a graduate degree, such as a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in accounting, or some graduate-level coursework may be needed to secure certification.
Accountants must understand tax codes and have knowledge of what it takes to keep a business profitable or personal assets solvent. Choosing a career in accountancy can be both rewarding and profitable. How far someone advances in an accountancy career might be dependent on their education choices and work experience.
|Required Education||A bachelor's degree in accounting or a similar discipline|
|Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)*||6% (for accountants & auditors)|
|Median Annual Salary (May 2018)*||$70,500 (for accountants & auditors)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Accountants can work for private accounting firms, public/private industries, banking or government agencies, or they can start their own accounting business. Working for a firm gives an accountant the opportunity to understand the workings of a variety of businesses, learn how to prepare and audit financial information, and advise businesses on budgeting, financing and investments.
Public accountants perform many of the same duties, but also focus more on tax accounting and working for government agencies. Many public accountants work for government or law enforcement agencies as forensic accountants, using investigative techniques to uncover fraud, embezzlement and other criminal financial activity. Accountants can also enter the field of management, using their knowledge to successfully help run a company, or start and operate their own business.
Anyone interested in an accounting career should first enter a business school at an accredited college or university. A student majoring in accounting will learn about accounting procedures and management techniques, focusing on subjects such as:
- Cost accounting
- Financial accounting
- Private/corporate income tax planning/administration
- Business and public policy
Graduates might earn a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting, while other schools award a Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts in Accounting, depending on the course concentration.
While not a requirement to become an accountant, taking and passing the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam is beneficial in order to pursue a career in government or start an accountancy business. Before studying and taking the exam, the applicant must first determine the state where they plan to work, because state's courses and requirements vary. Many states require a minimum of semester hours, while others expect a fifth year of study before taking the CPA exam.
In addition to earning an undergraduate or graduate degree in accounting or a related major, individuals can demonstrate their knowledge of the field by voluntarily becoming a CPA. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects growth as fast as the national average through 2028. This is good news for prospective accountants who will be searching for entry-level positions during that time though the best prospects will be for CPAs.