Becoming an accountant requires a bachelor's degree in accounting, and sometimes a master's degree as well. Many accountants must also have the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) credential, especially when their work involves reporting to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Bookkeepers do not require a postsecondary education and can often find entry-level employment with just a high school diploma, although some employers might prefer to hire candidates who have completed a certificate or an associate's degree.
Career Information at a Glance
An individual that enjoys working with numbers and has a head for details may be interested in a field like accounting or bookkeeping. Graduates with degrees or certifications in accounting or bookkeeping might work in a variety of positions related to finances and financial record keeping. Although bookkeeping and accounting both involve working with numbers, each offers different career options.
|Required Education||Bachelor's degree in accounting||High school diploma|
|Other Requirements||MBA with a focus in accounting is sometimes required, passing the CPA exam is mandatory||On-the-job training|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||11%||-8%|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$67,190||$37,250|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Career Information for a Degree or Certification in Accounting
An individual with a degree in accounting may specialize in areas like management accounting, public accounting, government accounting and internal auditing. Although their duties and responsibilities may vary, accountants are typically responsible for keeping accurate records while ensuring taxes are paid as due.
Professionals in this field may analyze financial data, investments and budgets to ensure a company is ran efficiently. The use of accounting software programs makes it easier for accountants to be more efficient and often allows them to complete their duties over the Internet. Accountants can work with companies or individual clients. Accountants who complete master's degree programs are typically eligible to become certified public accountants (CPAs).
Career or Salary Outlook for Accountants
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for accountants and auditors is expected to grow by 11% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also stated that accountants that were CPAs would have the most favorable employment opportunities. As of May 2015, accountants and auditors earned a median annual wage of $67,190.
Educational Requirements for Careers in Accounting
Associate's degree programs may prepare participants for entry-level positions as general ledger managers or assistant accountants. Accountants are generally required to have at least bachelor's degrees in accounting, although master's degrees may be required for some employment. Aspiring accountants may choose to earn a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with an emphasis in accounting or a Master of Accountancy.
Students can take courses in subjects like accounting principles, managerial cost accounting, income tax, marketing, auditing, microeconomics, business law and financial reporting. In addition to coursework, they may complete internships. Some schools may offer their programs as distance learning options.
Accountants are required by law to be CPAs if they're filing reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Becoming a CPA requires passing a national examination and satisfying the state's requirements. Requirements may vary by state, but 46 states require that participants complete 150 semester credit hours, in addition to having a bachelor's degree. The CPA examination is a 4-part computerized test that, although it doesn't need to completed all at once, must be completed within 18 months of completing the first part. Auditors and accountants may also earn certification with organizations such as the Institute of Management Accountants or Institute of Internal Auditors.
Career Information for a Degree or Certification in Bookkeeping
Bookkeepers, often known as bookkeeping clerks, gather financial data like receipts, invoices, orders, bank statements, pay slips or tax bills. They may be in charge of all of a company's books or may have specific bookkeeping or accounting tasks. Bookkeepers often create the reports and ledgers that accountants use to collect financial and tax data. Bookkeepers also use computerized software that allows them to work with spreadsheets, payroll systems and databases.
Career or Salary Outlook for Bookkeepers
The BLS predicts an 8% job decline for auditing, bookkeeping and accounting clerks in the decade 2014-2024. These workers earned $37,250 as a median annual wage in 2015, according to the BLS.
Educational Requirements for Bookkeepers
A high school diploma along with accounting courses or experience is generally all that's required for employment as a bookkeeper or bookkeeping clerk. Some jobs may require that individuals complete a certificate or an associate's degree program in accounting or business.
Most employers provide bookkeeping clerks with on-the-job training so they can learn how their specific company is run. Bookkeeping students learn about QuickBooks, financial statements, microeconomics, computer accounting, payroll accounting and business math.
Bookkeeping clerks are generally not required to obtain certification, but may find it beneficial for employment. The American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers offers the credential of Certified Bookkeeper (CB) to individuals that pass a 4-part test and have at least two years of experience working as a bookkeeper. They must also abide by a code of ethics set by the institute. Continuing education must be completed to maintain certification.
There are a few specializations in the accounting field, such as management, public, and government accounting, which require an accountant to use special software like QuickBooks to evaluate financial data and investments. Becoming a CPA requires a bachelor's degree and successful completion of a 4-part exam. Bookkeepers can also earn professional credentials through organizations like the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers, which involves a 4-part test and a minimum of two years of work experience.