How to Become an Oil & Gas Accountant

Learn how to become an oil and gas accountant. Research the education requirements, licensure information and experience required for starting a career in industry accounting. View article »

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  • 0:01 Oil & Gas Accountant Overview
  • 1:59 Earn a Dual Degree
  • 3:09 Build Industry Experience
  • 4:10 Become a CPA
  • 4:57 Find a Job & Maintain…
  • 5:53 Gain Experience

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Video Transcript

Oil and Gas Accountant Overview

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Accounting
Licensure Certified public accountant (CPA) license
Experience 3-5 years of experience in oil and gas accounting, revenue, accounts receivable, coding or tax analysis
Key Skills Listening, communication, and writing skills; attention to detail; proficient in spreadsheet and allocations software; full understanding of math and statistics formulas; use of electronic calculators
Salary $75,280 (2015 mean for all accountants and auditors)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), August 2012 job postings.

Accountants review financial records, analyze spending habits, and suggest ways to increase revenue. There are several types of accountants, including management accountants and certified public accountants (CPAs). Businesses hire management accountants to deal with internal financial decisions and budgeting concerns. Organizations hire CPAs to prepare taxes or other financial documents that must be reported to government agencies. Since oil and gas industries have to submit a lot of paperwork to government authorities, they might hire management accountants who are also licensed CPAs.

The majority of accountants work in office settings, and a few work from their homes. Accounting work can be stressful, and depending on the time of year, it can be very fast-paced. Accountants generally work independently, and they might be required to travel some to oil and gas extraction or refinery locations. Almost all accountants work on a full-time basis with overtime common during tax season.

Oil and gas accountants must be able to listen to coworkers and clients and comfortable communicating orally and in writing. They must enjoy examining information closely and be able to maintain an organized work area and pay attention to detail. Additionally, they must be proficient in spreadsheet and allocations software programs, with a full understanding of mathematical and statistical formulas and familiarity with electronic calculators. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), accountants and auditors in general earned a mean annual salary of $75,280 as of May 2015. However, those employed in the oil and gas extraction industry earned significantly more, with a mean annual wage of $89,090. Let's examine the steps involved to become an oil and gas consultant.

Step 1: Earn a Dual Degree

While accountants typically only need a bachelor's degree to find employment, the majority of states require CPA applicants to have at least 150 units of postsecondary coursework. A traditional bachelor's degree program in accounting requires only 120 units.

Dual degree programs allow students to complete bachelor's and master's degree programs in five years instead of six. Before starting graduate level classes, some schools require students to complete prerequisite courses or pass exams. Course topics in these dual degree programs might include micro and macroeconomics, cost accounting, financial management, auditing, operations management, accounting information systems, marketing, taxation rules and business law.

Not every degree program offers courses directly related to the oil and gas industries. Some universities offer elective courses, though, and a few colleges even offer related certificate programs. Most oil and gas courses and certificate programs address the energy market, global issues, financial management strategies, petroleum accounting and domestic natural gas accounting.

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Step 2: Build Industry Experience

College students should complete as many accounting internships as possible to gain the experience needed for CPA licensing requirements. Additionally, employers of oil and gas accountants tend to prefer applicants with at least 3-5 years of experience in oil and gas accounting, revenue, accounts receivable, coding and tax analysis.

Not all colleges require students to complete internships, but many help students find accounting internship opportunities. Universities that have coursework or certificate programs related to oil and gas accounting might have direct contact with industry leaders.

Additionally, representatives from some of the largest oil and gas companies are often asked to be guest lecturers in business and accounting classes. During these lectures, students have the opportunity to ask questions about individual companies and industry accounting practices. Many representatives also offer internship opportunities that may lead to full employment.

Step 3: Become a CPA

Individuals become licensed CPAs in their state of employment, and each state has slightly different licensing requirements. In most states, license applicants have to meet education and experience requirements to be eligible to take exams. Experience requirements vary, but most states require applicants to have 1-2 years of approved accounting experience.

After meeting eligibility requirements, individuals must pass the uniform CPA examination, offered by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA). The exam consists of four parts: financial accounting and reporting, auditing and attestation, regulations, and business environment and concepts.

Step 4: Find Employment as an Oil & Gas Accountant

CPAs who have enough related experience and training can start applying for oil and gas accountant positions. The BLS projected that positions for accountants and auditors will increase by 11% from 2014 to 2024. Competition for accounting positions is expected to remain high. Accountants who are licensed CPAs will most likely have better job opportunities.

Step 5: Maintain CPA License

CPAs must maintain licensure by meeting renewal requirements, which often include paying fees and completing approved continued-education courses. Each state has different requirements for what counts as approved coursework. Some states may require CPAs to attend formal classes or conferences, whereas other states may allow individuals to learn from interactive web-based seminars or individual study programs.

Step 6: Gain Experience

Oil & Gas Accountants with leadership skill might advance into supervisory or management positions within their respective company. They also are strong candidates to move into high-level financial positions in budgeting, accounting, or auditing.

In summary, oil and gas accountants typically need bachelor's and master's degrees in accounting, state licensure as a certified public accountant and 3-5 years' experience in the field.

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