If you have a knack for numbers and want a career with prestige, security and good pay, you should consider becoming an accountant. Many people have the impression that accountants are thin, nerdy types with horn rimmed glasses.
The term “bean counter” demonstrates the disdain that is often directed toward accountants. However, accountants work in a number of industries, and serve functions that range from detective work to ensuring that companies can meet their payrolls.
Relatively Short Entry Path
In comparison to careers with equivalent levels of pay and prestige, the path to a career as an accountant is relatively short. It’s possible to become an accountant with a four year college degree. Although many accountants pursue certification in various specialties, or a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license, neither is necessary to get your first job.
If you choose to become a CPA, the requirements, while challenging, require relatively little additional education. As of 2012, 46 states plus Washington, D.C. require accountants who wish to earn the Certified Public Accountant license to complete 150 hours of coursework, although a formal master’s degree is not required. Many schools offer five year combined bachelor’s and master’s degree programs that meet this requirement. You can also earn a Master of Business Administration degree, which usually requires two years of full time study. In addition, you must pass all four parts of the Uniform CPA Examination from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants within an 18 month period.
Ample Job Opportunities
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job openings for accountants in the United States are projected to increase approximately 10 percent between 2010 and 2020. This is approximately equal to projected job growth across all sectors. Opportunities are expected to be best for accountants who have earned master’s degrees, CPAs, and accountants who have earned specialized certifications, especially as auditors. The financial crisis that began in the late 2000s was accompanied by a jump in demand for accountants, and ongoing financial hard times have not slowed the demand.
Excellent Pay and Regular Hours
Although individual salaries vary because of several factors, including regional differences in wages, most accountants make a comfortable living. This is true whether you choose to work for the private sector, with a nongovernmental organization or for a local, state or federal government agency. As of May 2010, the median pay for accountants and auditors was $61,690, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accountants also usually work regular hours with evenings and weekends off, although the tax season from January through April is extremely busy for many accountants.
Although many accountants work to balance the bottom lines for companies where they work, this is not the only function accountants serve. In fact, accountants have four major roles: calculating income taxes, financial consulting, auditing financial records and performing accounting and review of financial records without completing a full-blown audit. Among the most interesting specialties is forensic accounting, where accountants take on the role of detective to unearth fraud and other deceptive financial practices. Litigation support is another accounting specialty, which involves providing expert financial testimony and evidence in civil and criminal court cases.
For Further Reading
• Accountancy Careers: Why You Ought to Choose Accounting
• Accountants and Auditors bls.gov/ooh/Business-and-Financial/Accountants-and-auditors.htm
• Summary Report for Accountants onetonline.org/link/summary/13-2011.01
• Why Choose Accounting? sbuniv.edu/academics/accounting/WhyChooseAccounting.htm
• Why Choose Accounting As a Career? iipa.ie/Accounting%20Roles.html
• Why Major in Accounting? csulb.edu/colleges/cba/accountancy/major/