Accounting Careers

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Posted On: February 1, 2017 by Henry R. Steele

The following article discusses the important aspects of a career in accounting. You will learn what accountants do, where they work, job duties, how to become one, popular career paths, and more.

What We Do

Accountants are responsible for the preparation and examination of a firm’s or individual’s financial records. They make certain that all financial and tax records are accurate, and that local, state and federal taxes are paid in full and on time. Accountants also are responsible for assessing an organization’s financial operations and ensure that the entity is run in an efficient manner from a financial perspective.

Additionally, accountants need to be able to clearly explain their tax and financial findings to other workers and supervisors. This usually will include the preparation of written reports and meeting in person with managers and clients.

Accountants also may perform audits, provide tax consulting for nonprofit organizations, governments and corporations. Internal accountants will create new processes to find and cut down on any financial waste and fraud. Management accountants handle the recording and analysis of financial data, and government accountants keep records of government agencies and may also audit private companies.

Job Duties

Accountants usually have most of the following duties:

  • Conduct regular examinations of financial statements and tax records to ensure their accuracy and to be in full compliance with all regulations and laws.
  • Calculate the amount of taxes that are owed, prepare income tax returns and ensure that all payments are made in a timely manner.
  • Conduct inspections of accounting books and records to ensure efficiency, and also use accepted accounting procedures.
  • Organize financial records and maintain them carefully in case of an audit.
  • Perform assessments of a firm’s financial operations, and make recommendations to executives and management.
  • Suggest means by which the organization can reduce costs and enhance profits.

Some accountants specialize their careers in assurance services, which is the improvement of the quality of information that managers need to make decisions. Another common focus is risk management, which is to determine the likelihood of a mistake or error on financial documents. Or, you may choose to focus in a specific industry, such as manufacturing or healthcare.

Where We Work

As of 2014, accountants held more than 1.3 million jobs in the United States. Industries that employ the highest number of accountants are:

  • Tax preparation, accounting, and payroll services: 26%
  • Government – local, state and federal: 8%
  • Finance and insurance: 8%
  • Management of companies and private organizations: 7%
  • Manufacturing organizations: 6%

A small percentage of accountants are self-employed and serve as tax consultants for companies and individuals.

Monster.com reports that the following cities have the strongest demand for accountants:

  • Minneapolis MN
  • Seattle WA
  • Denver CO
  • Philadelphia PA
  • Phoenix AZ
  • Washington DC
  • Chicago IL
  • Boston MA
  • Houston TX
  • New York City

How to Become

You will generally need to have at least your bachelor’s degree in accounting to work as a full fledged accountant in a company or organization. You may be able to work as a junior accountant with only an associate’s degree, and later become an accountant after you have earned your bachelor’s.

To enjoy the maximum number of career opportunities, you may choose later on to earn your MBA or master’s in accounting so that you can sit for your CPA exam.

Often times a MBA degree in any of these areas is preferred for upper levels of management.

Southern New Hampshire University

If you want to stand out in a competitive business environment, earn one of the self-paced Accounting/Finance degrees from Southern New Hampshire University. This university, founded in 1932, features highly innovative undergraduate and graduate business programs that blend theoretical and practical applications into a highly relevant and respected business curriculum.

Southern New Hampshire University can help you get there. Whether you need a bachelor’s degree to get into a career or want a master’s degree to move up in your current career, SNHU has an online Accounting/Finance program for you.

Accounting/Finance degree courses are taught by highly-regarded faculty with many years of real-world business experience. Courses have been designed to provide you with the business toolkit you need to tackle today’s business challenges head on!

Undergrad Tuition: Inquire
Grad Tuition: Inquire
Application Deadline: Rolling
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: NEASC, ACBSP, CCNE
Degrees Offered: Masters/Bachelors/Associates

Inquire Direct with SNHU.edu

Online Associate’s Degree
  • AS in Accounting
Online Bachelor’s Degree
  • BS in Accounting
  • Forensic Accounting & Fraud Examination
  • BS in Accounting & Finance
  • BS in Business Administration – Accounting
  • BS in Business Administration – Finance
  • BS in Finance
  • BS in Finance – Financial Planning
Online Master’s Degree
  • MS in Accounting
  • MS in Accounting – Auditing
  • MS in Accounting – Forensic Accounting
  • MS in Accounting – Management Accounting
  • MS in Accounting – Taxation
  • MS in Accounting & Finance
  • MS in Finance
  • MS in Finance – Corporate Finance
  • MS in Finance – Investments & Securities
Online MBA Degree
  • MBA in Accounting
  • MBA in Finance
  • MBA in Forensic Accounting
  • MBA in Quantitative Analysis

Inquire Direct with SNHU.edu

Another option, if you want to become a CPA, is to obtain a five year, combined  bachelor’s and master’s degree in accounting. This will allow you to meet the hour requirements to sit for the CPA examination.

Employment/Salaries

The median salary for accountants in 2015 was $67,190, and the top 10% earned almost $119,000 per year. These workers generally hold a master’s degree and are CPAs.

Accountants with the best salaries tend to work in securities, brokers, commodity contracts intermediation, and for the federal executive branch. Accountants with the highest salaries work in San Jose, CA, and New York City.

Employment for accountants is on the rise in the US, with job demand expected to increase by a healthy 11% by 2024. This rate of growth is faster than average when compared to other positions.

The economy is generally growing faster, and increasing globalization and more complex regulatory structures and laws will create more need for skilled accountants.

Usually, accountant job growth is tied to the strength of the economy. As the economy sees better growth, we can expect there will be more need for financial and tax accountant experts to both prepare and examine companies’ financial records.

Accountants who have earned their CPA designation will have the best employment prospects.

Career Paths

While many professionals who earn their degree in accounting will become accountants, there are other related positions that you may choose. These can include:

  • Budget analyst: These tax professionals assist public and private organizations to properly organize their finances. They may work with many types of organizations – governments, businesses and universities among them – on the best ways to organize their finances. They are in charge of preparing annual reports and budget proposals so that executives and potential investors can gauge the success and profits of the entity. See salary outlook for budget analyst.
  • Financial analyst: Provide business and financial guidance to companies that are making decisions on investments. They must assess the performance of stocks, bonds and many other investments. You can work as either a buy side or sell side analyst. The former develops investment strategies for firms that have money to invest. Sell side analysts advise financial sales personnel who market stocks, bonds and other types of investments. See salary outlook for financial analyst.
  • Securities, commodities, and financial services sales agent: Connect sellers and buyers in the financial markets. They market securities to individual investors, provide advice to companies looking for investors, and also conduct stock trades. These workers can include brokers, investment bankers, investment banking sales agents, financial services agents and floor brokers. See salary outlook for financial advisor.

Career Paths by Job Title

Education Requirements

Most accountants earn their bachelor’s degree in accounting or finance. By getting certified in certain areas of accounting, you can improve your jobs prospects substantially.

Some employers will prefer that you have your master’s degree in accounting or masters MBA degree in business administration. Some universities offer specialized accounting degrees, such as a bachelor’s in internal auditing.

See also Online Accounting MBA Degree Programs

You also may be able to get a job as a bookkeeper or accounting clerk with an associate’s degree. Once you have served as a junior accountant, you may be able to become a full accountant after you have earned at least your bachelor’s degree.

Specializations

There are many types of accountant that you can become, depending upon your training and interests. The most common are the following;

  • Public accountant: Perform many types of accounting, tax and consulting work. Your clients can include individuals, companies and governments. You will work regularly with financial documents that your clients must disclose by law. These will include government tax forms, balance sheet statements and similar documents. As a public accountant, you could focus on tax issues and advise your clients about tax advantages to certain strategic business decisions. Some public accountants focus on forensic accounting, with investigates financial crimes.
  • Management accountant: This type of accountant may also be called a cost, managerial, industrial or corporate accountant. You are responsible for recording and analyzing financial data for the company that you work for. The information that you prepare as a managerial accountant is prepared for business managers to use and is not for consumption by the public. Many of these accountants will work on budgeting and evaluation of performance. Others might work with financial managers to decide on appropriate asset management.
  • Government accountant: Examines and maintains the records of various government agencies, and may also perform private business audits, as well as audits of individual tax accounts. Accountants who work for local, state and federal governments must ensure that revenues are spent according to current laws and regulations.
  • Internal auditor: Ensure that an organization’s funds are not mismanaged. They determine ways to improve financial processes and reducing fraud, waste and abuse.
  • External auditor: Does the same work as an internal auditor, but works with an outside entity, instead of the one they are auditing.

Training and Certifications

There are some accountant positions available for those with associate’s degrees, but at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting is preferred for many openings. Some employers will expect you to have your master’s degree in accounting or business administration.

If you are going to spend your career in accounting, you may want to earn your master’s degree so that you can qualify to take the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) examination. To sit for the exam, you will need to have 150 hours of classes, or five years of school.

After you have passed the CPA exam, you will be eligible to file reports to the SEC. This makes you very attractive to potential employers. Being a CPA is what can really make your career in accounting.

Additionally, accountants may wish to earn the Certified Management Accountant certification. This requires you to have a bachelor’s degree, work in management accounting for two years, and pass a certification exam. You also may choose later to earn other certifications, such as the Certified Internal Auditor and Certified Information Systems Auditor certifications.

If you have earned your CPA, you also be eligible to receive other credentials with more training:

  • Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV)
  • Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP)
  • Personal Financial Specialist (PFS)

Accounting Career Facts by State

Learn more about Accounting career opportunities by state including salary figures, outlook as well as top employers hiring with an Accounting degree.

State Jobs Posted Average Salary
Alaska 124 $56,714
Alabama 342 $43,015
Arkansas 241 $42,057
Arizona 1,134 $48,616
California 8,274 $57,974
Colorado 1,193 $51,091
Connecticut 635 $56,479
DC 2,091 $72,700
Delaware 179 $39,456
Florida 3,226 $46,244
Georgia 1,840 $34,509
Hawaii 182 $46,168
Iowa 375 $45,135
Idaho 143 $43,171
Illinois 2,778 $51,350
Indiana 646 $46,043
Kansas 341 $32,467
Kentucky 304 $47,167
Louisiana 307 $41,306
Massachusetts 1,930 $54,950
Maryland 1,050 $54,120
Maine 103 $44,280
Michigan 1,123 $48,926
Minnesota 1,030 $38,668
Missouri 871 $53,223
Mississippi 110 $46,325
Montana 103 $32,640
North Carolina 1,324 $55,384
North Dakota 51 $41,471
Nebraska 286 $49,082
New Hampshire 312 $49,056
New Jersey 1,706 $55,253
New Mexico 154 $46,954
Nevada 411 $44,819
New York 3,922 $56,590
Ohio 1,388 $50,959
Oklahoma 388 $51,574
Oregon 591 $55,467
Pennsylvania 1,997 $51,643
Rhode Island 157 $51,345
South Carolina 464 $44,051
South Dakota 84 $38,150
Tennessee 832 $45,359
Texas 4,094 $51,631
Utah 412 $45,480
Virginia 1,696 $54,743
Vermont 94 $49,617
Washington 1,281 $54,733
Wisconsin 775 $48,756
West Virginia 93 $39,423
Wyoming 33 $44,400

References

Henry R. Steele
Henry R. Steele
Managing Editor
Henry is Managing Editor of BusinessStudent.com. He is a seasoned business professional who regularly consults with local business's throughout Southern California. Henry pursued his undergrad in Business and Economics at the University of San Diego and gained valuable life changing experience through a unique internship upon graduation.Follow on Twitter.com

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