Accountants play a critical role in a company’s many financial facets. In general, they balance books, record costs and profits, execute payroll, pay taxes and bills, and issue financial statements to outside organizations. Although these may appear to be straightforward tasks, accountants are required to be well-versed in protocol and regulations to avoid scandal, which results in costly fines and marred reputations. However, the accounting industry is drawing a breath of fresh air after exchanging paper spitting calculators and ledger sheets for advanced accounting software. Career Accountants now have the opportunity to wear the consulting hat, spending less time crunching numbers and more time serving as financial vernacular translators for the management sector.
This new hat also comes with a whole new outfit. Employers now seek Accounting applicants that are not only math and detail-oriented, but possess analytical thinking skills that lend them to spot and solve problems. Still, even the best solutions are worthless if they cannot be communicated to a member that can implement it. Therefore, strong written and verbal communication skills are important qualifications for the modern accounting position. A bachelor’s degree in finance, business, or management of information systems (MIS) is considered suitable training by employers for the technical, analytical, and communication skills necessary to succeed in entry-level positions. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, however, requires 150 hours of university education, thirty hours more than a typical four-year degree, before qualifying to take the CPA exam. For those embarking on the internal auditing and management accounting career path, there is the Internal Auditors or the Institute of Management Accountants, which issue certifications required by some employers. Qualifications for bookkeeping positions are much more lax, offering positions to high school graduates, associate degree holders, or people with a degree in an unrelated field. Notably, these positions are often more tedious and offer less compensation.
Optimistically speaking, there are several accounting career tracks in the industry that highlight a wide range of interests and accountant training: public accounting, in-house accounting, internal auditors, management accountants, government accountants, bookkeepers and auditing clerks, and independent. Public Accountants prepare a company’s tax statements and external auditing, which make financial records available to the government and the public. These accountants enjoy the flexibility of their work because their skills are needed by small and big firms alike. In-House Accountants set budgets, manage assets and payroll, track payments, and handle other financial matters. Internal Auditors and Management Accountants assume a more internal function by checking accounting systems for clerical errors, enforcing regulations, streamlining processes, advising on critical decisions and strategy planning. Government Accountants are financial disciplinarians that collect revenue and see that it is spent in accordance with the law. Bookkeepers and Auditing Clerks perform the task of inputting data into the company’s financial record keeping system. However, once you’ve earned your CPA, the allure of becoming an entrepreneur gains strength since many businesses are willing to arrange for advising sessions and tax return work on a contract basis.
Regardless of the position, a career in accounting offers many opportunities to move up after getting that foot into the door, and right now the door is open. After a series of industry scandals, companies are eagerly seeking ethical applicants to fill forensic positions in order to reestablish their clients’ faith. The public accounting sector also has many available positions in auditing and taxes. These Accounting Career opportunities are primarily situated in the health care and manufacturing industries, but the Big Four Accounting Firms (Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Ernst & Young, KPMG, and PricewaterhouseCoopers) are always looking for bright-eyed youngsters to fill menial positions in exchange for a big name to print on a resume.
The Big Four Accounting Firms offer a far from shabby starting salary in the mid $30,000s to $40,000 for entry-level accounting employees who quickly move up to the mid $40,000 to high $50,000 upon reaching seniority status. Management Accountants earn $60,000 to mid $70,000 a year and partners generally make more than $120,000. Although smaller firms may offer slightly lower wages, salaries in general are projected to continue rising in the industry over the next few years.