Congratulations on your decision to explore a career in accounting!
Accountants and CPAs are in high demand – even in tough and competitive economic environments. Those who earn a degree in accounting have endless entry level job opportunities while those with accounting experience or the CPA license have the flexibility to work in an assortment of different fields and positions.
What are my Options with an Accounting Degree?
Accounting is commonly referred to as “the language of business” because it is the method of communicating business information to both internal and external parties. An accounting education provides training across many business functions including: external financial reporting, internal managerial reporting, budgeting and forecasting, tax, and internal controls.
Accountants have opportunities to work in many areas of business including: financial reporting, plant accounting, planning and analysis, treasury, marketing, financial systems, and internal audit. Experience in these departments often leads to promotions into leadership roles and upper management positions. Accounting professionals bring added value to organizations because they are able to interpret the “big picture” results while also focusing on the details when necessary. Having the flexibility to work in so many different roles is great for anyone who wants a variety of career options. Further, each path can lead to a lucrative and fulfilling career.
Business owners and entrepreneurs will often posses a strong accounting or finance background. With this skill set, they understand the ins and outs of business processes and are able to make wise business decisions. Assessing the profitability and long-term financial impact of a decision is critical to running a successful business. An entrepreneur makes the most important decisions in the planning phase of a start-up company. In this early phase, each strategic decision has a significant financial impact on the long-term health of the business.
What is the Path to Becoming an Accountant?
Most entry level accounting positions require a 4-year bachelor’s degree in accounting or a degree in business with an accountancy concentration. Public accounting firms almost always require their new hires to be eligible to take the CPA (Certified Public Accountant) exam which can have further requirements beyond a typical 4-year degree, depending on the state you live in. Some states require students to obtain 150 credit hours at an accredited university before sitting to take the CPA exam. This can be accomplished through either taking additional classes on top of the bachelor’s degree requirements or by obtaining a masters degree in accountancy or MBA. Most accounting master’s programs only require one year of graduate school if you already have your undergraduate accounting degree.
One of the most important accomplishments on the path to becoming an accountant is to obtain an internship. An internship gives you exposure to the different career options while providing you with invaluable experience. When it comes time to interview for your first full-time position, the importance of an internship cannot be over emphasized. Most employers will look for an internship in the “experience section” of your resume before they even look at your grades!
Becoming a Certified Public Accountant
To become a CPA, you must pass the uniform certified public accounting exam and complete all educational and work experience requirements set forth by the state you live in. The four part, nationally standardized exam developed by the AICPA (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants) and administered by the NASBA (National Association of State Boards of Accountancy) covers the following areas: FAR (Financial Accounting and Reporting), AUD (Auditing and Attestation), REG (Regulation), and BEC (Business Environment and Concepts). Although the exam is uniform for all 50 states, education and experience requirements vary by state. Having the CPA designation provides more job opportunities and typically leads to higher compensation. For the latest salary figures CLICK HERE
Make the Commitment!
Whether you are thinking about pursuing an accounting degree or are already in the workforce and are thinking about taking the CPA exam, the first and most important step is to make the commitment. You might be asking yourself if the time and money spent to become a CPA would be a good investment – this is an excellent mindset and already a sign that you think like an accountant!
CPA Insider is here to be both a resource to you as you determine your best career path and to let you know what you can expect out of a career in this rewarding profession.