A Career in Accounting


A CAREER IN ACCOUNTING                                                                                                                                                 



Considering a career in accounting or specialization in tax? This article will guide you through your initial steps and help you consider whether this career choice is the right path for you. The popularity of these subjects stem from their vital role in the world of business. Without accountants, businesses would struggle to keep their books accurately organised; therefore employment of accountants and auditors is on the rise and is projected to grow 11% from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations.


So how do you make the decision to study accounting or specialize in tax? Here is a quick comparison as to course content offered by some US universities and potential career options.

The usual length of an undergraduate degree in accounting is 4 years and often students take a break to work in an internship for a semester or academic year. Accounting majors are required to complete 120 credits to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in accounting.

Typically an undergraduate accounting degree can comprise of subjects such as auditing, budget analysis, financial accounting, tax accounting and risk management with an inclusion of a few others.

Prospective tax accountants may consider accounting programs or related majors such as business administration. Individuals who are considering master's programs in accountancy may look for programs that include a tax concentration. These programs include coursework in financial planning, auditing and taxation, in addition to courses in business calculus and statistics.

Career opportunities for successful accounting graduates present themselves at public accounting firms, large corporations, local, state/federal government, or self-employment. Therefore one can start a career as an accountant, consultant and credit controller or have the opportunity to further their education by specializing and becoming a tax advisor, or an auditor.

While admission standards vary from school to school, entry requirements can be very competitive at the prestigious schools and it is recommended to obtain SAT or ACT scores indicating the applicant has the potential for success in a rigorous university degree program. Due to the quantitative emphasis of the business administration curriculum, some universities recommend that applicants take the SAT II Math test for placement purposes. In order to find such schools, students can consult rankings by different associations and organization such as the US News and Princeton Review. 


In order to specialise and/or file reports with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, accountants must become Certified Public Accountants (CPAs). The criteria to obtain this license varies by state, however most require applicants to complete 150 semester hours, 30 hours more than what is required for a 4-year degree. Additionally, states typically mandate that applicants have 2 years experience in accounting. Once eligible, candidates may take the CPA exam administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (www.aicpa.org).

Since the employment of accountants and auditors is expected to grow, the U.S. Bureau of Labour Statics adds that the best prospects are for those  “who have a college degree and professional certification, especially a CPA.” CNNMoney.com, which ranks the “hottest” jobs based on “great pay and superior growth prospects” and “work that's meaningful,” puts CPA as number 6 on its top 10 list.

Accountants can also increase their skills (and perhaps their salaries) by getting other certifications such as the Certified Management Accountant (CMA), Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA), Accredited Business Accountant (ABA) or Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) designations, among several others. These more specific certifications can be obtained in addition to or instead of the CPA designation and can provide graduates with an edge in the job market.


The average starting salary in the US for accounting majors was US $51,475 in 2015. 


If you are considering the top firms as your first choice of employment, bear in mind that although the requirements of each firm varies, you will greatly stand out by achieving a GPA average of 3.5 and higher. However your extra-curricular activities will also help you stand out in a crowd of academically successful applicants. Networking and job-shadowing is also advised and be sure to highlight your achievements in your resume. Working in a public accounting firm also requires not only a good academic background but also very good communication skills as you will be dealing with a lot of clients, so you also have to demonstrate that you are confident dealing with such clients from multiple industries.

Finally, since time is a scarce and valuable resource, consider the type of work-life balance you expect from a career in accounting. In recent years employers in the profession have become more aware of the work-life balance issues that face their professionals and many have devised arrangements to help their employees balance work with their particular life style. However it's important for graduates to bear in mind that long hours and overtime is part of their career development. Nevertheless with progress and a more established career, a more balanced lifestyle can be expected.  Most accountants and auditors work full time. In 2014, about 1 in 5 worked more than 40 hours per week. Longer hours are typical at certain times of the year, such as at the end of the budget year or during tax season. 

To sum it all up, accounting can be a diverse and rewarding career option and the good news is that, graduates in this field are highly sought-after, with employer demand showing little sign of slowing down. So If you believe you have the skills and determination required for this career and you are able to implement them in a way that also suits your ambitions and personal strengths, accounting could be the right career path for you. 

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Posted on Thursday Jan 21
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