Career Paths in Accounting


According to statistics by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for auditors and accountants will increase by 18% between 2006 and 2016. This makes accounting one of the fastest growing professions in the country.It is often perceived that the accounting profession has a good deal of qualified members. However, in today’s world, accounting is more than just arithmetic. Professionals in this field are involved in an array of activities such as: preparation of financial statements, documenting business proceedings, calculating costs and efficiency gains from new technologies, engaging in mergers and acquisitions planning, as well as expanding and utilizing information systems in tracking financial performances and tax strategies, among other things.

Apercu of Accounting

Accounting is essentially the manner in which companies keep track of their profit margins and assets over certain duration of time. Also referred as the language of business, accounting is an interdisciplinary field within a broader business sphere. Interesting career paths, exciting opportunities and professional growth are all offered by the accounting industry. It is regarded that in order to perform well in this profession, one must be detailed-oriented and should be able to synthesize, translate, and expand appropriate and suitable business actions using financial data.

As stated previously, accountants are engrossed and engaged in various job functions. According to Florida Tech University, the salary of an accountant ranges from $50,000 to $100,000, with the Tax Manager getting the highest pay package. The list below contains some of the career paths that an accountant can pursue..

Opportunities for Accountants

  • Public or Certified Public Accountant

According to Vanguard University of Southern California, practicing public accounting as a Certified Public Accountant or CPA is unmistakably the most obvious career choice for an accounting major. Audit, tax compliance, as well as estate and financial planning encompass the traditional functions of a CPA. To be fully certified as a CPA, one must first pass the licensure exam for CPAs and practice public accounting for a year or two. For those who dream big and persevere, they can be a part of the Big Four CPA firms – Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Deloitte, KPMG, and Ernst & Young.

The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) classified three job types for a public accountant: entry-level, lead or senior, and supervisor or managers.

  • Entry-level Accountants draw up and examine financial statements, conduct financial reporting, carry out A/R and A/P roles, and help the management with budgeting and planning tasks.
  • Lead or Senior Accountants are engaged in conducting audits and in preparing financial statements. Moreover, they develop the internal controls and give directions and delegate the tasks of staff accountants.
  • Accountant Supervisors or Managers manage, handle, and oversee the entry-level and senior accountants. They are at the helm of designing and authorizing accounting practices. These practices can either be the audit program, procedures for internal control, operational budgets, or business financing, among other things.

Most employers look for accountants who possess the know-how on Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), financial data analysis, evidence integrity analysis, and business valuation, among other things.

  • Financial Accountants

These accountants are involved in preparing financial statements (balance sheets, income statements, cash flow statements and statement of owner’s equity) based on general ledgers. They also play an important role in making financial decisions concerning mergers and acquisitions, Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) planning, and abiding financial estimates and plans. Financial accountants also document and disclose business proceedings and financial activity.

Financial accountants can embark on different career paths based on their experience and know-how. They can work as bookkeepers, financial analysts, or financial officers. Their job description include: verifying the correctness of business undertakings and computations;, gathering and evaluating data and producing reports regarding the company’s financial movements; supervising all financial proceedings of the entity; and delivering solid financial disclosures for the management, shareholders, and investors.

  • Tax Accountants

Tax accountants are considered as the experts in preparing tax documents for local, state, and federal taxes. They usually work longer hours during tax seasons, remain updated on code changes, and inform, clearly, the responsibilities and concerns to their clients. Moreover, people in this line of work need a good grasp and deep knowledge of economics and tax code.

  • Management Accountants

Management accountants or corporate accountants usually work for corporations as part of teams. They present data and findings that are essential to company executives especially when they want to make decisions. In addition, the presented information can also be utilized in preparing financial reports that are disseminated to stockholders, creditors, regulatory bodies, and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Furthermore, management accountants function as strategic partners during the chain of information processing and value.

Those who wish to pursue this career can work as cost accountants, accounting managers, and directors of accounting or finance, among other things. Other duties under this profession include carrying out tasks that involve receivables and payroll, financial statements, and compliance audits; assists in creating the company’s budgets; and managing rapports with auditors and investors.

  • Budget Analysts

These accountants are engrossed in correlating project objectives with budgetary matters. Budget analysts support an entity to arrange its finances. Other responsibilities include preparing budget reports and overseeing the company’s spending.

  • Cost Accountants

Cost accountants can establish a career in accounting or consulting firms, and in the retail or manufacturing industries. They are essentially considered as facilitators in the company’s plan to minimize its financial waste and increase their income. In doing so, cost accountants identify certain determinants that influence the cost of a product or service. These can either be in the form of packaging costs, inventory costs, or overhead costs.

  • Private or Industry Accountants

They usually carry out internal accounting works, services, and duties for an entity. She/he can assume the role of an internal auditor and assess and validate the entity’s financial outcomes, policies, and internal controls. In addition, private accountants can function as staff accountants and perform common internal accounting responsibilities. They can also act as financial analysts and offer budgeting, operational, and review support.

  • Government Accountants

Government accountants can work at all government levels – local, state, and federal. When employed at the local and state levels, they oversee the utilization of local income, probe frauds, conduct financial performances and compliance audits, and suggest corrective measures if deemed necessary. They also manage public funds, investigate white-collar crimes, and conduct financial statement audits. They can also research on looming accounting concerns when hired at the federal level.

According to ACFE, government accountants guarantee that governmental agencies are transparent, effective, honest, and responsible when it comes to them spending their finances. The requirements for working as a government accountant entail proficiency in mathematics and capability in efficiently analyzing, correlating and translating figures. In addition, they should be able to clearly convey, both orally and in writing, certain matters, and must be good at engaging with people, business systems, and computers.

  • Internal Auditors

Internal auditors are like detectives — they inspect and assess an entity’s internal controls and try to ferret out and avert inaccuracies, misconducts, and misrepresentations. By and large, they are employed in the company they are examining and validate the efficacy of the entity’s internal procedures and controls.

The nature of their work is analogous to management accountants. They assess the companies’ financial management measures and policies and inspect for mismanagement, fraud, and waste. Their findings will then be submitted to the management and Board of Directors.

  • Forensic Accountants

A form of investigative accounting, forensic accountants assist law enforcement officers, businesses, or individuals in complicated or criminal financial concerns by assessing financial records. They incorporate their deep understanding of accounting matters with probing ingenuities in different litigation support and investigative accounting environment.

Forensic accountants are usually hired by the forensic accounting department of public accounting firms; by consulting firms that specialize in risk consulting and forensic accounting services; or by lawyers, law enforcement bodies, insurance companies, or government and financial institutions. Typical duties of forensic accountants include conducting forensic research to track funds and specify assets for recovery; carrying out forensic evaluation of financial data; drawing up forensic accounting disclosures from financial discoveries; and preparing analytical information for litigation.

  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Agent

The fact that accountants can actually work for the FBI may be the most interesting and surprising career path in the accounting profession. In fact, a lot of FBI agents are CPAs and lawyers. Common roles include internal accounting, which entails being in charge of usual accounting services like tax, audit, or budget, and being a Special Agent, whose responsibility is to probe financial crimes.

  • Accounting Information Systems Auditors

They are the ones who use computer programming and accounting know-how in managing software for accountants and other financial professionals. In addition, accounting information systems auditors supervise and manage operations and security of the software and assist in expanding new accounting systems.

  • Environmental Accountants

Environmental accountants evaluate the costs involved in preventing pollution in the manufacturing industry and correlate it with alternates such as missed tax credits, penalties, and bad relations with neighbors. Professionals in this line of work help firms in economizing while doing well through investments in green processes, goods, and services.

  • Entertainment Accountants

Those who have a good understanding of copyright policies and royalties, infused with accounting know-how, are commonly employed as entertainment accountants. They usually work for production outfits, television networks, radio stations, film studios, and other groups and sectors within the entertainment world.

There are also entertainment accountants who are self-employed. They provide services to writers, actors, musicians, and other artists or performers who need support in preparing taxes, bookkeeping, and investing.

  • Academicians and Researchers

Experienced CPAs can be employed at universities and colleges and work as accounting professors. This can be the very first step in acquiring a Ph.D. in Business Administration. Since there are usually fundings for research, CPAs can pursue independent or group research ventures