If you are interested in learning about how to become an accountant, you have come to the right place. All types of businesses, organizations, and companies depend on accountants to keep their operations running. With a great salary and career outlook, becoming an accountant is a great idea. You will complete daily tasks of preparing and examining companies’ financial records, determining risks that may arise, and giving your advice for solutions that you feel the companies should implement. Without the evaluation of a business’s financial records, it would not be able to run smoothly and efficiently. Therefore, accounting is a needed field. Below, I will go over the steps that you must take to become an accountant, the education and certifications required, the job duties that you will perform, the expected salary, career projections, the areas of specialization to choose from, and closely related career fields.
Steps to Become an Accountant
There are specific steps that you must take to become an accountant. It may seem like a difficult, time-consuming process, but it will be very worth it in the end. The following are five of the most important steps to take to successfully become an accountant:
1. Earn a high school diploma and enroll in a college or university accountant program.
Most employers require accountants at their companies to have at least a bachelor’s degree. Therefore, you should graduate high school and begin applying to colleges and universities. You will want to find a degree program in accounting or business administration with a concentration in accounting. The courses that you should make sure that your selected program offers are auditing, ethics, financial record keeping, international finance, management, personal and business tax, and statistics. It is very important that you take and pass these courses to be successful in the accounting field, as they will provide you with the knowledge and skills that are needed.
While you are in college, start brushing up on your communication and math skills as much as possible because they will be used often once you begin working. Other important skills to work on are organization, analytical, and problem-solving skills.
2. Decide what type of concentration you would like to pursue.
Becoming an accountant involves choosing what you would like to focus on in your career. There are different types of concentrations or specializations to choose from, and each consists of different daily tasks. For example, a person who specializes in financial accounting only focuses on financial records and reports, and an individual who specializes in taxes focuses only on evaluating and figuring out companies’ taxes each year.
3. Participate in an internship program.
Finding an internship opportunity is not a requirement, but it is highly recommended for individuals interested in becoming an accountant. This opportunity will provide you with in-depth, hands-on experience in the accounting field. It will also help you stand out among other applicants because you will have gained exceptional experience and skills in the accounting profession that others most likely have not. In addition, it is common to receive a job offer from the place that you participated in an internship at if they feel like you would be an asset to their team.
4. Begin job searching and land a job in the accounting field.
At this exciting stage in the process, you will begin filling out many applications and interviewing for accounting roles at various companies and organizations. You can look for positions in the government, insurance agencies, private companies, and more. After you have begun working your first accountant job, you can start earning additional college credits that are required to sit for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam. This will give you a jump start to begin the next step.
5. Get certified as an accountant.
It is important to increase your credibility and marketability to companies and clients by becoming certified. The type of certificate that you should get depends on what type of specialization you chose to pursue. The following are a few of the most common certificates that you can earn as an accountant:
- Certified Public Accountants (CPA)
- Certified Information Systems Auditors (CISA)
- Certified Management Accountants (CMA)
- Certified Internal Auditors (CIA)
- Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM)
- Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA)
You must possess a bachelor’s degree to earn any of these certifications.
After you have completed each of these steps, you can begin pursuing a master’s program if you would like. Some employers prefer accountants who possess a master’s degree over those with a bachelor’s degree. By achieving this, you will also stand out among other applicants and increase your value and credibility as an accountant.
Education and Certifications Required
Majority of accountants are expected to have a bachelor’s degree in accounting or business administration with a focus in accounting. However, it is not uncommon and sometimes preferred for an accountant to possess a master’s degree. Some colleges and universities have programs that offer students the ability to specialize. These degrees will often include forensic accounting, tax accounting, internal auditing, and more.
Upon completion of your bachelor’s degree, you will have gained several skills that are essential to the accounting field such as analytical, critical thinking, communication, detail oriented, mathematical, and organization skills.
If you are planning to become an accountant who files reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission, you will be required to get your Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license. Even if this is not something you plan to do, it is recommended to earn your CPA because it shows others that you are dedicated, credible, and have significant knowledge in the accounting field. After earning your CPA, you will be required to enroll in continuing education courses to keep your license up to date.
It is important to keep in mind that the CPA exam requires participants to have completed 150 college semester hours. This means that you may need to enroll in additional courses to meet this requirement, as a bachelor’s degree is around 120 college semester hours. A master’s degree is not required.
After you have earned your CPA, there are designations that you can choose to become certified in. The following are a few of the designations offered:
- Certified Financial Forensics (CFF)
- Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV)
- Personal Financial Specialist (PFS)
- Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP)
Being an accountant is a great career. You will spend your days completing daily tasks such as preparing, analyzing, and evaluating financial records as well as determining any risks that could come up and giving advice on what solutions businesses and individuals should implement. It will be your responsibility to make sure that all financial records and reports are correct, the taxes are paid, and the risks are determined and analyzed. Without an accountant, an organization or business would not run as efficiently. Therefore, this is a very important career field in the business world.
The following are a few of the most common tasks performed by an accountant:
- Analyze and evaluate financial records to ensure that they are complete, correct, and factual
- Determine how much taxes are owed, develop tax returns, and make sure taxes are paid
- Look at account books and systems to determine efficiency and analyze for any possible risks for fraud
- Organize, assess, and keep financial records up to date
- Evaluate financial operations, find any potential risks or challenges, and give advice or solutions to management
- Come up with ways to minimize costs, improve revenues, and increase profits
Salary and Career Projections
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2019 that the median salary for an accountant was $71,550 annually. The lowest 10 percent of accountants that year reported earning around $44,480, and the highest 10 percent reported earning almost $125,000. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that the salary varies in the accounting field. Accountants who work for the government typically make around $70,180 per year, accountants working in the finance and insurance industry usually make an annual wage of around $76,440, and accountants who help managers of companies and enterprises reported making a yearly salary of $74,060.
Over the next decade, the accountant occupation is projected to grow by about 4 percent, which is average for most occupations. There will be about 125,700 job openings for accountants each year throughout the next ten years. This is wonderful news for anyone considering going into the accounting field soon.
Areas of Specialization
The accounting field has many different specializations that you can choose to pursue. Some may decide on their area of specialization while in college, and some may decide after already working in an accounting position and getting an understanding of what they would like to focus on. Regardless, it is important to determine what type of accounting position you would like and what types of services you would be interested in providing to clients and businesses. The following are several of the most popular specializations selected by accounting college students and those already working in the profession:
- Assurance Services
- Environmental Accounting
- Information Management and Technology Assurance
- International Accounting
- Personal Financial Planning
Closely Related Career Fields
If you are unsure or do not feel like accounting is the right path for you, there are several other closely related occupations that may align with your interests and goals better. Below, I will provide a list of closely related career fields, their education level requirements, and median salary expectations.
- Financial Managers: A financial manager spends their day producing financial reports, giving advice on where and how to invest, and creating plans for the long-term financial objectives of a company.; Required Education Level: Bachelor’s Degree; Median Salary: $129,890
- Top Executives: A top executive is responsible for planning and implementing policies and strategies to help a business meet its desired goals.; Required Education Level: Bachelor’s Degree; Median Salary: $104,690
- Personal Financial Advisors: Personal financial advisors spend their time giving individuals helpful advice on how to take charge of their finances and plan for their future financially.; Required Education Level: Bachelor’s Degree; Median Salary: $87,850
- Management Analysts: A management analyst recommends different ways to improve a company’s efficiency. ; Required Education Level: Bachelor’s Degree; Median Salary: $85,260
- Financial Analysts: A financial analyst is in charge of guiding businesses and clients in making good investment decisions.; Required Education Level: Bachelor’s Degree; Median Salary: $81,590
- Budget Analysts: Budget analysts spend majority of their days helping the public and private sector plan their financial goals.; Required Education Level: Bachelor’s Degree; Median Salary: $76,540
- Cost Estimators: A cost estimator has the duty to gather and analyze data to determine the amount of time, money, labor, and materials that are needed to design and develop a specific service or product.; Required Education Level: Bachelor’s Degree; Median Salary: $65,250
- Tax Examiners and Revenue Agents: Tax examiners and revenue agents use their knowledge and skills to determine how much an individual or company owes in taxes as well as collects taxes from the individuals and companies for the government.; Required Education Level: Bachelor’s Degree; Median Salary: $54,890
- Bookkeeper and Auditing Clerks: Bookkeeper and auditing clerks create financial records for companies as well as ensure that the financial records are accurate.; Required Education Level: Some college; Median Salary: $41,230
Depending on which type of specialization you choose to pursue will determine what type of company or organization you may work for. You may end up employed by the government, traveling from one company to another as an auditor, or you may work for an insurance company. It is up to you to choose what fits you and your goals the most.
As you can see, becoming an accountant is an excellent career goal to begin working towards. The process may seem a little daunting, but the outcome will be worth it. You will be a part of an exciting field that is growing, in-demand, and pays well. If you are a person who enjoys math, solving problems, and handling finances, then the accounting occupation will suit you perfectly.