Do you have mad math skills? If so, you might want to consider an accounting job. The accounting field offers job security, as every business needs an accountant or accounting team, and individuals often need accountants, too, to handle financial operations and document preparation.
Read on for some handy tips and information on accounting jobs and where to find them.
Main Takeaways: Getting an Accounting Job
- Accounting is a very analytic position. It requires at least a bachelor's degree to operate in this space.
- The field of accounting is very vast. It includes roles like bookkeeper, CPA, senior accountant and more.
- There are specific skills that make an individual successful in accounting. They include time management, communication and more.
What is Accounting?
Accounting is the systematic reporting, analyzing, and recording of financial transactions and data for businesses and individuals. Mathematician Luca Bartolomes Pacioli, known as the father of accounting and bookkeeping, was the first to invent a system of recordkeeping in 1494.
Accountants work in just about every industry you can think of, from hospitality and automotive to transportation and entertainment, so if you’re looking for a versatile job, this is a good field to consider.
What Are People with Accounting Jobs Responsible For?
A typical day for an accountant varies depending on the job title and sector. Typical job functions for most accountants might include:
- Financial analysis & reporting
- Financial & compliance audits
- Accounts Payable & Receivable
- Tax return preparation
- Financial recordkeeping
Smaller companies usually employ independent accountants, while larger organizations hire accounting teams as well as finance directors and controllers. Accountants play an important role in businesses, providing monthly reports on profits and losses, as well as other key financial reports.
They also help oversee and manage automated accounting systems, as well as collaborate with internal and external auditors. The information provided by accountants is given to shareholders and can often make or break a company’s reputation.
Do I Need an Accounting Degree to Work in this Field?
If you choose a career in accounting, you’ll need to meet some basic education credentials. And depending on your interests and the type of accounting you specialize in, you’ll have to gain additional certifications and take specific financial accounting courses.
Here are some general requirements you might need:
- Obtain a bachelor’s degree in accounting or business. Every state has its own requirements and some don’t require a degree, however, you might need to earn a specific number of credits in ethics, business law, or accounting.
- Fulfill your coursework hours. If you choose to become a Certified Public Accountant or CPA, most states require 150 semester hours of college coursework, which is 30 credits more than what is needed for a typical bachelor’s degree. You’ll also need to pass the Uniform Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam which is developed, maintained, and scored by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. The CPA exam is a 16-hour computer-based test comprised of four sections:
- Auditing and Attestation
- Business Environment and Concepts
- Financial Accounting and Reporting
You’ll need to score a minimum of 75 on each individual section to pass the entire exam. You can take the CPA exam at any Prometric Testing Center. Exam application and testing fees range from $550 to $850, so check with your testing center to find out what yours will cost.
Keep in mind that not all accountants are required to be CPAs, however, CPAs typically earn higher salaries and are more favorably recognized in the industry.
Do your research and prep work before you take the exam, by reading accounting textbooks and watching CPA exam prep videos online. There are also CPA exam prep courses you can take, however, they might be costly.
Depending on your area of expertise, you may need to earn additional certifications in fields such as compliance tax, forensic accounting, auditing, and fraud examination. The more specialized you are as an accountant, the more desirable you will be on the job market.
Many times employers will pay for continuing education coursework or certifications for their employees, so explore this option.
Although many fields take job history into consideration in lieu of education, accounting is a career that requires a bachelor’s degree at the very least. One exception is that of a bookkeeper. Some companies hire bookkeepers who have good math skills and college coursework but not an official college degree.
Types of Accounting Jobs and Titles
There are hundreds of different types of accounting jobs and classifications. Let’s take a look at some sample accounting fields and titles that can fall under this large accounting umbrella:
Entry-Level Accounting Jobs
There are a wide variety of entry-level accounting jobs available, and in some cases, you can find one while you’re still earning your college degree. Also, some companies offer paid internships, so they’re worth checking out. Entry-level accountants usually work under the supervision of a controller, CPA, or finance director.
Sample job titles: Entry-Level Accountant, Entry-Level Financial Analyst, Staff Accountant
Finance jobs can range from mid to senior-level roles within a small or large company and can perform any number of accounting functions depending on the job focus. Generally, these types of jobs require more responsibility and leadership qualities because they involve more complex, high-level job functions.
Sample job titles: Finance Associate Analyst, Director of Finance, Controller
Bookkeepers must be proficient using accounting and bookkeeping software, and be well-versed with general accounting principles. Bookkeepers keep financial records in the form of a ledger or journal or using an online accounting system.
Sample job titles: Bookkeeper, Senior Bookkeeper, Bookkeeping Specialist
Forensic Accounting Jobs
Forensic accountants work with government, law enforcement, and banking institutions to discover financial truths and investigate crimes such as fraud, money laundering, and embezzlement.
Sample job titles: Forensic Accountant, Forensic Auditor, Forensic CPA
Virtual Accounting Jobs
Virtual accountants perform all the typical accounting functions as they would in an office setting, but work remotely.
Sample job titles: Virtual Accountant, Remote Accountant, Virtual Bookkeeper
Grant Accounting Jobs
Grant accountants work for universities or other non-profit organizations coordinating financial and grant management functions in accordance with local and federal guidelines.
Sample job titles: Grant Accountant, Grants & Contracts Accountant, Contracts & Grants Accountant
Inventory Accounting Jobs
Typically, staff accountants work under the supervision of a director or controller and manage accounting functions pertaining to a company’s inventory, including determining the value and quality of goods.
Sample job titles: Inventory Accountant, Senior Inventory Accountant, Cost Accountant
Salary Ranges and Expectations for Accounting Jobs
According to Payscale.com, the median annual pay for an entry-level accountant is $43,012, while a more senior-level accountant job pays $66,467, so salaries vary depending on experience and education.
Projected Growth Rate of the Accounting Field
The projected growth rate for the accounting field is 10% (faster than average). According to the recruiting firm CyberCoders, the hottest accounting and finance jobs today are financial advisors, loan officers, and tax supervisors. Overall, accounting is a fast-growing field with plenty of job opportunities across numerous sectors.
How to Get a Job in Accounting
If you’re looking for a job in the accounting industry, here are some steps you should take to get started:
- Acquire as much education and as many certifications as possible. Earn a bachelor’s degree and if you want to be more marketable, an MBA as well. Keep up-to-date on current financial news and accounting guidelines, and enroll in continuing education courses. Individuals and businesses are trusting you with their most important financial assets and information, so the more educated you are, the more credible you’ll be.
- Look for internships. Many companies offer paid internships to current students or recent graduates who possess a good GPA, an eagerness to learn, and relevant college coursework. Even if unpaid, an internship provides great skills and experience you can add to your resume.
- Update your resume and online job profiles. Make sure your resume highlights all your accounting-related and business courses, and jazz up your profiles on sites such as LinkedIn and ZipRecruiter to attract recruiters and employers. Ask friends and colleagues to endorse your accounting skills on LinkedIn to help give you a competitive edge.
- Network. Make connections via LinkedIn and spread the word to business colleagues and friends who may have leads on accounting jobs.
- Join professional organizations. By joining organizations such as the Institute of Professional Management Accountants and the Professional Association of Small Business Accountants, you’ll have access to good networking opportunities as well as job openings.
- Register with a staffing agency. Look for an agency that specializes in accounting and finance jobs such as Adecco and Aerotek to apply for contract and direct hire positions. Even if you start a contract position, you can be hired full-time after your contract expires if your employer is happy with your performance.
- Apply online. Register your resume and profile on numerous online job search sites and also apply for accounting positions directly at organizations that interest you.
Top 6 Skills to Be Successful in Accounting
Beyond being proficient in mathematics, there are other strengths you’ll need to be successful in an accounting job, including:
1. Analytical skills
Accountants need to be able to analyze and interpret large amounts of financial data, quickly and efficiently. You may be asked to analyze and present your findings on a corporation’s profit and loss statement or other key reports.
2. Communication skills
No matter what level of accounting job you hold, you’ll be required to collaborate with clients, leaders, colleagues, and other business partners on a daily basis, so good communication skills are essential.
3. Organizational skills
In order to maximize a company’s productivity and performance, you’ll need to be able to effectively organize key financial facts, figures, and paperwork, as well as develop a system for quickly finding the information you need.
4. Creative skills
Businesses are always looking for innovative ways to save on costs and run operations more efficiently, and that includes accounting systems and processes. You may be asked to develop a more innovative way of tracking invoices or products, so good creative skills will be a plus.
5. Time management skills
Good time management skills are imperative in an accounting job. You’ll need to juggle and prioritize numerous daily tasks and be able to complete them under strict deadlines.
6. Leadership skills
As an accountant, you’ll need to be able to think strategically and develop long-term financial business plans. Also, if you’re a senior-level accountant, controller, or director you’ll be called upon to lead and mentor people within the organization, as well as facilitate meetings.
A Future in Accounting Looks Bright
If you’re looking for a job with a plan for retirement, accounting jobs provide growth and stability. Businesses will always need accountants to track their financial operations even if the economy is doing poorly, so your services will always be in demand. If you’ve got the right stuff, an accounting job offers a good salary and a positive career outlook.