Behind every successful business is a hard-working accountant. While most people think of accountants as simply “number crunchers,” accountants do far more. They assist clients in organizing and managing their personal and/or business finances by filing taxes, balancing books, and writing financial summaries.

accountantIf you’ve always been someone who loves numbers and like the idea of helping individuals and businesses shape some of their most important decisions, then a career in accounting might be right for you!

Career Description

Accountants are responsible for preparing and checking financial documents for accuracy. Beyond making simple recommendations to clients on financial matters, accountants provide indispensable insights to help clients ensure solvency and prosperous growth.

It’s important to mention that there are different types of accountants. The specifics of what each professional handles on a day-to-day basis depends greatly on their specialty.

Here are some types of accountants:

Financial Accountant

These professionals prepare reports that assess a businesses’ fiscal performance for taxing agencies, creditors and shareholders.

Management Accountant

Management accountants can work with either private businesses, public companies or government agencies to help them with selecting and managing investments, budgeting, planning and strategizing growth.

Tax Accountant

Tax accountants work with individuals or businesses in preparing their tax bills. They help to lower tax obligations as well as advise about future financial decisions that will affect their taxes.

Government Accountant

These professionals review financial documentation for both the government and its taxpayers. On any given day their tasks will include auditing of tax accounts to confirming their information’s accuracy and completeness. Some will also investigate various government agencies financial accounts for signs of fraud and/or budget mismanagement.

Forensic Accountant

Forensic accountants specialize in investigative accounting and litigation support. These professionals use their skills to interpret financial evidence and are often called upon to analyze and present evidence in a court of law.

Depending on which type of accountant you decide to become, you may find you work in a corporate office, government office or a private office. Because the documents that accountants create and submit are generally time sensitive, the work environment is usually fast paced.

Some accountants, particularly tax accountants, often choose to open their own consulting business, which allows for flexibility in their work environment and their schedule. Most accountants, however, will work at least 40 hours a week. This workload may increase during tax season.

The Benefits of a Career in Accounting

Most people want a career where the demand for their profession is always high. That’s definitely the case for accounting. Every business and most individuals need the help of an accountant to handle their taxes and financial life. In addition to this major benefit, there are numerous opportunities for advancement once you get your foot in the professional door. With the right skills and education, you can pursue specialized positions such as Budget Analyst, Auditor, Controller, Tax Accountant, Payroll Clerk, Certified Public Accountant, and even a Corporate Financial Officer. And, if you prefer the idea of going it alone, you also have the ability to start your own business and either consult or specialize in a particular area.

Job Outlook and Salary

Let’s crunch some numbers and see what kind of salary an accountant can expect to earn a year. According to Career Builder, the national average salary for accountants is $68,000. In San Francisco, the average pay is nearly $10,000 more at $75,000.

The kind of salary you earn is directly impacted by your level of education. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), those with a lower level of education can expect to make significantly less than other professionals in the field. The bottom earners in the field make $41,400 or less per year, while those with higher education can land in the top 10% of earners, bringing in as much as $119,000 or more per year.

The BLS projects that job growth for accountants will be well above the projected average job growth for all other occupations. This is thanks in part to a shifting economy with ever-changing financial laws and regulations.

>> Read more about what a career in finance can do for you.

The Path to Becoming an Accountant

Now that you know what a career in accounting can do for you, it’s time to start on your journey. Here are the steps you’ll need to take:

Step 1. Get Your Bachelor’s Degree

You’ll want to start by getting your higher education degree. This could be a bachelor’s or graduate degree. Keep in mind that the higher your education, the higher your salary will most likely be. Also, the BLS suggests that most employers want their accountants to have at least a bachelor’s degree.

For the degree, one should consider a bachelor’s in Accounting, Finance, Economics, or related Business degree.  You’ll also want to determine what type of specialty you’re interested in to choose which degree will be the most helpful. For example, if you know you eventually want to focus on becoming a forensic accountant, you’ll want to find out the best academic path to reach your goal.

Regardless of which major you choose, be sure to see how could help you as well.  You can take free courses toward your degree and utilize tuition discounts we’ve organized at universities across the country…we provide all of this for free as part of our mission to make college a reality for everyone.

Step 2. (optional) Gain Some Real-World Experience

While you are working toward your degree, it’s a good idea to pursue an internship. Though your particular program may not require it, this real-world experience may very well help you land a job down the road. Look for entry-level positions in either accounts payable or tax preparation to get some experience on that resume. It will help you stand out.

Step 3. Land Your First Job

Once you obtain your degree, you’ll want to get started on your job search. Local job boards are a great place to begin. Don’t forget to polish up that resume and practice your interview skills!

Step 4. (optional) Become Certified

You will have determined at this point what specialty you are interested and what certifications, if any, are necessary. A CPA (Certified Public Accountant) certification requires you to pass four exams, so you will need to crack open the books once again and begin studying.

Getting Started on Your Accounting Career

If you think a career in accounting is right up your alley, then it’s time for you to go for it. You already know step one is to obtain your bachelor’s degree, but here are a few additional resources to check out to get started on your path to becoming an accountant:

  • Why Online Education Might Be Best- If you’re like a lot of working adults, you don’t have a lot of free time or extra money to put toward your higher education. An online degree offers flexible scheduling for adult students who have other work/life commitments. This means, even if you’re a parent that also works full-time, an online program can work around your schedule to help you reach your dream career.
  • Salary and Other Data for Accountants
  • How Can Help- To make college a reality for everyone, we provide free courses that could apply toward your degree, tuition discounts at universities across the country, and much needed guidance.  All free.

If you’re ready to get started toward becoming an accountant, enroll with us today!