Different types of accounting careers

Also search out sites created especially for new grads, such as collegerecruiter. On the most basic level, accountants and CPAs keep and inspect financial accounts for companies, government groups and individual clients. However, there is a huge range in what jobs accountants and CPAs actually take on. Some are self-employed while others work for large firms with offices across the nation.

Careers in Different Areas of Accounting

While many accountants and CPAs work full-time, some work fewer hours throughout most of the year with long hours during tax season or the end of the budget year. Accountants with a four-year degree are able to complete most accounting duties. These include examining records, reconciling accounts, preparing financial reports and completing tax returns.

In addition, these accountants may be called upon to evaluate business finances and make recommendations to improve efficiencies or reduce costs.


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With more education and experience, accountants can become certified. Some financial documents, such as those submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission, must be signed by a Certified Public Accountant. Individuals with certification may also find they have greater opportunities to advance their career to management positions or specialize in an area of interest, such as forensic accounting or taxation. Many people enter accounting because it is seen as a financially stable career. There are great opportunities for accountants who have graduated at the top of their program, and for those who have high-levels of certification, such as those who are CPAs.

The map below shows details of the 10th, 50th, and 90th percentile earners for each state. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that employment of accountants and auditors will grow about 16 percent from to , about as fast as the average career field. However, in the wake of a number of corporate scandals and the recent financial crisis, there has been an increased focus on accounting that responds to those kinds of issues. While those areas have a limited number of employment openings, there still may be more opportunities soon. Accounting is the third most popular degree option at the undergraduate level, and with good reason.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the industry is set to grow by 11 percent from Accounting is an attractive educational option for many. Students interested in pursuing this field have varied choices available to them, including scores of accredited online programs, which are well known for providing excellent, flexible accounting education. Additionally, many programs offer the opportunity to specialize in a particular area, such as auditing, taxation, or forensic accounting.

Students unsure which type of degree to pursue can review the table below to get a better sense of the prospects available at each level. Perhaps a career with the FBI would be of interest: the governmental agency currently employs over 2, special agents focused on accounting. Each level of degree can lead to specific opportunities for graduates, ranging from entry-level clerk and assistant roles to academic professorships. Students should identify their goals and understand how the completion of each degree will aid them in meeting those aspirations.

A review of each type is given below. As the world of accounting evolves to incorporate more technology and data analysis, this knowledge will become particularly valuable to employers; students with competency in accounting software will be highly desirable. Below is a breakdown of some courses students can expect to take at the associate degree level, along with an explanation of industry skills gained:.

Provides an overview of common accounting principles and terminology; basic topics including how to record financial transactions and preparing an income statement will be covered.

Accounting Careers Path and Goals - Discover Accounting

Examines the tools commonly used in managing accounts within businesses and introduces students to the budgetary process, activity based costing, and performance evaluation tools. Teaches students how to manage financial accounts, be it for themselves or for clients seeking personal tax preparation. Provides foundational knowledge of the concepts and terminology relating to taxation; usually offered as a survey course to familiarize students with the many different forms of taxation.

Typically offered as a Bachelor of Science, a four-year degree in accounting is a highly specialized program that prepares graduates to work in varied capacities within the accounting industry.

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This level of education may be ideal for students who are not looking to become certified public accountants CPA , as the certification requires additional coursework at the graduate level. Graduates of an accounting degree program will have an in-depth and holistic knowledge of the business cycle and the accounting principles governing responsible practices.

Offers a survey of the application of procedures commonly used when auditing for-profit organizations; typically includes a strong emphasis on the professional standards and liabilities that come along with being an auditor. Equips students with the skills necessary to create and analyze various financial statements and commonly draws on real-world case studies. Focuses learning on the importance of internal reporting and how cost accounting influences decision-making within organizations.

Numerous costing systems commonly used will be studied. A Master of Accounting MAcc is an ideal program for students looking to become CPAs or aspiring to high-level accounting positions within competitive firms.

What are the highest paying accounting jobs?

For students with an existing background in accounting, this degree can typically be completed in one year. Some programs will offer students the option to complete an intensive internship program, providing hands-on experience and opportunities to make valuable contacts within the industry. Students without prior educational experience in accounting will likely need to complete a number of prerequisite courses before beginning the program.

Once enrolled, students will progress into advanced study of focused topics, including accounting theory, specialized accounting for specific business types e. Alternatively, students can pursue an MBA in accounting for their master's studies. Students in MBA accounting programs take more business management and leadership courses, but curriculum is often similar to that of an MAcc.

Why is Accounting a Great Career?

They can begin a college search by looking at some of the best online MBA programs in the nation. Throughout either degree program, students will undertake specialized courses to help them deepen their knowledge and develop pertinent skills. Below is a list of some of the classes graduate students could expect to take. Provides a concentrated study on how to use cost information in managerial roles to plan and control business activities.

Strong emphasis on data analysis. Ensures students understand the legal framework of businesses and any laws that could run parallel to activities conducted within accounting.

Building on existing knowledge of manual and computerized accounting, the course delves into the bigger picture to equip students with nuanced data analysis techniques and security measures. Gives students practical knowledge for recognizing opportunities arising in tax planning and equips them to make calculated and ethical business decisions when developing tax strategies.

The 5 Types of Accountants

Students seeking to move into academia or research within accounting will need to pursue a PhD, which typically take years of full-time study. Most doctoral programs have three components: coursework, research and dissertation, and comprehensive examinations. Eschewing fundamental accounting classes, students move directly into specialized topics dependent on the area of accounting they are seeking to concentrate on in their dissertation. Undertaking a PhD in accounting is an excellent option for those interested in teaching, as there is a countrywide shortage of accounting professors.


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  • According to an Accounting Faculty report, approximately students gain PhDs in accounting each year, while nearly accounting professors retire annually. In addition to understanding the practical application of accounting principles, PhD students will dig into the theoretical framework of these topics as well, providing them with a deep and holistic understanding of the material.

    Become an Accounting Body Member

    Students will learn how to complete independent research on accounting topics and undertake courses on research techniques, qualitative and quantitative analysis, and research methodology development. Accounting will be studied from a psychological perspective, giving students an understanding of cognitive behavior and mental processes.

    Students will have a greater understanding of how the human brain problem solves and approaches accounting principles. Students typically undertake one of two paths in their studies: archival or behavioral. Students electing to follow the archival path will focus on economics and finance while those on the behavioral track will concentrate on psychological theories. Financial and managerial accounting are the two main areas of research within PhD programs and students will elect to investigate one of these areas in-depth. The result is a deep knowledge of how to apply methods culled from economics and econometrics to investigate techniques within the industry.

    With so many different careers available to graduates of accounting programs, students often choose to concentrate their knowledge on a specific area, such as auditing, taxation or even forensic accounting.


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    • The list below will give potential students a starting point for thinking about areas of particular interest within the field of accounting. Each concentration also includes examples of potential careers post graduation. The world of auditing is a fascinating and diverse branch of accounting that allows those who specialize in it to work on many different types of projects. Operating as a monitor of business integrity and ethics, auditing is concerned with ensuring companies are held to financial standards.

      Specific topics students can expect to focus on include business law, accounting research methodologies, and forensic accounting. Auditors typically sift through existing financial records to help individuals, companies, or governmental organizations rest assured that they have successfully followed any tax laws or regulatory statutes that their company type may fall under.

      Rather than working in day-to-day auditing activities, managers in this field oversee other auditors and typically spend more time focused on bigger picture issues; also provides leadership to auditing team and may take on some of the more advanced projects from time to time. Professionals in this career have an interesting and varied set of opportunities. For those looking to work within governmental agencies, much of the work exists in the realm of external investigation.