Accountants get the short end of the stick. Many people often have misconceptions about accountants — stereotyping them as boring and attributing them to tax time.
But in fact, accountants are a vital part of every organization in every industry. Perhaps that's why they rank third on US News & World Report's Best Business Jobs.
Earning a degree in accounting involves learning about the financial aspects of a business, including how to analyze, track and evaluate income and expenses. Accountants provide the insight companies need to reach financial goals and comply with federal and state laws. They may also offer consulting services to individuals, businesses and nonprofit organizations. Students interested in accounting must have a high degree of integrity, since they deal with a significant amount of sensitive information and sometimes a sizable amount of cash. They should also excel at organization, pay attention to detail and be effective communicators since the job often involves a lot of interaction with clients and business partners.
Something to Consider
Accounting majors may want to consider earning the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation after completing their college coursework, as it can lead to more career options and higher pay.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), “certification provides an advantage in the job market because it shows professional competence in a specialized field of accounting and auditing."
Earning the CPA designation involves passing a comprehensive national exam and fulfilling requirements for education, examination and experience. While requirements vary from state to state, most include:
- Completing a program of study in accounting at a college or university with at least 150 semester hours of college coursework.
- Passing the Uniform CPA Exam, which is developed and graded by the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA).
- At least two years of public accounting experience — that is, experience providing auditing, tax or other services to a range of clients (although some states and jurisdictions accept non-public accounting experience).
A master's degree in accounting, business administration or taxation can also help you stand out from the competition.
With a degree in accounting, there are a number of different career paths you can pursue, each with its own area of focus or specialization. You could find yourself working in a corporate environment, in a public accounting or consulting firm or for a federal, state or local government. Possible job titles include: auditor, tax accountant, managerial accountant, internal auditor, financial analyst and government accountant. Eventually, you could work your way up to Controller, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) or partner in a public accounting firm. Forensic accountants aid in investigations of financial crimes and work for local law enforcement agencies and the FBI.
Where You Could End Up Living
Accountants work all over the world. US corporations may send accountants oversees to work with foreign subsidiaries and growing economies in China and the Middle East also create a demand for qualified accountants. If you're interested in working abroad, accounting education and experience are fairly mobile.
There's also plenty of opportunity in the United States. According to the BLS, in May of 2018, there were 40 states with average to above-average career opportunities for accountants. States with the highest employment levels for accountants include:
- California (148,600 jobs)
- Texas (115,270 jobs)
- New York (110,780 jobs)
- Florida (71,940 jobs)
- Illinois (53,280 jobs)
Salary and Occupational Outlook
The BLS also estimates there were roughly 1,259,930 accountants and auditors employed in the United States in May of 2018, with a median salary of $70,500 per year. From 2016 through 2026, the profession is expected to grow by 10 percent, which is faster than the national average for all occupations. Typically, job growth for accountants parallels the overall economy. When the economy is growing, so do the job opportunities for accountants.
Does a career in accounting sound right for you? In addition to your core undergraduate course requirements, you may take classes on statistics, economics, analytics, business communication, finance, ethics and law and computer information systems. All of these will help prepare you for a productive and successful career.