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  • Accountants do more than file taxes. Accountants can work in a number of fields, including helping the FBI investigate crimes.
  • Getting a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation after graduation could lead to higher-paying accounting jobs.
  • Accountants can work all over the country, and across the globe, as the skills are transferable to any region.

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 the job ranks 11th on US News & World Report's Best Business Jobs 2022 report.

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.

How to get certified as an accountant

Accounting majors may want to consider earning the 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.

Career paths for accountants

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.

Best places to live and work as an accountant

Accountants work all over the world. US corporations may send accountants overseas to work with foreign subsidiaries and growing economies in Asia 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, states with the highest employment levels for accountants as of May 2021 include:

  • California
  • New York
  • Texas
  • Florida
  • Pennsylvania

How much do accountants make?

The BLS estimates there were roughly 1.3 million accountants and auditors employed in the United States as of May 2021, with a median salary of about $77,000 per year.

Are accountants in demand?

The job outlook for accountants is strong. As of May 2021, from 2021 through 2031, the profession is expected to grow by 6%, which is just above 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.


Visit our Free Scholarship Search to find college scholarships for accounting.

Association of International Certified Professional Accountants® and AICPA® are trademarks registered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, which is not affiliated with, and does not endorse, this site.

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