The accounting profession is as old as money, but thankfully we've come a long way since the days of the abacus. Even though there are a wide variety of accountants today, the basic principles remain the same.
Because multinational corporations are becoming commonplace and the financial industry is growing, accountants are more important than ever. The diversification of roles and the breadth of the accounting profession appeals to many kinds of people, such as investigators, mathematicians, financial advisors, consultants, and more.
This guide provides you with a basic understanding of accounting and the opportunities available to be successful within this profession.
The five most common types of accountants include financial managers, tax accountants, public accountants, auditors, and forensic accountants. A minimum of a bachelor’s degree is generally required to enter the field. However, many accountants seek a graduate degree to help speed their advancement in the field or facilitate a change in specialty. Most certifications also require a certain number of hours per year of continuing education as a way of making sure practitioners keep up to date on the latest developments.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected job growth rate for accounting is around 16%, which is slightly higher than average. Accounting is essential to any and every business, so the field tends to experience a steady growth rate even in volatile economies. The average earnings for accountants are decent. The upper echelon in financial management earn over $80,000 per year on average, and most others average between $40,000 and $70,000 per year depending on their level of education and certifications.
This chapter gives you an idea of the importance of accountants in the modern business world. The wide variety of roles accountants fill in the public and private sector make accounting one of the most important professions in the modern economy. Two of the most important characteristics of a great accountant are competency and integrity. Accountants wield great power over the companies and organizations for which they work. A good accountant can save a company millions of dollars, while an incompetent accountant can cost that company millions. Accountants without integrity have been the perpetrators of some of the biggest frauds and thefts in the history of the world.
This section highlights some of the most common certifications pursued by accountants. Each of the resources below lists the requirements that must be met in order to sit for the exam. You will also find a detailed explanation of the purpose of each exam and the roles that these certified accountants play in business.
Requires 120 - 150 credit hours.
Requires bachelor’s degree and 2 years in field.
Requires bachelor’s degree and 2 years experience in field.
Requires bachelor’s in accounting or finance and 2 years experience in field.
Requires 5 years experience at IRS, or take special enrollment exam. No formal degree requirement.
The trend in many states has been to raise the education requirement for the CPA exam to 150 credit hours. Many accountants choose to satisfy this requirement by pursuing a Master’s in Accounting or MBA in Accounting program. Not all programs meet the requirements; therefore, be sure to choose the appropriate graduate program in your state.
The Certified Management Accountant Certification is a common certification sought by accountants that wish to become executives or financial managers. The focus on this exam is on accounting management in the private sector, as opposed to the public sector. This exam’s educational requirements are not as intensive as the new CPA exam requirements, which has incentivized many current students to choose this certification over the CPA certification.
The Certified Fraud Examiner Certification is for those that wish to serve as investigators for law enforcement organizations or as internal auditors for companies. This certification is often earned in addition to other major certifications depending on what role the accountant wants to play in the field.
All accountants need to be familiar with the industry standard tools such as Excel and Quickbooks Pro. The links below are training tutorials for five of the most important industry standard software programs for accountants. The way these programs are used in a corporate or government agency setting are vastly different from the way they are used by the average person; therefore, specialized training is important. Each of these programs has a considerable amount of depth, and these tutorials will help you work toward mastery.
When considering the strength of a university program, an interesting distinction is between top schools in general and top schools for a particular program. Below are the top five accounting programs (in order of their rank) as ranked by U.S. News and World Report.
Whether working for a multinational corporation, personal client, or the IRS, accountants make sure every dollar is in its place. They are the backbone of industry.
Accountants must possess mathematical and technological skills in order to be efficient in the execution of their duties. The smallest mistake can have grave costs for an accountant’s employer or client. Accountants in the private sector are trusted to safeguard their company's information and to ensure a company’s or client’s compliance with federal, state, and local regulation. Government accountants provide the same service for government organizations. There are also accountants that serve as a part of various law enforcement and regulating bodies within the government, to ensure that companies are not defrauding investors and customers.