Nationally, demand for accountants is projected to outpace the growth rate for all occupations through 2022.
A career in accounting can offer opportunities in a variety of industries, as well as geographic flexibility and the possibility of professional advancement.
It is the responsibility of accountants to assess financial operations in order to ensure that organizations operate efficiently, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). These professionals should be detail-oriented, with well-developed math skills.
The typical duties of accountants, including Certified Public Accountants (CPA), can include strategic planning, budget development, fraud prevention, contract negotiation and disputes, and tax preparation and filing. Whether working for public companies, private businesses or government departments, accountants advise on topics such as the tax ramifications of business decisions, employee compensation and benefits, data systems and asset protection.
Accountants may also work independently as consultants.
A bachelor’s degree in accounting or a discipline such as business administration generally is a minimum educational requirement for employment in this profession.
Nationwide, the average annual salary of accountants and auditors was more than $71,000 in 2012, the BLS reported. Wages tend to be higher for accountants employed in the securities and commodities industries and for those working for federal government agencies.
With the rise of start-up companies, new technologies, complex tax procedures and stricter financial regulations, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the need for accountants is growing. Accountants are key players in helping companies comply with financial laws and in assisting employers in keeping pace with digital technology.
Career Outlook and Salary Range for Certified Public Accountants
There were almost 1.3 million accountants and auditors employed in the United States as of 2012, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 13% job growth through 2022. That compares with 11% growth for all occupations.
Among the factors driving demand for accountants is the global nature of the modern business world, including overseas trade and multinational corporations, the BLS reported.
Many accountants decide to become a Certified Public Accountant, a professional designation that can improve career advancement opportunities. For example, the BLS notes that accountants must be a CPA in order to file reports with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission.
To become a CPA in the United States, candidates must pass the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination and meet state-level requirements for education and experience.
According to the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), a CPA certification can help increase an accountant’s starting salary by 10% to 15% on average.
Numerous factors play a role in determining an individual’s employment prospects and potential salary, including experience and education, as well as regional market conditions.
Education and Training for Certified Public Accountants
Earning a Bachelor of Arts in Accounting, Business Administration or a related field typically is a first step toward becoming an accountant, according to the BLS. Some individuals may be able to advance professionally if they have experience in accounting-related roles such as bookkeeping, in addition to an Associate of Arts (AA) degree.
As well as the CPA certification, accountants also can consider pursuing the Certified Management Accountant designation.
With certifications, advanced educational qualifications and on-the-job experience, accounting professionals may seek promotion to positions such as treasurer, chief financial officer, controller and budget director, the BLS reports.