Accountants of the 21st century can apply their skills in any number of dynamic industries. And with more than 15 percent growth expected for accounting positions between 2010 and 2020, it’s a field that is constantly requiring a larger skilled workforce. Here are six careers that will keep accountants on their toes—with insight from DeVry adjunct professor Barbara Davies about the skills needed to excel in each one.
Job: Forensic Accountant
What They Do: Picture yourself as a crime scene investigator—but the clues you’re looking for are buried in financial records, rather than lying on the floor. Forensic accountants are financial sleuths, investigating tax cheaters, embezzlers, inside traders and insurance fraudsters on behalf of private companies and public law enforcement agencies such as the FBI. Their work often results in criminal charges, and they may be called upon to testify at trials.
Barbara Davies on Key Skills: “You’ll need to be able to identify the path that an accounting transaction should take so you can spot situations where that path was not followed. It also helps to be able to see the big picture for a business, to identify risks and challenges and to be able to see the circumstances under which a business may choose to utilize unethical accounting practices.”
Did You Know? One of the first (and most famous) forensic accountants was Frank J. Wilson, the special agent who spearheaded the campaign to convict Al Capone of tax evasion in 1931.
Job: Mergers and Acquisitions Accountant
What They Do: In the current economic environment, many organizations are feeling the urge to merge. Companies employ accountants who specialize in mergers and acquisitions to advise them on whether to add a business to their portfolio of assets, sell off divisions they no longer want to own, or merge with an existing firm.
Barbara Davies on Key Skills: “Excellent financial analysis skills are crucial, as well as strong accounting and tax skills. M&A accountants analyze the financial statements of possible acquisition targets, compiling a careful analysis of a target’s strengths and weaknesses. So you’ll need to be able to ask: Is the target a good fit for our company, and are its culture and business practices similar to ours?”
Did You Know: According to a recent survey by Ernst & Young, 25 percent of responding companies expected to pursue an acquisition during the next 12 months.
Job: Entertainment Accountant
What They Do: Lights, camera…spreadsheets? TV, film, theater and music companies rely heavily on accountants to handle day-to-day bookkeeping and manage long-term financial planning. Accountants help plan production budgets, set payroll, file taxes and negotiate royalty payments. Some accountants work directly for entertainers as advisers or business managers, handling every aspect of their clients’ financial lives.
Barbara Davies on Key Skills: “The entertainment industry is a large and diverse one. Opening a play? Be prepared to provide your investors with cost information on a timely basis and to track the budget for the play carefully. You’ll learn how to amortize the production costs for films, pay the actors and produce financial statements for the studio or partnership producing a film or television show.”
Did You Know: An entertainment accountant is one of the first people to be hired on a film project, charged with overseeing the budget for the entire production.
Job: Chief Financial Officer
What They Do: Do you dream of running the show? CFOs are the financial captains of a firm, often possessing as much authority in a company as the chief executive officer. They are responsible for the economic well-being of a business, including setting budgets and devising long-term financial strategies. In publicly traded companies, CFOs are responsible for the organization’s financial reporting and compliance with regulators.
Barbara Davies on Key Skills: “Most CFOs spend eight to ten years honing accounting and business management skills. As CFO, you will have ‘bottom line’ responsibility for the accuracy of your financial statements, so you will need excellent accounting skills. Recruiting and supervising are important, as well as preparing budgets, monitoring your company’s fiscal achievement, and managing tax responsibilities and external accountants. It’s pretty comprehensive!”
Did You Know: The median salary for a chief financial officer in the U.S. in 2010 was $103, 910.
Job: Sports Accountant
What They Do: Imagine combining your gift for numbers with your favorite sports team. College and professional athletics employ accountants to draw up budgets, set payroll, negotiate salaries and monitor franchise profitability. Accountants may also be called upon to offer advice about the financial impact of player salaries and trades, team promotional events and merchandising. Perks often include choice tickets to games and a casual work environment.
Barbara Davies on Key Skills: “While a love of sports is obviously important, also be prepared to learn some specialized accounting procedures to add to your fundamental skills; for instance, you’ll be tracking deferred compensation, bonus compensation, promotions and merchandising, budgets and team expenses. Your financial forecasts will also be sensitive to fan reactions to wins, losses and player popularity, so you need to be able to think about a lot of things at once.”
Did You Know: Besides team franchises, sports apparel and media conglomerates also employ sports accountants.
Job: International Accountant
What They Do: How would you like to be a globe-trotter? Global firms rely on accountants to manage their financial affairs at their offices abroad. International accountants navigate trade treaties, pay taxes in multiple governmental jurisdictions and deal with currency exchanges. They may also perform comparative analyses of the accounting systems in different countries in search of strategic advantages for their company.
Barbara Davies on Key Skills: “Once you’ve mastered U.S. GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles), you will need to become an expert in IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards). You will also need to get up to speed with the accounting standards used in the country where your employer’s branches or subsidiaries are located, then develop the procedures necessary to translate their accounting records to IFRS so you can present the financials to your employer.”
Did You Know: If you want to be an international accountant, you’ll find it helpful to study at least one foreign language, in addition to accounting and international business practices.
Sound interesting? DeVry University Bachelor’s in Accounting degree program can help prepare you for a future in any of these careers.