Hired! How a Bachelor’s Degree Can Put You on the Path to Careers in Accounting
Today’s accounting graduates are fortunate to have growing career opportunities in a multitude of fields. The hardest part may be deciding which one to pick. Interested in taxes, auditing or consulting? Become a public accountant. Love working with numbers and have an extremely analytical mind? Work in managerial accounting. Want to work for a government agency like the IRS? Government accounting may be your thing. Or you could become an internal auditor, and help your company uncover misuse of its funds.
The great thing is you can follow each of these careers in accounting with just a bachelor’s degree. “You don’t need a master’s degree for any of them,” says Scott Moore, director, career awareness at the American Institute of CPAs.
Here’s an added bonus: The pay is higher than average. In May 2012, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that the mean annual salary for the 1.1 million accountants and auditors in the country was $71,040. Better yet, the mean salary for accountants in management, scientific and technical consulting services was $77,720. And for accountants involved in certain types of investment activities, the mean pay was $87,680.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment in accounting to grow by 16%, between 2010 and 2020. So no matter what path you choose, your future looks bright as the field as a whole continues to grow.
Some rapidly growing careers in accounting include the following niches:
- Forensic accounting, where accountants do financial detective work to ferret out fraud.
- IT-focused accounting, where tech-savvy accountants, in conjunction with their IT team, help to make sure an organization’s financial data is secure.
- Managerial accounting, where accountants help a company’s management team analyze its financial data.
- Personal financial planning, where accountants put their knowledge of tax law to work to help their clients manage and grow their savings and investments.
- Environmental accounting, where accountants help companies evaluate their environmental impact in addition to their revenue and expenses.
- Healthcare accounting, where accountants manage the financial requirements of healthcare laws and adjust their organization’s accounting systems accordingly.
Some of these specialties require additional certifications.
For instance, to become certified in financial forensics, forensic accountants must take additional coursework and a required exam, notes Moore.
Becoming a certified public accountant can open even more doors for an accountant. “To become a CPA, you need 150 hours of education,” says Moore. “That doesn’t necessitate a master’s degree. Most BAs are going to give you 130 hours. You can take a couple of extra tax courses.” For other specialties, you may want to take additional coursework, even if a license is not required. For instance, Moore recommends taking strategy courses. And communications courses, while not required of accountants, are a plus. For every area of accounting, “you need strong communication skills” to work effectively with clients, Moore says.