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Accounting Career: Outlook and Overview

By DeVry University

January 10, 2024
12 min read

Every business needs to track its finances, create financial reports for review by internal or external stakeholders and keep track of taxes paid to federal, state or local authorities. This work is done by accountants and auditors. Because accounting is an essential function of any business, accountants and auditors may find employment in private-sector corporations, nonprofits, government agencies and other public-sector organizations, or they can be self-employed. If you’re considering a career in accounting, it’s important for you to understand the considerable breadth of this occupation and how its various fields and specializations may align with your personal and professional goals.

Common Accounting Career Paths

There are several accounting career paths that you can explore with an online accounting degree, depending on the specialization you choose, your degree level, certification requirements and the amount of experience you have. Here are some career paths that might be pursued by someone with an accounting degree who meets all applicable qualifications:

  • Financial accounting, including CPA positions1

  • Financial services industry planning and analysis

  • Financial consulting and examining

  • Federal and state taxation

  • Internal auditing

  • Budget and credit analysis

  • Purchasing

  • Claims

When planning your career, remember that titles may vary by employer and some roles may require years of experience or additional qualifications. 

Accounting Careers You Could Pursue

Your career path in accounting could lead to varying roles within this industry. Some of them have overlapping areas of responsibility, while others are more specialized. Based on information from Indeed and BLS, accounting careers include, but are not limited to:

Tax Accountant

Tax accountants work with individuals and organizations to help them file annual tax returns and comply with the Internal Revenue Code. They also help individuals and business owners plan for future tax reporting by helping them understand the implications of changes in the tax code and how to avoid certain tax burdens.

Public Accountant

Public accountants, many of whom are Certified Public Accountants (CPAs),1 may also work in the area of tax preparation. Combining experience and knowledge in data management, economics, financial planning and tax law, they provide a variety of accounting and consulting services and advise their clients on important personal financial matters. Public accountants generally have their own businesses or work for public accounting firms. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires publicly traded companies to have CPAs sign off on the documents, such as annual and quarterly reports they submit to the SEC.

Financial Accountant

Typically concerned with the accurate reporting of financial transactions that have already occurred, this career in accounting generally involves working with revenues and disbursements, which includes managing or participating in general ledger accounting, accounts payable and receivable, payroll, grant management and fixed assets. Financial accounting is primarily concerned with the process of compiling financial information for external reporting (to tax authorities, investors and other parties) using generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP).

Auditor

There are a few different types of auditors, and each may hold certain industry-recognized certifications. 

  • External Auditors: External auditors provide financial documentation to third parties for feedback. In this case, the third party is a reliable source in describing if a company’s financial statement is a representation of GAAP. External auditing is conducted by a Certified Public Accountant.1

  • Internal Auditors: Internal auditors determine the effectiveness of internal accounting processes and identify ways to improve processes for identifying and eliminating waste, fraud and other liabilities. Internal auditors can review employee departmental responsibilities, management policies and approval procedures and provide useful feedback that can help a company improve profitability or efficiency. Some public companies or government agencies may require their internal auditors to hold the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) certification.

  • IT Auditors: Information technology (IT) auditors keep tabs on controls for their organizations’ IT systems to make sure that all financial and non-financial data come from reliable sources.

Managerial Accountant

Managerial accountants, or management accountants, analyze the past performance of an organization or business unit to make predictions about its future performance. They work internally to monitor and assist with an organization’s financial planning. Preparing documentation that is typically meant for internal stakeholders rather than the public, managerial accountants create and analyze budgets to meet the short- and long-term goals of their organizations.

Forensic Accountant

Forensic accountants often work on legal cases. Their specialized skills are deployed to investigate the financial records of both businesses or individuals, which can require them to recreate information that is either missing from financial documentation or not available. The objective in forensic accounting is to gather all available documentation and accurately account for transactions in various financial statements.

Where Do Accountants Work?

According to BLS data, accountants and auditors held 1,538,400 jobs in the United States in 2022. Who were their largest employers? The BLS breaks it down this way:

  • 23% worked for accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping and payroll services

  • 8% worked in finance and insurance

  • 8% worked in government

  • 6% worked in management of companies and enterprise

  • 4% were self-employed

The work environment for accountants will vary according to the type of work they do. Most accountants work in an office environment, but some work from home and others may travel to visit clients.

What Types of Accounting Degrees Can I Pursue?

Depending on the position you’re looking to pursue, the degree you choose to earn may vary.

At DeVry, we offer accounting degrees at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. If you’re just getting started, a bachelor’s degree can be a great first step. If you’re looking to expand your skills and continue your education, you might consider earning a master’s degree or graduate certificate.

Our accounting programs include:

Accounting Licenses and Certifications

There are several professional certifications that accounting professionals can pursue. One commonly recognized accounting credential is the Certified Public Accountant (CPA).1 Becoming a CPA requires passing a four-part exam and completing at least 150 semester hours of post-secondary coursework related to accounting, in addition to other requirements. At DeVry, many of our accounting programs include elements of Becker Professional Education’s CPA Exam prep built right into the coursework, so you’ll gain exposure to today’s most relevant accounting principles.1

Other accounting certifications include:
  • Certified Management Accountant (CMA)

  • Certified Fraud Examiner (CFA)

  • Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)

  • Certified in Financial Forensics (CFF)

  • Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA)

  • Certified Government Auditing Professional (CGAP)

  • Certified Financial Services Auditor (CFSA)

  • Certification in Risk Management Assurance (CRMA)

Accounting Career Responsibilities

Earning your accounting degree or certificate here at DeVry may prepare you for many responsibilities, including:

  • Accounting, auditing, tax reporting and consulting for corporations, organizations, governments and individuals.

  • Recording and analyzing a company’s financial information.

  • Planning, directing or coordinating financial activities of a branch, office or department.

  • Preparing cost estimates to help bid on or determine prices of products or services.

  • Examining budget estimates to conform with procedures and regulations.

  • Determining the degree of risk involved in extending credit or lending money.

  • Advising clients on investment strategies, securities, insurance, pension plans and real estate.

  • Enforcing or ensuring compliance with financial laws and regulations.

Accounting Career Outlook

As we look ahead, the job outlook in accounting continues to be positive.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment of accountants and auditors to grow 4% from 2022 to 2032, with about 126,500 job openings each year, on average, over this period.2 This growth is projected on a national level and local growth will vary by location. This projection is not specific to DeVry University graduates and may include earners at all stages of their careers.

Factors contributing to the demand for accountants and auditors, according to the BLS, include globalization, a growing economy and a complex tax and regulatory environment.

Is Accounting a Good Job?

Accounting can be an excellent career field for people who are detail-oriented and interested in numbers. Since accounting is an essential function in virtually every organization, there is a wide variety of industries that you can consider pursuing. Accounting roles are available in both large and small businesses, and accounting professionals can perform a wide variety of tasks from budgeting and planning to forensic accounting.

What is the Best Accounting Career for Me?

The best career in accounting depends on you and your specific interests. Think about what areas of accounting interest you, as well as what roles your unique skills, education and experience might help you qualify for. Here are some accounting jobs you might be interested in learning more about:

Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

CFOs are high-level executives who oversee the finances of a company. Professionals in these positions may have years or even decades of experience in addition to graduate-level degrees in areas such as accounting or finance.

CPA1

CPAs may work in a variety of different companies and may be called upon to help confirm the accuracy of their accounts or provide advice on how they can be more financially efficient. CPAs can also open their own accounting firms.

Tax Accountant

Tax accountants help both people and companies when tax season comes, as well as throughout the year. Often, they are tasked with helping their clients prepare their documents, assist with tax planning and file their returns.

Finance Manager

Finance managers work with clients to help them manage investments, their own finances or help a company maintain financial health. They may be retained by a few clients at once, though some work with a single client over an extended period of time.

Bookkeeper

Bookkeepers are accounting professionals who use accounting principles to track the flow of money across a business's operations.

Benefits of an Accounting Career

If you’re looking to enter the accounting field, here are a few potential benefits you might experience: 

  1. Wide range of industries – Since virtually every organization needs accountants, there is a wide array of industries that you may have the potential to work in.

  2. Flexibility – Accounting careers can be flexible and can sometimes allow for both in-office or remote work depending on your industry or specific position.

  3. Potential to own your own business – With certain professional designations such as a CPA license1, you may be able to start your own business helping companies or individuals with their finances.

  4. Variety of positions – Accounting roles run the gamut from managing a company’s finances to using accounting principles to solve financial crimes. Whatever your interests are, there’s sure to be a role that suits you.

CPA Licensure

There are certain jobs in the accounting field that only a Certified Public Accountant, or CPA, can do. For example, if you plan to work with companies that are publicly traded on one of the stock exchanges, the SEC requires you to be a CPA to file their documents. To obtain the CPA credential you must study for and pass the Uniform CPA Examination. The exam is administered by the Association of International Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and has 4 sections:

  • Auditing and Attestation (AUD)

  • Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)

  • Regulation (REG)

  • Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)

Each exam section is taken separately and, once you’ve passed all 4 sections, you may be required to take an additional ethics examination required by your state before applying for your state-issued CPA license.

According to BLS, all states require CPA candidates to complete 150 semester hours of college coursework to be licensed and to take continuing education courses, including ethics courses, to maintain licensure. Furthermore, to retain your certification and AICPA membership, you must meet certain continuing professional education (CPE) requirements.

If you’ve already earned an undergraduate degree in accounting or finance, our Graduate Certificate in Accounting Certification Preparation program with a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Exam Preparation Emphasis can help prepare you for the CPA exam.1 This career-focused program can help you earn the academic credits required to take the CPA Exam and includes courses that integrate Becker Professional Education’s CPA Exam Review.

Accounting Master's Degrees

If you’re already employed in the accounting field with a bachelor’s degree and are ready to explore new career opportunities, consider earning a master’s degree. 

According to the BLS, some employers prefer to hire applicants who have a master’s degree, either in accounting or in business administration with an accounting concentration. At DeVry, we offer 4 master’s degree paths in accounting, including 2 MBA degrees that are available in 100% online or hybrid formats3, allowing you to pursue your degree while maintaining a full-time job and keeping up with your personal commitments.

Coursework in our Master’s Degree in Accounting program covers accounting theory and practices, material needed to pursue professional licensure,1 advanced accounting studies, accounting regulations and standards and accounting research. It can help you prepare to pursue careers such as:

  • Accounting Manager

  • Budget Analyst or Budget Director

  • Controller 

  • Credit Analyst

  • Director of Financial Planning 

  • Director of Taxation 

  • Financial Analyst

  • Forensic Accountant Fraud Investigator 

  • Merger and Acquisitions Analyst

Please keep in mind that job requirements vary by employer and employment in some of these occupations may require years of relevant experience.

Accounting MBA Degree Specializations

Another option for accounting professionals with a bachelor’s degree and some accounting industry experience is a Master of Business Administration, or MBA degree. The curriculum of an MBA with a specialization in accounting in particular may help as you work to build an understanding of managerial theory and financial accounting in a business environment. Graduates of our MBA with a Specialization in Accounting may consider careers such as:

  • Accountant

  • Auditor

  • Environmental Green Accountant

  • Financial Manager

  • Financial Planner

  • Internal Auditor

  • Management Accountant

  • Payroll Staff Manager

  • Public Accountant 

As mentioned above, remember that job requirements vary by employer and employment in some of these occupations may require years of relevant experience.

Contact Us Today

Ready to get started? Our Admissions team can help you find the accounting degree program that’s right for you.

1Credits and degrees earned from this institution do not automatically qualify the holder to participate in professional licensing exams to practice certain professions. Persons interested in practicing a regulated profession must contact the appropriate state regulatory agency for their field of interest. For instance, typically 150 credit hours or education are required to meet state regulatory agency education requirements for CPA licensure. Coursework may qualify for credit towards the State Board of Accountancy requirements. However, it is the student’s responsibility to contact the state board of accountancy for the jurisdiction in which they are applying to determine whether they have completed the appropriate credit hours and coursework to qualify to take the CPA exam. Employees of DeVry University and its Keller Graduate School of Management are not in a position to determine an individual’s eligibility to take the CPA exam or satisfy licensing.
2https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/accountants-and-auditors.htm#tab-1 Growth projected on a national level. Local growth will vary by location. BLS projections are not specific to DeVry University students or graduates and may include earners at all stages of their career and not just entry level.
3Program, course and extended classroom availability vary by location. In site-based programs, students will be required to take a substantial amount of coursework online to complete their program.

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