To become an accountant, you typically need to gain a strong understanding of budgets and accounting principles. Many jobs may also require a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field1, whereas other positions may prefer you also hold a master's degree or an industry certification.
If you're considering a career in accounting, we're here to help you work toward your goals. With the right amount of dedication and planning, you can pursue the education and certifications needed to pursue opportunities in accounting.
To help you as you work toward your goals, we've constructed a sample roadmap to a career in accounting. Keep reading to better understand some basic steps you may need to take in order to pursue a future as an accountant.
In accounting, auditing is the practice of thoroughly investigating an entity's financial records for the purpose of identifying fraud or areas of inefficiency. Their goal is usually to determine that books are error free, though auditors may be called in to find areas where the business could improve its finances.
Environmental accounting is an area of accounting that focuses on both the financial considerations of a company and environmental concerns. They create books that identify a company’s or nation's impact on the environment in addition to its regular finances.
Forensic accounting is a specialty field of accounting that focuses on investigation. Like auditing, forensic accounting looks through a company's books, but this field is specifically interested in discovering foul play such as tax or securities fraud.
Government accounting, also known as governmental accounting, records all the transactions made by a government entity. It utilizes unique principles that require a different approach from other fields of accounting due to the high burden of fiscal responsibility borne by governments.
Tax accounting is focused on the tax laws of the United States. It utilizes different methods from other accounting practices in order to determine the proper amount of taxes that should be paid to the government by a private entity.
Auditors work within the auditing field investigating the books of a private entity. Auditing positions may have a minimum requirement of a bachelor's degree or master's degree. Some roles might require a CPA or Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) certification.
Certified Public Accountants have a CPA certification and generally serve in an advisory role helping companies and individuals achieve their financial goals. Depending on your state requirements, you may find that you will need to earn your master’s degree in order to have enough credit hours to earn your CPA credential.
Cost accountants analyze the profitability of an organization and identify areas for improvement. They may have a Certified Cost Accountant (CCA) certification in addition to a bachelor's or master's degree in accounting or a related field.
Forensic accountants investigate a company's books to ensure that there has not been any fraud committed. To become a forensic accountant, you might consider pursuing a bachelor's degree as well as the CPA credential.
Government accountants track the expenditures of government entities. They may work for a specific government agency or for the IRS, where they audit businesses and individuals. You might consider pursuing a master’s degree in accounting in order to qualify for positions within this field.
Investment accountants work within the world of investments and can often be found at brokerage and asset management firms. A bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field (such as finance or economics), and a CPA credential might be helpful when qualifying for this type of role.
Management accountants help companies make business decisions that are financially viable and provide risk assessment to companies. You can consider earning both a bachelor's degree and a Certified Management Accountant (CMA) credential to prepare to pursue roles in this field.
Project accountants work on individual projects within a business to ensure their profitability. Consider earning your bachelor's degree, CPA or CMA if you choose to pursue project accountant jobs.
Staff accountants perform general accounting duties within a company. They are typically involved in bookkeeping, light financial analysis and payroll. If you’re interested in working in staff accounting, consider earning a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field.
Certified Public Accountant (CPA):
The CPA credential proves your knowledge in taxes, forensic accounting and risk management, among others. All states require you to have a bachelor's degree and 150 credit hours of coursework to earn a CPA2. Some states allow you to sit for the exam once you have 120 credit hours and then award the certification after you reach 150 credit hours2.
Certified Management Accountant (CMA):
A CMA credential is awarded by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) and confirms that you have mastered financial management. It can be useful for those who wish to work in managerial accounting. Earning this credential requires a bachelor's degree and two years of relevant experience in the field of managerial accounting or financial management.
Certified Financial Analyst (CFA):
A CFA shows that you are capable of managing portfolios, analyzing investments, understanding economics and following basic ethical standards in accounting. It requires a bachelor's degree and four years of experience in a relevant field.
Certified Internal Auditor (CIA):
This international credential demonstrates mastery of risk management, information technology and financial control. You need to have a bachelor's degree and two years of relevant experience, though earning a master's degree in accounting will reduce the experience requirement to one year.
A CFE credential is useful if you wish to go into forensic accounting, auditing or government accounting. It demonstrates that you are experienced in financial transactions, fraud schemes, law and fraud prevention.
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In New York, DeVry University operates as DeVry College of New York. DeVry University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC), www.hlcommission.org. The University’s Keller Graduate School of Management is included in this accreditation. DeVry is certified to operate by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. Arlington Campus: 1400 Crystal Dr., Ste. 120, Arlington, VA 22202. DeVry University is authorized for operation as a postsecondary educational institution by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, www.tn.gov/thec. Naperville Campus: 1200 E. Diehl Rd., Naperville, IL 60563. Unresolved complaints may be reported to the Illinois Board of Higher Education through the online compliant system http://complaints.ibhe.org/. View DeVry University’s complaint process https://www.devry.edu/compliance/student-complaint-procedure.html Program availability varies 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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