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The Top Accounting Careers – Salaries & Education Requirements

Accountant at work at a desk.

Deciding on your future career is not as fun as it sounds: it includes extensive internal reflections, a thorough evaluation of statistics, and a detailed assessment of degrees and job positions. The choice is especially tough in a domain as diverse as accounting, with multiple career choices open for aspirants.

When it comes to the intricate world of business and finance, accounting plays a crucial role in the seamless working of things. Thus, it is essential to know that accounting is nothing like its romanticized version we see in television shows or movies: it does not include only crunching or playing with numbers. Aspiring accountants need to develop an elaborate set of skills to excel in this field and become the true financial backbone of a business.

So, what does an accountant do, and which job positions are available for accountants? This information is not readily available everywhere, as the accounting process usually happens behind the scenes, and we don’t get to see it often. Let’s learn all you need to know about accounting and which career option is the right fit for you in this domain.

Who Is An Accountant?

Accounting is essentially an organized way to store monetary transactions and records of a business, summarize the transactions seamlessly, and evaluate, verify, and report the financial results to concerned authorities. Another approach to accounting is to look at it as an information system specially designed to identify, assess, record, and communicate relevant, valid, and consistent data regarding an organization’s financial and economic activities. Accounting is sometimes also referred to as “the language of business” due to its purpose of helping users of accounting information chalk out better plans and decisions.

Therefore, an accountant is a professional who works with small businesses, large corporations, individuals, nonprofit agencies, and government agencies to organize and prepare tax and financial documents. Accountants are only responsible for the transactions expressible in monetary terms.

Accountant Responsibilities

The responsibilities of an accountant depend upon the kind of position they hold. Not only that, but their job responsibilities can also change on a day-to-day basis, even in the same job. The primary responsibility of all accountants is to develop and evaluate the financial records of an organization or a particular project and ensure that the financial information is accurate and up to date.

Accountants can specialize in different areas such as taxation or forensic accounting and can also focus on the more particular areas of an organization’s financial department. No matter which department, every accountant’s job description and responsibilities boil down to one principle or legal obligation: performing all of their duties honestly and to the best of their ability.

Some typical accounting responsibilities amidst the several versatile tasks include the following:

  • Storing, recording, and categorizing expenses and developing thorough financial reports
  • Checking the accuracy and authenticity of various financial documents and where they stand in accordance or against laws and regulations
  • Assessing financial data to root out efficient ways of running an organization seamlessly and proficiently
  • Ensuring timely tax payments and taking care of tax returns
  • Conducting periodic risk analysis evaluations
  • Offering expert advice to organizations on ways to reduce expenses, boost profits, and enhance revenue
  • Ensuring account books and systems are regularly updated and that they conform to accounting procedures and the accepted standards
  • Finding, confirming, and rectifying any discrepancies in accounting
  • Recording all reimbursements and payments
  • Collaborating with external auditors

CPA Responsibilities

Accountants in the United States can become Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) by meeting specific licensing requirements for the state where they practice. These requirements can vary in different states but essentially require 150 hours of collegiate education: 30 hours in addition to the typical 120-hour bachelor’s degree in accounting. Other requirements may include documented work experience and a passing score on the Uniform CPA examination. The primary difference between CPAs and non-CPAs is that CPAs can participate in preparing audited and reviewed monetary and financial statements for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Accounting Degree Jobs: Salaries and Job Outlook

According to promising statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for accounting graduates is set to flourish by leaps and bounds. Experts predict the U.S to become the home of over 1.5 million accountants and auditors by 2028. The accounting field may also undergo a 4 percent increase in employment, owing to the ever-growing global economy and an intricate tax and regulatory environment.

Due to their extensive job responsibilities, accountants earn a considerably healthy living. The BLS reported their median annual salary to be $71,550 in 2019 and $73,560 per year or $35.37 per hour in 2020. It also states that this profession’s job outlook might increase by 7% between 2020 and 2030, as fast as the average rate. There were about 1,392,200 positions in accounting in 2020, and experts estimate about 96,000 new jobs will crop up between 2020 and 2030.

Glassdoor also cites accounting managers as one of the top 40 jobs in America. Individuals with a bachelor’s degree in accounting can earn an average annual salary of about $72,000. Those with a master’s degree earn a relatively higher wage than others, and those with industry credentials such as a CMA or CPA certification make even more. However, it is primary to remember that the CPA certification requires 150 credits, most commonly requiring completing a master’s degree.

Salary Outlook Based On Geographical Location

The geographical area an accountant works in dramatically influences the compensation rate. The highest paying locations for accountants are New York, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia. These locales tend to pay their accountants higher salaries but are also part of the most significant urban center in the country. Although these locations impact salaries, living there may entail several other expenses, such as higher living costs due to population density, a more demanding and challenging quality of life, and smaller living spaces. Let us look into some of the top-paying metropolitan areas, the number of accountants employed there, and their average annual wages.

  • District of Columbia
    Number of Accountants Employed: 10,050
    Average Annual Salary: $110,140
  • New York
    Number of Accountants Employed: 112,360
    Average Annual Salary: $101,440
  • New Jersey
    Number of Accountants Employed: 39,060
    Average Annual Salary: $96,260
  • Massachusetts
    Number of Accountants Employed: 34,710
    Average Annual Salary: $88,830
  • California
    Number of Accountants Employed: 150,050
    Average Annual Salary: $88,130

Accountants seeking a less urban lifestyle should consider California’s highest paying nonmetropolitan areas and Northwest Colorado’s Eastern Sierra-Mother Lode region. Some of the highest paying nonmetropolitan areas of accountants, their employed number, and their average annual salary in 2020 are as follows:

  • Salinas, CA
    Number of Accountants Employed: 690
    Average Annual Salary: $111,680
  • New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA
    Number of Accountants Employed: 119,910
    Average Annual Salary: $105,720
  • Midland, TX
    Number of Accountants Employed: 1,610
    Average Annual Salary: $103,120
  • San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
    Number of Accountants Employed: 15,360
    Average Annual Salary: $102,920
  • San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA
    Number of Accountants Employed: 24,510
    Average Annual Salary: $101,090

Accounting Degree Courses and Job Training

Like the versatile job options and diverse responsibilities in the accounting field, an aspirant’s accounting training covers various topics and domains. Although there might be some overlap between an associate’s degree in accounting and a bachelor’s degree, the contrasting features should be at par with an aspirant’s career goals after graduation.

At the associate’s degree level in accounting, students typically learn about receivable and payable accounts, computer applications such as Microsoft Excel, and financial statements. They also develop essential soft skills, such as diversity awareness, critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication.

Some standard courses that accounting students take at the associate level include:

  • Financial Investigation
  • Business Ethics
  • Financial Markets and Institutions
  • Business Law
  • Financial Investigation

However, students at the bachelor’s level take their learning to the next level and explore a deeper analysis, examination, and presentation of such domains to prepare themselves for positions high up on the management ladder. They also train in some additional and advanced accounting topics, including fraud examination, international accounting, and auditing. Some standard courses that accounting students take at the bachelor’s level include the following:

  • Risk Management for Accountants
  • Cost Accounting
  • Intermediate Financial Accounting I and II
  • Strategic Management
  • Investments and Security Markets

Accounting Degree Jobs: Major Specializations and Areas

There are several specialties in jobs related to Accounting, but the four primary areas are as follows:

  • Management Accounting
  • Public Accounting
  • Governmental Accounting
  • Internal auditing
  • Other Positions

Management Accounting

Management accounting is known by several names, such as:

  • Industrial accounting
  • Managerial accounting
  • Cost accounting
  • Private accounting
  • Corporate accounting

The primary internal role of management accountants is to support business managers in making profitable decisions and make thorough reports and forecasts for the managers inside the company only – these reports are confidential and not meant to be released to the public. These professionals are also responsible for tracking and analyzing internal financial information by formulating, implementing, and supervising internal financial management systems designed to assist strategic, risk, and performance management.

Fresh accounting graduates working in corporations usually begin as staff accountants or junior internal auditors in areas such as management accounting, financial accounting, and reporting, or tax accounting, the details of which are as follows:

  • Staff accountants hold responsibilities in a particular area, such as payables, receivables, treasury management, general ledger, asset management, payroll, or financial statements.
  • Junior internal auditors are responsible for maintaining accurate records of adequate controls to safeguard against fraud and waste by assessing and examining internal rules, management procedures, and financial and information systems.
  • Management staff accountants are responsible for collecting detailed cost data and preparing preliminary cost reports and analyses to present to executive leadership and management.
  • Junior tax accounting staff supervise and prepare tax returns or related schedules for review, keep the information up to date, and ensure the maximization of tax deductions throughout the tax year.

After gaining considerable experience from these positions, accountants can move over to senior positions in any area of their choice. These positions may include:

  • Financial Accounting & Reporting Managers
  • Management Accounting Managers
  • Internal Audit Managers
  • Tax Managers
  • Assistant Controller
  • Controller
  • Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

Public Accounting

Public accounting includes many job positions and services, such as providing business consulting services, preparing and issuing public financial reports for a company, preparing tax returns, and providing personal financial planning services. Some primary types of public accounting include:

  • Financial accounting – Preparation of an organization’s public financial statements
  • Forensic accounting – Evaluation of financial records and rooting out illegal activities, fraud, and other missing financial records
  • Tax accounting – Business and individual taxes and the limitations of their tax obligation
  • External auditing – Review and analysis of financial statements to determine their accuracy

Fresh accounting graduates in this domain typically serve as staff auditors and analyze and verify activities in particular assigned client accounts. Individuals at such positions do not directly interact with clients and primarily do the “grunt work” of auditing. Tax staff accountants do not interact with clients and conclude tax preparations with research alone.

After gaining experience, accountants can move into senior and managerial positions. Some executive positions in this domain include:

  • Management Services/Consulting Manager
  • Tax Manager
  • Audit Manager

Government Accounting

The domain of governmental accounting typically includes any accounting position responsible for keeping and examining the financial records of government agencies and auditing private individuals and businesses who partake in activities that are subject to government taxation or regulations. Therefore, governmental accounting may include tax accounting, financial accounting, or other types.

Government agencies also offer positions in fund accounting, a method for a government division of an agency to be transparent in dealing with and managing the tax dollars that fund the division or agency. Some nonprofit organizations also use fund accounting.

Several entry-level job positions are also available within the federal government and the state and municipal government agencies. Fresh accountants can serve as staff accountants, junior auditors, tax examiners, or revenue agents. Accountants with experience can level up to senior and managerial positions in similar roles.

Internal Auditing

Internal auditors are professionals responsible for providing an objective and independent evaluation of an organization’s finances. They primarily identify fraud and financial mismanagement or devise ways to reduce waste and enhance financial management. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) necessitates regular internal audits for all publicly traded companies, and thus internal auditors are high in demand. Audits provide investors with a thorough and accurate financial picture of publicly traded organizations or companies. Internal audits hold paramount significance, as retail and corporate investors evaluate the information to determine the worth of purchasing securities.

Other Types of Accounting Jobs

Accountants can also undertake education jobs and become educators at schools of business, universities, and the post-secondary level for community colleges. However, positions such as college-level professorships in accounting typically require a Ph.D. In addition, professionals with expertise in accounting can also serve as consultants in the financial or accounting capacity for which they are qualified. They can also find employment in nonprofit organizations in jobs similar to those offered in the corporate world.

Accounting Degree Jobs

Associate’s Degree in Accounting Jobs

Whether you want to work in the nonprofit sector, business, or government, an associate degree in accounting can help you secure various jobs.

 

Some of these include the following:

  • Auditing Clerk

Errors are bound to happen no matter the size or number of employees of an organization, and thus auditing clerks help rectify those mistakes. They are responsible for double-checking financial documents for calculation and mathematical accuracy. Whenever there is a significant problem, auditing clerks are the first line of defense and initiate the emergency process for the senior workers to look into any discrepancies in the organization.

  • Bookkeeper

Bookkeepers are responsible for maintaining a detailed and coherent record of an organization’s accounts. They keep an eye on all business transactions and then use that data to develop financial statements for executives and managers. Depending on their organization, they may also prepare invoices, handle payrolls, or look into overdue accounts.

  • Accounting Assistant

An accounting assistant is a professional with responsibilities varying from one organization to another. They may monitor budgets, devise balance sheets, maintain financial records, and do several other essential tasks.

  • Payroll Clerk

Payroll clerks hold a vital job. They are responsible for making sure the payroll checks for all the employees in an organization come correctly and on time. These professionals collect, organize, and monitor the timesheets from employees, and making sure all employees get paid at the end of their pay period. Payroll clerks also ensure the deduction of appropriate taxes from each paycheck and process direct deposits for the employees who wish to use them.

  • Accounts Receivable or Payable Administrator

Accounts payable administrators ensure that the vendors of an organization get paid accurately, on time, and in compliance with government requirements. On the other hand, accounts receivable administrators work in organizations that are vendors to some other organizations, and thus their roles are switched from payable to receivable. An accounts receivable administrator is responsible for drafting invoices and billing clients for the services and products provided. They also keep an eye on late payments and prevent account discrepancies.

  • Tax Preparer

Tax preparers are in high demand as there is never a shortage of people who need help filing their taxes. A professional and registered taxpayer is the first choice of such people. Taxpayers perform the calculation, filing, and signing of income tax returns for both businesses and individuals, and thus a great source of relief and peace of mind in the tax business.

Bachelor’s Degree In Accounting Jobs

Individuals with a bachelor's degree in accounting can undertake various careers, whether streamlining an organization’s finances or directly interacting with clients.

 

Some potential jobs an aspirant with a bachelor’s in accounting can look into are as follows:

  • Staff Accountant

Staff accountants typically work in corporate budgets and are responsible for maintaining ledgers, budgets, and several other financial documents. They also perform many tasks of a bookkeeper and specialize in fields such as auditing and taxation to perfect their skills in a more focused area of interest. Staff accountants should be well versed in a company’s finances as they must chalk out plans to reduce expenses and augment efficiency in an organization.

  • Management Accountant

Management accountants analyze data from several sources in the numerous departments of an organization and make recommendations to enhance the overall financial strength of the organization. They may also be in charge of coordinating with performance managers to implement those plans while ensuring their compliance with all relevant rules, laws, and regulations. However, a management accountant’s job does not end at simply finding ways of cost reduction and efficiency improvement: they may also be responsible for identifying new investment opportunities for an organization.

  • Budget Analyst

Organizations plan their finances through a meticulous process and thus require top-notch budget analysts with a keen eye. Budget analysts work with project managers and program coordinators to devise an organization’s long-range budget. They also make sure that the various departmental budgets work together seamlessly as a cohesive whole. But that’s not all: budget analysts must also ensure that all departments keep their spending within the scope of their budget.

  • Loan Officer

Loan officers inspect the finances of both businesses and individuals to determine if a loan application is fit for approval. They look into income levels, credit ratings, and balance sheets to decide — a process known as underwriting. They also interact with loan applicants to guide them through the loan process. Once a loan is authorized and approved, loan officers review the agreement to ensure compliance with state and federal requirements.

  • Financial Analyst

Aspirants with a bachelor’s degree in accounting can undertake the job of a financial analyst to guide an individual or a company in their financial planning decision and enhance their economic prospects through wise investing. They are also in charge of reviewing and recommending individual investments and portfolios and looking into a company’s finances to decide if it is a sound investment. They may often interact with the company in question’s officials to better understand their long-term objectives.

Financial analysts must be well versed in economic trends, as they make informed decisions based on them.

Master’s Degree in Accounting Jobs

Individuals with a master's degree in accounting can take their career to the next level with their educational standing and expertise. Those with a master’s in accounting can become leaders in their field and qualify to make decisions that decide a course for an organization no matter where they work.

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Some prospective careers for those with this degree are as follows:

  • Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

Certified public accountants have to take an additional exam and take an oath to protect a strict ethical code. This title allows them to undertake two other tasks in addition to the essential ones:

  • Preparation of financial reports to submit to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
  • Representation of clients before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

CPAs stand apart from other accountants in their ability to deal with the IRS and SEC but still perform a wide array of consulting and auditing duties.

  • Forensic Accountant

Forensic accountants look into any suspicious activity taking place within a business. They are in charge of examining data to investigate and find out where the missing money went or the cause of malfunctions in the system. They also use their skills to determine ways of recovering that money. Once the investigation is complete, they may present their findings during legal proceedings as expert witnesses.

  • Information Technology Accountant

Today’s digitalized world has revolutionized the many financial activities of an organization, and technology has become more necessary than ever in employing the discoveries that boost efficiency. All of this makes the demand for an information technology accountant exceptional, as these professionals devise and manage software systems that centralize, collect, organize, and protect financial data across the several departments of an organization. These professionals ensure seamless use of IT systems to boost efficiency and decrease human error as much as possible.

  • Corporate Controller

Corporate controllers are professionals who manage all the accounting functions of a firm. They are in charge of formulating financial reporting, ensuring compliance with accounting regulations and principles, maintaining accounting records, devising controls to mediate financial risks, and coordinating efforts of accountants in specialized functions. They also help external CPA firms to develop year-end tax reporting.

  • Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

Several responsibilities of a CFO are similar to that of a controller but not without some fundamental differences. A CFO takes a more active part in devising finance strategies and developing fundraising for their organization. These professionals keep a tight hold over the company’s functioning and maintain a business’s financial workings in a seamless order. They must also analyze all that data to chalk out a course of action for the future.

A CFO is part of the C-level executive team and thus actively participates in business strategy sessions which are essentially the building blocks for a company’s long-term growth.

Final Thoughts – Get Started With An Online Accounting Degree Today!

A career in accounting involves a lot more than leisurely crunching numbers and playing with them; it is a highly sought-after field with considerable competition and a healthy job outlook. If you are looking to become an accountant, numerous resources are available to help you achieve your goals. You can attain an online bachelor’s or master’s degree in accounting!

Many prestigious institutions across the United States offer this program at affordable tuition charges. Check out the accredited online accounting programs on GetEducated.com. And determine if you want to pursue this career choice and get started immediately!

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FAQs Best Jobs in Accounting

Question: How can I become an accountant?
Answer: You can become an accountant by pursuing a bachelor’s degree in accounting, where students learn about the foundational practices in auditing, tax preparation, and financial analysis to become eligible for entry-level positions. Several accountants continue to a master’s degree. A master’s degree qualifies them to attain Certified Public Accountant (CPA) credentials and a higher paying job.

Question: How much do accountants earn annually?
Answer: According to the BLS, accountants and auditors earned a median annual wage of $73,560 as of May 2020. The job outlook for accountants is expected to increase by 7% in 2020-2030.

Question: What kind of work environment do accountants have?
Answer: Accountants usually work full time. Overtime hours are traditionally at particular year periods, such as during tax seasons or quarterly audits.

Question: Is accounting a good career choice?
Answer: Accounting is a clear, stable, and growing job field and can make an excellent career for an individual looking to play an important role. Accountants are respectable business professionals everywhere, and salaries for trained professionals are pretty high, making it an excellent career choice.