How to Become An Accountant

Accountants are in charge of preparing a company’s financial records, ensuring that they are accurate and prepared on time. They also compute taxes, prepare tax returns and ensure that taxes are paid on time. Accountants are responsible for inspecting accounting books and systems to determine their efficiency and must use generally accepted accounting principles in the process for reporting.

If you like the idea of working with numbers and maintaining records, then a career in accounting might be the thing for you. Here is a detailed guide on how to become an accountant in the US.



Should I Become an Accountant?

If you are fond of number crunching and making sense of numerical data, then a career in accounting might be for you. It is a career that is not likely to go out of demand anytime soon and can become a great foundation for launching your own venture. In addition to that, you can work in a variety of industries, since nearly all major companies need accountants.

The following table provides details on the career of Accountants and Auditors, including information on the salary, growth, key skills required and the education requirements. This information has been extracted from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2018.

Education Required

Bachelor’s Degree

Major Requirement

Accounting & Finance

License/Certification 

Certification Required for Accountants filing reports with the SEC. Voluntary in other cases

Experience/Training

Internships recommended, though not mandatory

Key Skills

Analytical Skills, Communication Skills, Attention to Detail, Organizational Skills, Math Skills

Annual Mean Salary (2018)

$78,820

Job Outlook (2018-28)

6% (As fast as Average)

Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Outlook for Accountants

Accountants and Auditors are expected to see employment opportunities grow by 6% from 2018 to 2028. This demand will be driven by globalization and growing economies. Job outlook for this occupation are going to be tied closely to the health of the overall economy. As the economy experiences a boom, accountants will continue to remain in demand. In addition to that, as more and more companies go public, the need for handling technical financial information will increase.

Accountants and Auditors who have earned professional certifications, such as the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) will have the best job prospects. Applicants with higher educational qualifications, such as an MBA might have better job opportunities as well.

Employment and salary outlook for accountants will also be affected by the location of practice. For instance, California has the highest employment level in this occupation, with 148,600 jobs, followed by Texas, New York, Florida and Illinois. The top paying states for Accountants and Auditors were District of Columbia ($98,130), New York ($96,300), New Jersey ($90,400), Virginia ($85,640) and Connecticut ($84,890).

Steps to Become an Accountant

Step 1: Get a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting

This is typically the minimum amount of education required to enter this field. Coursework in programs for accountants would include accounting, tax accounting, auditing, financial reporting and business law etc. Courses on management and marketing might also be included. It is recommended that you look for an internship with an accounting firm or a company’s accounting department, to get an idea of how textbook principles are applied in real life.

Step 2: Gain Some Work Experience

Even though most entry level positions don’t require work experience, it is recommended for more advance positions. Students who want to go for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) credential are required to fulfill certain experience criteria.

Step 3: Consider Getting a Graduate Degree

A master’s degree is not a mandatory requirement for practicing as an accountant. However, it certainly has its benefits. Master’s degrees typically include advance level coursework in management sciences, accounting, finance, auditing, taxation etc.

Step 4: Get Certified

Certification is not compulsory for all accountants. However, accountants who file reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are required to be Certified Public Accountants (CPA). Many other accountants may choose to go for this credential to avail advance job opportunities. CPAs are licensed by the relevant state’s Board of Accountancy. Common requirements for this credential include passing a national exam and completing certain number of credit hours of college coursework.

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