Accountant Job Outlook, Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become an accountant. Learn about degree requirements, outlook, salary and certification to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Accounting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is an Accountant?

Accountants work for a variety of companies and businesses analyzing financial health and management. As an accountant, you may have a speciality, such as taxes, budgeting or auditing. Your duties may include analyzing financial documents, developing record-keeping systems and preparing tax records. You may work for an individual, corporation or government.

Find out more information through the table below.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Finance, accounting
Key Skills Attention to detail, analytical skills, communication, math skills
Certification Certification as a public accountant is required if filing financial reports to the SEC
Job Growth (2014-2024) 11% (for all accountants and auditors)*
Median Salary (2015) $67,190 (for all accountants and auditors)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will I Do as an Accountant?

Accountants analyze and manage the financial health of individuals, businesses, corporations and government agencies. The duties you could perform will vary depending on your position. You can expect to prepare a range of financial reports and examine or analyze historical documentation. You may also perform internal-auditing tasks and analyze business operations from a financial perspective. Your duties may include projecting expenses and revenues, preparing corporate tax records and submitting financial reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

What Are the Job Outlook and Salary Expectations for Accountants?

Federal and state laws, corporate governance regulations and business globalization are expected to have an effect on the growth of the accounting field. In May 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that accountants and auditors held more than one million jobs in the U.S. (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported that accountant and auditor positions would grow 11% between 2014 and 2024. You could expect favorable employment conditions if you finish a postsecondary education and successfully complete the process to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). According to the BLS, accountants and auditors earned a median salary of $67,190 in May 2015.

What Education Is Required to Become an Accountant?

Most positions require a bachelor's degree in accounting or finance. Some employers may require a master's degree in finance or a related field, depending on the complexity of the position and the level of responsibility. Certain positions, such as junior accountant, could offer you the opportunity to advance without a bachelor's degree into an accountant position.

Bachelor's degree programs in accounting offer courses in financial reporting, auditing and taxation. Courses focus on the fundamentals of accounting and provide a breadth of knowledge in finance. A graduate degree isn't necessary, but you might be interested in master's degree programs in accounting. You could also pursue a Master of Business Administration degree with a focus in accounting.

What License or Certification Can I Obtain?

The federal government requires accountants who submit financial reports to the SEC to obtain CPA licensing. Your State Board of Accountancy issues the license. Most states require that you hold a bachelor's degree through an accredited institution and complete an extra 30 hours of coursework beyond the 4-year degree. Additionally, you may need proof that you've practiced accounting under the supervision of a CPA for at least one year. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) administers the CPA exam that all states use.

You can also obtain certification through several organizations. For example, the Institute of Management Accountants offers the Certified Management Accountant credential, which focuses on areas such as performance and cost management, professional ethics and financial forecasting (www.imanet.org). The AICPA also offers several certifications for accountants who hold CPA licensure; for example, if you focus in financial forensics, you can pursue the Certified in Financial Forensics credential (www.aicpa.org). Other certifications offered by the AICPA include the Personal Financial Specialist and Accredited in Business Valuation credentials.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Two similar careers that also require a bachelor's degree are those of financial manager and financial analyst. Financial analysts assist clients in making investment opportunities by evaluating investments and looking at trends. Financial managers are in charge of making financial reports for organizations, as well as directing the company in making good investment and financial choices.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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