Accounting is considered to be the language of business, and business accountants can possess numerous degrees and certifications to demonstrate that they are fluent. If you pursue this career path you could provide organizations and individuals with valuable information needed to make daily business decisions.
Is Business Accounting for Me?
Business accounting professionals provide accounting services like bookkeeping, tax preparation, payroll services, expense/income report preparation and investment analysis for small businesses, individuals, government agencies and large companies. Many larger companies have in-house accountants, although some companies may solicit outside help as needed.
Business accounting professionals generally hold professional certification, and most have bachelor's degrees in fields such as accounting, business, finance or economics. In these programs students learn how companies finance their operations, how taxes are prepared, and how to use computer technology to improve the efficiency of an accounting system.
The work environment for a business accountant is mainly an office setting. In some cases, you may be able to work from home. Employment with an accounting firm or with an organization is likely to demand a 40-hour workweek, but longer hours may be required. If you have a bachelor's degree in accounting, you can expect entry-level positions in which you will work under the supervision of experienced accountants. The higher your level of education and the more work experience you have, the better your chances for advancement. Possible career paths are through government agencies, nonprofits, corporations and public practice.
If you wish to become a business accountant, you should have strong math and communication skills. The ability to interpret and compare data quickly is also beneficial. In addition, as technology advances, the ability to work with and adapt to new software and business systems is essential. You should also be ethical and have high standards of integrity since the livelihoods of others may depend upon your interpretation of financial statements.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for accountants and auditors should be average, since employment is expected to grow by 13% from 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov). In May 2013, the mean annual wage for accountants and auditors was $72,500.
How Can I Become a Business Accountant?
You will need to a complete a 4-year bachelor's degree program from an accredited university as a minimum requirement to begin a career as a business accountant. You should major in accounting, or a related field such as finance, management or business administration. A Bachelor of Science in Accounting degree program will include courses such as financial accounting, auditing, federal income tax, business law and operations management. Earning a master's degree in accounting or a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with an accounting concentration can lead to the best job prospects.
Becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) through a State Board of Accountancy is highly recommended. In fact, you must be a CPA in order to file any report with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The CPA national examination has four sections and is created by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). This is a very challenging computerized examination and less than half pass the test on the first attempt.
In addition, you must complete a certain number of hours working as an accountant each year in order to maintain your CPA license. You could also sit for multiple exams to earn various certifications through the AICPA, including Personal Financial Specialist (PFS), Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV) and Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP).
Another certification available is the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) designation that is offered by the Institute of Management Accountants. This designation is given to recent undergraduates with at least two years of work experience in management accounting. You must also earn high scores on specific examinations for graduate school admissions. You must pass an examination on the subjects of financial statement analysis, valuation, risk management and other areas of finance and accounting.
The Institute of Internal Auditors also provides certifications that may help with employment prospects and advancement. For instance, the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) designation can be earned once you have worked as an internal auditor for at least two years. After establishing yourself as a business accountant, it can be beneficial to participate in conferences, seminars and continuing education courses to stay up-to-date on all accounting procedures and developments.