Becoming an Accountant
Careers in accounting begin with an affinity for numbers given the job of an accountant is to keep a close watch on financial records. Bookkeeping, tax preparation and financial auditing are some of the most common responsibilities. Certified accountants can enjoy a wide range of employment opportunities, with full-time careers available in the fields of business, education, health care, government, military and many others. In addition to having numerous employment options, according to staffing company, Robert Half, accounts are expected to see a 3.4 percent increase in salaries in the coming year.
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To qualify for hire, applicants are expected to produce adequate credentials to prove accounting competency. In general, the minimum educational requirement is a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field. Employers typically favor candidates with clear career focus. Higher degrees and official accounting certifications will greatly improve prospects for an accountant career. Experience is also a desirable quality, making internships and apprentice situations a good starting point for aspiring accountants.
The most desirable credential for a career in accounting is CPA (certified public accountant). CPAs are qualified for a variety of accounting careers from corporate auditors to payroll supervisors. To hold the title of CPA, the accountant must have passed the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination administered by the NASBA (National Association of State Boards of Accountancy). CPA applicants are also required to complete certifications and educational prerequisites as required by individual states.
On-the-job experience counts for a lot in the world of accounting. For example, most states require accountants to have a certain amount of professional experience before they can apply for a CPA license. Experienced accounting professionals will generally enjoy more chances for career advancement and higher salaries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, accountant salaries can range from around $39,000 to more than $100,000 per year, with the average falling around $62,000, depending on the position. Accounting positions with responsibility and authority usually require a graduate degree, a CPA license and several years of experience.
Many career accountants choose to specialize in one or more areas of the field. One specialty example is tax accountants who must be specifically tax-certified. The duty of these accountants is to keep tax records in order for large and small organizations or for individuals. Another specialty area is forensic accounting. Forensic accountants are trained to conduct financial investigations in order to prove or disprove errant, fraudulent or criminal transactions.
According to Forbes.com, family office practices has also become one of the preferred providers, and can be a top source of new and consistent revenue for an accounting firm. It is estimated that profits for a firm's family office practice can be between 50-65 percent.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides an excellent source of accounting career information. The BLS handbook forecasts a positive outlook for accountant careers through 2020, with job growth set around 16 percent. Further statistics indicate that the demand for qualified accountants will rise in years to come, and that the demand will continue to increase. This rise in accounting positions may be due to the recent world financial crisis and resultant laws and regulations.
While the BLS predicts that accounting jobs may become more plentiful in the future, it also projects an increase in competition from qualified applicants. We recommend that aspiring professionals should acquire recognized accounting certifications and seek post-secondary education in the form of terminal accounting degrees. A highly-desirable set of credentials for employment would include a master's degree in accounting or a master's of business administration with an emphasis on accounting, as well as completion of the CPA licensing exam and two or more years of professional experience.
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