The median salary for an accountant is $68,000, almost double the national average. The highest-paid 10% earn more than $100,000 a year.

Certified accountants also enjoy an abundance of job opportunities and tremendous potential for growth. In times of economic downturn, accounting positions are relatively secure, as financial prudence becomes even more of a necessity.

While the accounting profession is often characterized as hours of tireless number-crunching, much of the raw math that structured it in the past is now automated. Today’s accountants spend much of their time problem-solving, critical-thinking, and helping businesses make long-term plans.

Individuals with accounting experience enjoy a wide range of career possibilities. For example, entrepreneurs who have a fundamental understanding of how a business’s finances should be organized and maintained have a much greater chance of building a successful venture.

And, accountants provide invaluable benefits to charity or non-profit organizations, saving them plenty of funds in fees and tax planning.

How can you embark on an exciting accounting career? Here are some ideas:

Auditors

There are three main types of accountants: audit, tax, and advisory.

Audit accountants check the financial statements of companies and corporations, being sure their records are in line with the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) that govern the world of accounting. These include regularity, consistency, prudence, and continuity.

In order to become an audit accountant, you will need a bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance, or business administration. Many business administration programs offer concentrations in auditing.

If you didn’t get your bachelor’s degree in finance, many colleges now have master’s programs in auditing many of which can be completed online.

Passing the CPA does not have to be done right away, but it is a wise move if you want to continue getting promoted in your career past a certain point. In order to qualify, you must have 150 hours of college-level training. You will also need to pass all four parts of the Unified Certified Public Accountants Exam (CPA,) and obtain the accounting experience mandated in each state.

In order to maintain your license, you must continue your education each year, depending on the state you are practicing in. For example, in New York State, CPA’s must complete 20-24 hour each year, depending on topics studied.

You can also obtain other certifications after you begin working, such as Certified Financial Services Auditor (CFSA) or Certified Internal Auditor (CIA.)

Tax Accountants

Tax accountants prepare tax returns and devise strategies for individuals or corporations. They must have strong knowledge of the IRS laws dictating tax returns.

Tax accountants may work for tax preparation agencies, private businesses, accounting firms, or government agencies.

In order to become a tax accountant, you will need a degree in accounting. Coursework will include classes in business taxation, fraud examination, federal taxation, and accounting.

You should also get your CPA, as this designates you as an expert in the eye of the public.

Advisory Accountants

Advisory Accountants make recommendations based on business strategy, business allocation, cost efficiency, and operations to help improve the financial performance of companies.

Advisory accountants counsel companies on forecasting, hiring plans, and increasing growth margins. They will use their knowledge and skills to help companies organize workflow, payroll, 401K deductions, and charity donations.

Advisory accountants are “big picture” thinkers and do much more than organize spreadsheets. They can specialize in specialize in wealth management, such as tax planning, portfolio management, or retirement planning.

In order to become an advisory accountant, you will need a degree in accounting or business administration.

Accounting Careers inPublic Accounting

Public accountants work through a accounting companies to provide services for outside clients. They range from smaller accounting firms to the Big Four (Deloitte & Touche, Ernst & Young, KPMG, and PricewaterhouseCoopers.)

These companies offer tremendous opportunities for growth and excellent benefits, especially if you have a CPA.

The average staff auditor has a starting salary of around $45,000 to $55,000 a year. Audit managers, who have been working for an average of six years, make between $60,000 and $80,000 per year. Partners and senior partners, who have been working for the firm an average of ten years, have salaries that exceed $100,000 per year.

Many accountants start their careers as staff auditors or tax staff in public accounting firms, and move on to private firms later.

Accounting Careers in Private Accounting

Private accountants work directly for the company they are providing services to. They are responsible for budgeting, internal audits, performance evaluations, cost management, and financial statements.

Starting salaries for staff accountants and junior auditors are similar to those in public accounting. The need is greater for accounting staff in private companies than it is in the Big Four.

Accounting Careers in Government

Government accountants can work in local, state, or federal positions. They analyze the performance and allocation of funds of the agencies.

Some government accountants work in forensics. These professionals may have additional coursework or degrees in criminal justice or law enforcement. They may work for the FBI, IRS, or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.

Government accountants can start as junior auditors, who make between $45,000 to $55,000 per year. They can also work as tax examiners or revenue agents.

Management-level auditors in government can make between $80,000 and $100,000 per year. Top-level management auditors make between $80,000 and $130,000 each year.

Get Crunchin’!

If you pursue an accounting career, you will enjoy excellent salaries and job opportunities in the areas of auditing, tax accounting, and advising. Jobs in public, private and government sectors will provide you with the security and advancement opportunities you need for a successful career.

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