Finding Your Accounting Career Path

The accounting field offers many exciting opportunities. Often referred to as the “backbone of the financial markets,” accounting is the field that gives its practitioners the most thorough understanding of commerce and the business world as a whole.

Upon emerging from college, a newly minted accounting professional must decide if they want to pursue a career in public or private accounting.  Those who choose the public accounting route will probably start out as staff accountants or junior auditors. These entry-level professionals assist senior auditors while they prepare to take the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam.  Those lucky enough to land a job at one of the Big Four firms, will find themselves working at a staff auditor for a couple of years before moving up to a senior level auditing position. After that, they usually progress up the career ladder to manager, senior manager, and then partner.

If this kind of career path is your goal, you must be a well-rounded individual. While education and a high GPA are important, so, too, are technical ability, leadership capabilities, and outside interests. Relationships are an important component of a public accounting career. You will be working with people from many different walks of life, so it can be helpful to have a number of interests to help you bond with them on a personal level.

Those who choose the private accounting path will likely find themselves working in the controller’s department of a corporation. Responsibilities will include monthly reports and internal audits.  Others may end up working in the budget department, completing forecasts or working on mergers and acquisitions. Individuals seeking a private accounting career should expect to travel both domestically and internationally in order to carry out their duties.

If you are interested in a private accounting career, you should pursue continued education opportunities and additional credentials to bolster your appeal.  You should seriously consider earning a Master’s degree in Accounting or an MBA, along with pursuing a CPA or Certified Management Accountant designation. Doing so will help you move into an assistant controller job, then controller, and finally Chief Financial Officer (CFO).

Never short of options, new accounting professionals can also pursue careers in government or not-for-profit work. Both federal and state government agencies hire state level accountants and auditors to prepare and analyze financial reports. These individuals also review and record revenues and expenses. Looking to uncover fraud or waste, auditors investigate agencies and programs. Meanwhile, tax examiners calculate how much tax businesses and individual citizens owe and then collect those taxes. Another career option is to work as a purchasing agent or management analyst.

Not surprisingly, non-profit accounting professionals earn less money than those who pursue careers with for-profit employers. If your heart is in working in the public domain, however, you may find the trade-off is worth the lower salary.

For assistance mapping out your career path, contact Daley and Associates. We offer superior recruiting and placement results, specializing in auditing and financial placement.

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