A degree in accounting can leave you well prepared to take on a variety of positions. Even those who minor in accounting are greeted with a bevy of opportunities when they hit the professional world. Why? Accounting is a stable industry that continues to show positive signs of employment. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, job growth for accountants and auditors alone is expected to grow by a whopping 11 percent within the next decade. Whether you’re considering going back to school or you’re just finishing up your undergraduate education, there are numerous career paths for those with an accounting degree that fit a wide variety of personality types, skillsets, and aspirations. An accounting degree doesn’t pigeonhole your career path into one of becoming an accountant.

Employment Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of auditors and accountants is projected to grow by 11 percent through 2024; this is faster than the average for all occupations. As the economy continues to strengthen, more employment opportunities for financial professionals are created. When it comes to compensation, pay is competitive. The median national annual salary for accountants and auditors is $65,940. These salaries can vary based on geography, experience, field, and specialization, but those who go into the accounting field have plenty of opportunity for high earnings. Earning potential can easily rise into six figures; the BLS has reported that the top 10 percent of accounting professionals earn around $116,000.

Certifications and Licensure

After you learn how to become an accountant, there are many ways to advance in an accounting career, specifically through certification or licensure. It provides individuals with an edge over the competition; as accounting can be a saturated industry, it pays to have specialized distinctions. About 40 percent of accountants have certifications. The most common designation amongst accountants is becoming a Certified Public Accountant, or CPA. In order to receive this designation, you must acquire a set amount of experience, then pass the CPA examination. The requirements vary by state, but in generally, most must complete 150 semester hours of college-level education, and usually two years of work experience. The CPA Exam is administered by the AICPA, and can be extremely difficult to pass. Many find they must retake the various portions of the exam over and over again before receiving a passing grade.

Some accounting professionals wish to become an Enrolled Agent. In order to receive this distinction, you must pass a comprehensive, 4-part exam administered only one time per year by the IRS. This designation will signify your wide breadth of knowledge in federal taxation, and make you eligible to practice accounting with the IRS.

Other certification options include the CMA, ACAT, CITP, and earning your MBA. Depending on your career aspirations, education, and skillset, any one of these distinctions can position you for better employment and higher earnings potential.

Industries that Employ Accountants

Many accountants hope to work in independent practices, but there are also numerous opportunities in some of the world’s biggest industries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these industries employ a significant number of accountants:

  • Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services
  • State and Local Governments
  • Management of Companies
  • Accounting, Tax Preparation, Bookkeeping, and Payroll Services

Four Major Fields for Accounting Professionals

There are numerous ways to utilize an accounting degree in your professional career. There are four major fields for accounting professionals, including: public accounting, management accounting, government accounting, and auditors and internal auditors.

  • Public Accounting: Those in public accounting generally work with a variety of clients, and gain a vast breadth of experience in numerous industries. Many work with a firm, moving into senior positions after a few years. Some choose to go into management, while others start their own firms.
  • Management Accounting: Those in management accounting generally start working within a corporation, in various roles including cost accountants or junior internal auditors. Some move into management positions such as budget director or chief cost accountant, while others move onto becoming CFOs, corporation presidents, or treasurers.
  • Government Accounting: Those who go into government accounting can work in any sector and level and generally analyze and oversee allocation of government funds. They may find employment in the SEC, IRS, or Department of Defense.
  • Internal Auditing: Those who become internal auditors are largely concerned with carrying out compliance audits, creating accounting information systems, and recommending financial improvements in a company or corporation.

Accounting offers a plethora of opportunity for financial professionals, and a degree in this stable industry can be a solid investment in your future.