Numbers, spreadsheets, financial reports, and tax returns—if any of these pique your interest, read on to learn more about the field of accounting!
Albert Einstein is regarded as one of the most intelligent individuals the world has ever seen. He was a brilliant theoretical physicist who developed the theory of relativity and published hundreds of complex scientific papers that would have most readers scratching their heads.
There was, however, one topic that even Albert Einstein struggled with—income tax. In fact, Albert Einstein was quoted saying that it's “the hardest thing in the world to understand…” It’s a sentiment many of us can agree with!
But, if you are someone who disagrees, or is intrigued to thoroughly understand this subject that confounded one of the world’s greatest geniuses, you may want to consider a career as an accountant! As one of the top 12 degrees, receiving a professional education in accounting is an excellent idea. This guide will explain how to become an accountant, what their roles entail, and career outlook.
Understanding how to become an accountant is one part of a three-part equation. The second part is exploring their roles so that you have a realistic idea of what your day-to-day life will look like in this field.
The main tasks accountants are responsible for include:
When thinking about becoming an accountant, there are several specialties that can center one’s career:
Some accountants may choose to work in a particular sector, such as health, business, nonprofits, tech, or government organizations.
As you learn more about this profession, you may be wondering “How long does it take to become an accountant?” Preparing accurate financial reports requires a high level of knowledge and skill.
If accountants make the wrong calculations or file inaccurate taxes, people can end up missing out on deductions and credits, owe more money to the IRS, or face financial penalties. To avoid this, accountants spend at least four to five years in training to be adequately prepared for the field. Here are the steps involved in this training:
The first step to becoming an accountant is getting into college. You will need to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in accounting or business. Accounting degrees are generally preferred because they provide students with more targeted foundational skills and knowledge.
These programs typically take four years to complete. Considering many accountants are CPA certified, students tend to opt for combined accounting degrees that include both a bachelor’s and master's in accounting.
This program takes five years to complete and provides students with the necessary credits to sit for their CPA exam, which we will discuss further in this guide.
While students complete their education they should pursue accounting internships to begin gaining experience in the field and honing the skills required to thrive in it. These internships will enable you to expand your network and build professional connections that can help you secure a full-time position.
Your internship can also turn into full-time employment if you prove you’re an asset to the team!
The most successful business employees of any field typically specialize in a given field. This elevates their “jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none” identification to someone who is a master at their craft. You can specialize in the field by continuing your education in a streamlined area.
Some examples of specialized accountants include management accounting, public accounting, and forensic accounting. Focusing on any of these fields will help you become a specialized accountant.
While not all accountants are Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), these professionals have more expertise and can perform more complex duties than regular accountants. Accordingly, CPAs are more marketable and sought after by employers.
Depending on the state you live in, you will have to meet certain requirements to become CPA-certified. Most states require candidates to have 150 semester hours of education. Typical four-year bachelor’s degrees are only 120 semester hours.
While the most popular way for students to receive the extra 30 credits is to enroll in a five-year professional accounting program that combines a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in accounting, there are other ways to meet this requirement:
On top of these educational requirements, students must pass an exam which involves four sections:
This exam is known to be rigorous and challenging! Students are recommended to study at least 300–400 hours to prepare for it. To officially gain their CPA designation, accountants must also have at least two years of public accounting experience. The majority of accountants are actively employed as they study for and write the CPA.
Becoming a CPA might not be the best path for you. Depending on your goals and areas of expertise, other accounting certifications may be more useful for you. These certifications can help enhance your career and get promotions and raises.
Here are some of the best accounting certifications:
It is not uncommon for accountants to hold several certifications throughout their careers. As you gain more experience in accounting, your interests may shift or you may want to gain more comprehensive training to qualify for more jobs!
And that’s it! This is your final step! You’ve already done the hard part up until now, so this step should be relatively smooth as you acquire what you’ve been working towards.
Remember that a vital part of becoming an accountant is networking, like any other field of business. At every step of your journey, you should be looking for chances to market yourself and grow your network. Attend social events, contact previous employers who hired you as an intern, and ask if they’re looking for work. Get your skills noticed!
Honing the following skills will not only ensure you’re prepared to become an accountant, but that you can be the most efficient and marketable accountant possible:
If you possess these skills and are willing to continue enhancing them throughout your education and career, you will be set for a prosperous career in accountancy!
The final part of the accounting equation is your career outlook! Considering the field of accounting is diverse and relevant to almost every sector, accountants are in steady demand. The job market for these professionals is expected to increase by around 6% by 2030, with thousands of new job openings each year.
Your next question might be, “How much do accountants make?” and we have the answer! On average, accountants make $77,250 a year, but their salary tends to increase with their experience.
Deciding to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) involves weighing professional growth and opportunities against the time-consuming journey of certification. CPAs are highly sought after in various sectors, from public accounting to corporate finance, to the government and non-profit sector, offering advanced career prospects and higher earning potential. The respect and recognition that come with the CPA designation underscore its value.
However, aspiring CPAs must pursue a bachelor's degree with 150 semester hours, typically more than a standard four-year degree, and pass the 16-hour Uniform CPA Examination. Additionally, gaining relevant accounting experience under a licensed CPA, which varies from one to two years depending on the state, and meeting ethics requirements in some regions are essential steps.
Despite the financial and time investment, not to mention the potential for high workload and stress, especially during peak periods like tax season, the pursuit of a CPA license can be an excellent choice for those dedicated to a career in accounting and finance. This journey also includes a dedication to continued education, as CPAs are required to complete Continuing Professional Education (CPE) to maintain their certification, making sure they remain at the forefront of the field.
While we’ve covered the basics of how to become an accountant, you may still have some questions about this field! To answer these inquiries, here are the most frequently asked questions:
The time it takes depends on the educational path you choose. For instance, if you choose to complete an undergrad and then a master’s degree separately, it will take you six years to reach your accounting goals. This excludes the time you’ll spend interning before you can independently practice accountancy.
On the other hand, if you complete a professional accounting program that combines an undergrad and a master’s, it will only take five years to become an accountant. These two options are most common because they allow you to meet the educational requirements to become a CPA.
For students who do not plan on becoming CPAs, a four-year Bachelor’s degree in accounting can suffice to join the field.
At the minimum, you will need a Bachelor’s degree in accounting or business and some field experience to grow in the field of accounting.
Accountants make around $77,000 a year on average. However, the top 10% of accountants make upwards of $130,000.
To start your accounting career, you will first need to obtain the necessary education. Depending on whether or not you want to become a CPA, this will take four to six years. Once you have gained the necessary training, you will have to apply it by gaining experience in the field.
CPAs are the most sought-after accountants, so the fastest way to enter the field is to complete a professional, five-year accounting program that will ensure you meet the education requirements to write your CPA exam.
You should also pursue internship or co-op experience while you’re completing your education so that you can enter the field as soon as you graduate.
The best way to prepare for a career in accounting while you’re in high school is to take IB or AP classes in mathematics and economics and participate in useful extracurriculars, like DECA, to develop your business and finance skills.
Apparently, it does take a genius to understand taxes—just not Albert Einstein. If you’re prepared to complete the extensive curriculums and certifications to join this field, an accountant may be the perfect career for you!
We hope after reading this article that you’re more confident about how to become an accountant. There is significant room for growth in this company, and your opportunities will only increase as you gain more experience and expertise as an accountant!