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Accounting Field of Study and Accounting Careers

Studying to become an accountant opens doors to more careers than one might think. Not all accounting majors end up as accountants, and they can apply their accounting skills to many lucrative roles in business and finance. But first, what exactly are accountants, and what do they do?

 Accountants are trained to prepare, review, and analyze financial information for individuals, businesses, and other organizations. They ensure that financial records and tax information are accurate and up to date. They also offer their expertise to financial business more generally, like recommending best practices for the businesses or individuals they serve.

 Accountancy is a rapidly growing field due mainly to an expanding national and global economy and evolving forms of financial transactions. This means that accountants and auditors are always in demand and remain indispensable even as technologies like artificial intelligence and blockchain rise in prominence.

 So, why study accounting? In addition to the crucial role accountants play in a healthy economy, they also contribute value to all kinds of businesses, investors, governments, and everyday individuals. They help keep important business transactions running smoothly. Accountants also work to prevent potential issues like fraud, which could lead to serious legal consequences. Plus, becoming an accountant opens doors to many different career options, from auditing and tax accounting to managerial and cost accounting, with opportunities for professional certification and advancement to higher-paid positions.

What is Accounting?

Accounting is the process of recording financial transactions pertaining to a business or individual. These transactions include various expenditures necessary to keep businesses operating and to meet the needs of individuals and families. Some types of accountants—like financial advisors—also examine areas of opportunity and risk. They then relay this information to those they serve. In addition, accountants must report their findings to the proper oversight agencies, regulators, and tax collection entities in accordance with law.

 The financial statements that accountants deal with are usually concise summaries of financial transactions over a specific period of the year. This transactional data describes, for example, a company’s operations, overall financial position, and cash flows. When accountants do their jobs well, they help to keep that company in good financial health. For a business, sound accounting principles serve an invaluable function in strategic planning, compliance, fundraising, and operational management.

 Accountants also do similar work for individuals. Certified public accountants (CPAs), for instance, usually work as part of a firm to provide their services to the public.

Why Study Accounting?

There’s a variety of compelling reasons to complete an accounting program. Here are a few:

  •  Accountants are constantly in high demand.
  • Accountants benefit from stable, resilient industry growth.
  • Entry-level accountants have great potential for higher career earnings and advancement.
  • Accountants enjoy ample job flexibility, either as full-time employees or consultants.
  • Accounting degrees have international appeal.
  • Seasoned accountants can often shift careers to entrepreneurship.

 Accounting careers are in higher demand than ever before due in large part to COVID-19 and its impact on the economy. Organizations and corporations all over the world look to accountants for help in adapting their business models to thrive during uncertain circumstances. Accountants keenly understand how to engage in transactions responsibly, and that understanding is at a premium today.

Careers in Accounting

Accounting jobs vary widely depending on the type of interaction between accountant and client and the accountant’s primary work focus. Many different positions exist, including the following:

 1. Controller

Controllers, or comptrollers, act as the head of a team or department of accountants in a firm.

With their advanced experience, controllers manage a firm’s accounting infrastructure, lead entry-level accountants, and assist with financial record-keeping as needed.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), controllers earn an average salary of around $130,000 a year. Controller jobs are expected to grow by 17% from 2021 to 2031, which is faster than average.

2. Financial Consultant

Financial consultants tend to be experienced accountants or financial analysts that work one-on-one with individuals to help manage their finances and spending.

Job responsibilities include meeting with clients to establish expectations, set financial plans, and assist with investments, expenses, taxes, retirement, and more.

Most financial consultants earn an average salary of around $94,000 a year, with a healthy job growth of 15% from 2021 to 2031.

3. Financial Manager

Financial managers take on the leadership of an organization’s overall financial well-being.

Typically, these types of managers prepare and review financial reports, develop long-term financial goals, and advise executives on how to maximize profits.

The average salary for financial managers is about $132,000 a year. Like controllers, financial managers are set to experience a 17% job growth rate from 2021 to 2031.

4. Personal Financial Advisor

People who need guidance with managing their budget and planning their financial future seek out personal financial advisors.

Akin to financial consultants, financial advisors meet one-on-one with clients to help answer a range of financial questions. Some advisors specialize in a particular area like investment planning or risk management.

The BLS states that financial advisors make an average salary of just over $94,000 a year. Financial advisor jobs are expected to increase by 15% from 2021 to 2031.

5. Tax Accountant

Many accountants specialize in helping their clients or businesses prepare tax returns.

A tax accountant’s day-to-day tasks include reviewing tax information for accuracy and ensuring taxes get paid on time. These accountants also answer complex tax-related questions.

Tax accountants earn an average salary of around $77,000 a year, with an expected job growth of 6% from 2021 to 2031.

6. Financial Analyst

Financial analysts study economic trends in relation to their clients’ expenditures. They help individuals and organizations optimize their profits through careful assessment of financial data.

Job responsibilities include reviewing financial statements, making recommendations about investments, and developing investment strategies.

Financial analysts make an average salary of about $92,000 a year. Jobs in the industry are projected to grow by 9% from 2021 to 2031.

How to Become an Accountant

Successful accountants usually follow the same initial path, even if they go on to focus on a specific area of accountancy. Here are the steps they take:

  • Earn a bachelor’s degree in accounting. A bachelor’s degree is the expected minimum credential to become an accountant.
  • Earn a master’s degree in accounting. Earning a master’s degree isn’t always necessary, but most accountants pursue one for higher earning potential. In some states, a master’s degree is required to earn enough credits for CPA licensure.
  • Accrue relevant work experience. Most organizations prefer to hire accountants who have applied their skills in an internship or entry-level job.
  • Obtain a CPA license to practice as a certified public accountant. Earning this license requires passing the Uniform CPA exam and proves an accountant’s trustworthiness as one who adheres to a strict code of ethics.
  • Pass the ethics exam. Some states ask that accountants take an additional open-book exam on ethics to supplement their understanding of professional ethics principles.

One Step Closer to Your Accounting Career

A great accounting career all starts with an accounting degree. WGU offers an online, accredited bachelor’s program in accounting that is designed with input from industry experts to teach you the skills and knowledge you need to earn your CPA license, prepare for a master’s degree, and enter the job market ready to thrive.

With no set log-in times, WGU offers students the flexibility to complete coursework and tests at any time, day or night. Our competency-based education model lets you progress quickly through any material you already know to graduate faster, save money, and get started on a successful accounting career sooner.

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