Accounting is a consistently popular college major. There are many reasons to earn a degree in accounting. This career path offers growing opportunities, expanding job duties, a high salary and a great deal of respect, particularly for those who advance into high-level roles. Given all of the advantages of majoring in accounting, earning the degree is well worth the time, cost and effort.
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Due to faster than average job growth, accounting jobs are plentiful at the moment. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects job opportunities to increase by 10 percent over a decade, compared to just seven percent job growth expected for all occupations. The field of accounting should add close to 140,000 new jobs in just 10 years. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) lists accounting as the second most in-demand major for 2018, with 60.6 percent of employers surveyed stating that they intend to hire candidates with a bachelor’s in accounting degree.
Even in more challenging economic climates, however, job opportunities for accountants tend to remain strong. U.S. News & World Report has ranked accounting among the top degrees that guarantee a job offer and the top college majors for finding full-time work in recent years. In both good and bad financial times, individuals need help preparing tax forms, corporations must submit reports required by law and businesses continue to seek ways to become more profitable. While students of other college majors may be dependent on hiring trends, accounting students have a relatively stable job outlook.
As technology evolves, those unfamiliar with the scope of an accountant’s work might think that tax preparation software or robots could eventually replace accountants and auditors. However, accountants learn the theories and concepts of financial reporting as well as the technical skills needed to create financial statements. They apply this knowledge in ways beyond crunching numbers, such as analyzing and interpreting financial data to suggest ways of improving business operations and profitability, reaching financial goals and eliminating wasted resources. The notion of skilled accountants being replaced by machines and software applications is a myth.
Even within the accounting and bookkeeping industry, the job outlook for those without a bachelor’s degree is not so positive. Bookkeepers and accounting clerks, who typically have an associate’s degree or no college degree, are seeing a decrease in job opportunities.
Accountants earn wages well above the median salary for all occupations. As they gain the experience needed to move into senior-level roles, accountants’ income potential increases considerably. Those with a great deal of experience, an advanced degree and sought-after professional certifications, in particular, can attain salaries approaching six figures.
In public accounting roles, junior level accountants earn $54,750 to $70,500 annually at a small firm or $66,750 to $87,000 at a large firm, the Association of International Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) reported. Senior level accountants earn wages ranging from a $67,500 at the low end of the spectrum up to $111,250, again depending on the size of the firm as well as the accountant’s amount of experience. If you become a director or senior manager, you can earn up to $143,250 at a small firm, $175,500 at a medium firm or $208,000 at a large firm.
The salary ranges for corporate accounting roles are somewhat lower than that of public accounting. Junior level corporate accountants make $48,000 to $73,250, while wages for senior level corporate accountants can range from $60,750 to $92,250. For managers in corporate accounting, a small firm may pay as much as $93,500, while a medium firm can pay up to $102,250 and a large firm, up to $123,500.
Both public and corporate accountants can benefit from attaining a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license. Generally, becoming a CPA raises your salary by 10 to 15 percent, the AICPA reported.
A bachelor’s degree is enough to meet the degree requirement for becoming a CPA, but in most of the U.S., you need an additional year of college studies at either the undergraduate or graduate level to attain this credential.
Accountant can be a prestigious career, especially when you work for one of the “Big 4” public accounting firms or as a corporate accountant in a well-known company. Other factors, such as earning a master’s degree or having credentials like a CPA license, can add to the distinction of being an accountant. The reputation the career path has for job stability and lucrative earning potential only adds to the respect accountants, particularly those in senior-level roles, can receive.
The CPA may be the most recognizable accounting credential, but other in-demand certifications include Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA), Certified Management Accountant (CMA), Certified Financial Services Auditor (CFSA) and Certified Internal Auditor (CIA).