If your goal is attaining a well-paying job in a stable career field, accounting should be high on your list of jobs to consider. In both lucrative times and tough economic times, accounting is a career field that is consistently in demand. With a degree in accounting, you can earn a salary that could rise as high as six figures and choose from a wide range of fulfilling roles in a breadth of different specializations and industries.
Job Outlook for Accountants
For students who associate accounting with nothing more than number crunching and basic tax preparation, there may be some concern that accountants will eventually become obsolete. This notion that accountants can be replaced by robots or computer software is one of the biggest accounting myths people may have. The full range of job duties accountants do, and the breadth and depth of their knowledge and skills, add up to something a computer program could not possibly replicate.
In fact, the job outlook for accountants is excellent. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a faster than average job growth rate of 10 percent, compared to the seven percent growth rate expected for all occupations. The demand for a degree in accounting is so strong that almost 140,000 new accountant and auditor jobs are expected to open up over a decade.
Having a master’s degree in can improve your job prospects even more. While you can have a superb accounting career with only a bachelor’s degree, going to graduate school can help you move into management and senior-level accountant roles or attain credentials like the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license.
What kind of accounting degree you have affects your job prospects. The BLS expects jobs for bookkeepers and accounting clerks – the most common roles with an associate’s degree in accounting – to decrease slightly.
Top Industries for Accountants and Auditors
It probably comes as no surprise that the accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping and payroll services industry is a major employer of accountants and auditors. In fact, one in four accountants works in this industry, according to the BLS. The median wage for accountants in this industry, $69,410, is very near the $69,350 median salary for all accountants and auditors.
Another eight percent of accountants work for the finance and insurance industry, which is the highest paying major employer for this occupation. The median salary for accountants in the field of finance and insurance is $74,140. Other industries that commonly employ accountants include the government, which accounts for eight percent of accounting jobs and pays a median wage of $67,100, and management of company and enterprises, which employs seven percent of accountants and pays a $72,160 median salary.
Accounting is a great career path for those with an entrepreneurial spirit, as well. About seven percent of accountants and auditors are self-employed, the BLS reported.
Roles in the Field of Accounting
While all accounting and auditing roles involve financial reporting, accountants in different positions, industries and specializations handle different job duties. Public accountant is one of the most prevalent and broadest types of accounting jobs. A public accountant is a financial specialist who prepares financial reports required by law or for use by the public. A public accountant may work for individuals, preparing tax returns, or for corporations, creating the balance sheet statements used to attract investors.
One specific type of accountant – and one that happens to be consistently in high demand – is the CPA. A CPA license can boost a public accountant’s career in several ways. For one thing, only CPAs are legally able to perform certain duties, like filing reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the BLS reported. They also enjoy a salary increase of 10 to 15 percent over their peers without the credential, according to the Association of International Certified Public Accountants.
Private accountants are also known as cost, management, managerial or corporate accountants, because the work they do is for internal use by corporations’ managers. Rather than documents required by the government, they create financial reports that help managers make business decisions, from developing budgets to managing investments. Management and senior-level roles in both public and private accounting can lead to six-figure salaries, especially for workers with their CPA license.
The eight percent of accountants who work for the government do all kinds of work for government entities. Some oversee the financial operations and records of government agencies, while others audit and examine the financial data of individuals and companies.
The CPA license may be most relevant to work in public accounting, but those working in management accounting and government jobs can also benefit from having the credential.