When you pursue an accounting degree, you have a good idea of the general field in which you intend to work. You might work in the field of accounting – in other words, the reporting of financial data – or in another financial specialist or business role. However, even within the field of accounting, there are several different job roles and industries in which you might work. You could join a small startup firm, be recruited by one of the “Big 4” accounting firms or set out on your own as a solo accounting firm. You can work in different specialties of accounting. As your career progresses, you can choose to remain a staff accountant or work your way up to executive leadership positions. Among the most popular choices for careers with an accounting degree are public accountant, management accountant and auditor.
Public accounting may not mean what you think it does. A public accountant does not necessarily work for the public or for government entities. Rather, public accounting refers to the type of financial reports the accountant is responsible for creating. A public accountant prepares documents that their clients are legally obligated to release, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This job description may mean different things depending on the nature of the client. Public accountants prepare tax forms for individuals as well as balance sheet statements for corporations trying to secure investors. Public accountants usually work for established public accounting firms or are self-employed.
One type of well-known public accounting professional is the certified public accountant, or CPA. A CPA is licensed with the state’s Board of Accountancy and will usually earn a higher salary than public accountants who aren’t CPAs.
Management accounting is one of many names for the opposite of public accounting: private accounting. Private accountants work for businesses, but again, the name refers to the type of financial reports they prepare. Management accountants create financial statements for internal use, rather than for the public or to comply with laws and regulations, the BLS reported. Managers use the documents created by private accountants to develop budgets, reduce expenses, manage investments and assets and evaluate the company’s financial performance.
Other job titles for management accountants include cost accountant, corporate accountant, managerial accountant and industrial accountant.
Accountants prepare financial documents, but auditors are the ones who examine those documents. Auditors check that financial data is correct and identify signs of fraud, waste or misused funds. Some auditing roles are internal, which means that the organization itself has hired the auditor to review its financial data. Other auditing roles are external, meaning that someone outside that organization – like a government entity or the company’s investors – has arranged for the financial documents to be audited.
Another type of auditing job is information technology auditor, which combines knowledge of computer and information technology systems with accounting principles. to examine the security and reliability of the computer systems storing and analyzing financial data.
Preparing for a Job in Accounting
The list of jobs you can do with an accounting degree is extensive and constantly evolving. From accounts receivable clerk to controller and from financial analyst to director of finance, graduates of accounting degree program hold many job titles. They also work in industries that range from the obvious – like financial investment activities or management consulting services – to the unexpected, such as software publishers, medical and surgical hospitals and aerospace product and parts manufacturing.
Whatever your ultimate career goal may be, earning a degree is an important part of preparing for a job in the field of accounting. A typical accounting curriculum may include coursework in financial accounting, managerial accounting, cost accounting, auditing and accounting information systems as well as other business subject matter. If your undergraduate accounting program allows you to choose an academic track or concentration, choosing a specialization related to your intended career – such as auditing, taxation or forensic accounting – can help you further prepare for the job role you want.
Gaining real-world work experience as an intern with a public accounting or business firm is a popular – and valuable – choice among accounting students, the BLS reported.