What To Know About Becoming An Accountant

Learn about accounting job requirements and what you need to know to become an accountant to advance your career.

Updated June 15, 2023 · 4 Min Read

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What Are the Requirements for a Career in Accounting?

Professionals can pursue various accounting careers. They may work as auditors, financial risk analysts, or accountants. Aspiring accountants need at least a bachelor's degree. Graduates who want to become certified public accountants (CPAs) must pass a licensing exam.

Accountants perform vital work for individuals and corporations. They oversee payroll, review financial documents, and prepare taxes. This guide explores what to know to begin a career in accounting. Read on to learn about common classes in accounting programs and potential accounting careers for graduates.

Accounting Requirements

Some accounting professionals only need an associate degree, including bookkeepers and accounting and auditing clerks. However, most accounting careers require a bachelor's degree. Employers may prefer candidates with a master's degree in accounting.

Many accountants pursue certification. Only CPAs can file reports through the Securities and Exchange Commission. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) administers the Uniform CPA Examination.

Careers in Accounting

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs for business and financial professionals to grow 8% from 2020-2030. See below for some popular accounting careers.

Accounting Certifications and Licensure

Not every accounting job requires certification or a license. However, professionals with certification or licensure can pursue advanced roles in the field. See below for three common certifications.

Aspiring auditors, tax examiners, and financial analysts may benefit from this certification. The 500-question exam costs $450. Some questions follow a true-or-false format. Others follow an objective format.

The exam covers topics like financial transactions, law, and common fraud schemes. Test-takers can prepare by reading the 2,000-page Fraud Examiners Manual. They can also enroll in a guided course.

Becoming a CMA prepares CPAs for leadership roles. Many industry professionals consider this certification as a benchmark for excellence in accounting. The exam includes two sections. The first section covers cost management, financial reporting decisions, and internal controls. The second half focuses on risk management, professional ethics, and corporate finance. Both sections cost about $700. CFP status demonstrates rigorous education, training, and ethical standards in the financial planning field. Test-takers complete a 170-question exam divided into two sections. Candidates can take up to six hours to complete both sections. They must complete both sections in one day. Candidates pay an early-bird rate of $825. Late registration costs $1,025.

Courses in an Accounting Program

Most bachelor's degrees require 120 credits. However, accounting programs usually require 150 credits. While most learners spend an additional year on their studies, they graduate with the knowledge to succeed on the CPA exam.

Some accounting programs let learners choose a concentration. Sometimes called minors or specializations, concentrations help prepare learners for various positions. For example, an accounting major with a financial advising minor may work as an accountant or a personal financial advisor.

See below for five common classes in an accounting program. Keep in mind that classes vary by program.

Graduate Degree in Accounting

Accounting rules and regulations change regularly. For example, the government offers unique tax-relief credits. Laws for write-offs fluctuate. Joining a professional organization like the AICPA helps accountants stay current. However, a graduate degree may offer a more immersive experience.

A master's degree helps professionals advance their accounting careers and become thought leaders. Graduates can also apply for leadership roles in banking or taxation.

A master's degree in accounting requires about 36 credits and explores practical applications. A doctorate in accounting, the field's terminal degree, highlights theories behind the practices.

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