If you’re seeking a rewarding career -- and you’re not afraid of numbers -- a career in accountancy might be the right choice. It takes on average two to four years to develop a career as an accountant; and you can choose a variety of paths from a bookkeeper to a CPA. Here’s a look at what it takes to work in the accounting field.
Complete Your High School Education
You can prepare for a career in accounting by taking finance-related courses in high school, such as statistics, calculus and economics. You should maintain a high GPA in all courses, but especially in those related to finance and math. Good study habits and a high GPA will impress colleges and universities. Before applying to colleges, take the SAT (a national standardised test that measures aptitude and verbal reasoning) and the ACT which tests your English, math, science and reading skills.
Apply for a Degree Program
The schooling required for accountancy varies depending on the chosen career path. First, you’ll need to decide the type of jobs you’re interested in. For example, with a two-year Associate’s degree in accounting, you can seek employment as a:
- Accounts Payable Clerk
- Accounting Assistant
- Payroll Clerk
- Billing Clerk
On the other hand, if you receive a four-year Bachelor’s degree in accounting, you can work as an accountant for a small or large corporation. Other career opportunities include:
- Budget Analyst
- Director of Accounting
- Asset Manager
Gain Work Experience
Before graduating from a two-year or a four-year college, seek employment opportunities in the accounting field. Some aspiring accountants intern or apply for secretarial/administrative positions with an accounting firm. They work under the direction of a licensed accountant and gain valuable work experience which provides a competitive edge when applying for entry-level positions after graduation.
Become a Certified Public Accountant
After receiving a Bachelor’s degree in accounting and working as an accountant for one or two years (depending on your state), you’re eligible to take the uniform Certified Public Accountant exam. Passing this four-part exam can open the door to a multitude of opportunities in accountancy. The exam tests your knowledge in business law, auditing, financial accounting and reporting, and regulations. A minimum score of 75 on each section is required to become a CPA, and you must pass all four sections within 18 months of passing your first section. Career options as a CPA include:
- Tax and Financial Planning
- International Accounting
- Showbiz Accounting
- Financial Analyst
- Environmental Accounting
A master’s degree is not necessarily required for CPAs. However, some states do require completion of a master’s program in accounting, finance or business administration. Even when this isn’t required, some certified public accountants choose to pursue a master’s degree. Advance degrees can create opportunities in management and help these professionals qualify for employment with larger firms and corporations.
Whether you select a two- or four-year degree program, a career in accountancy is an excellent way to utilise your analytic and problem-solving skills. To maintain your license, it’s important that you periodically take courses to remain up-to-date in the field.