How to Become an Accountant

Essential Education, Skills, and Job Interview Prep

A career in accounting can provide you with a steady income and high job satisfaction. This role is crucial in any organization and requires you to have math and financing skills to succeed. You also need to have excellent communication and data collecting abilities.

If you’d like to learn how to become an accountant, check out this guide. We will go through all the essential aspects you should know about, from salaries to career paths and job outlook.

What Is an Accountant?

An accountant is a professional responsible for keeping financial records, sharing reports, and interpreting financial information. An accountant usually manages a company’s performance by auditing its financial data and providing the most reasonable solutions to financial problems.

Accountant Salary and Job Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that the average salary for an accountant is $73,560. It is higher than the average national wage. The BLS has also reported that the demand for accountants and auditors will grow by four percent by 2029. This is around the same as the national average occupation growth rate.

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Entry-Level Accountant Job Requirements

Most companies require you to have a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting or any other related field. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. As long as you have a Uniform Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license, you can be an accounting practitioner.

Know that regulations differ across state lines in the United States. Some states require you to have a bachelor’s degree to take the CPA exam, while others do not. Still, you need to go through intensive preparation before taking the test to make sure you have the right skills.

How to Ace Your Accountant Job Interview

To ace, a job interview for an accounting position, be confident and show you have the required skills for the job. Speak about your projects, provide numbers, and let your interviewer know that you’re up to date with the latest accounting software.

Remember that accounting jobs require you to have good attention to detail. Try to demonstrate that skill in an interview by being organized and consistent throughout the process.

Common Accountant Job Interview Questions

  • Can you describe in simple words what working capital is?
  • When does goodwill increase?
  • Tell us three examples of budgeting methods.
  • Show us three financial statements.

What Degree Should I Get to Become an Accountant?

You should have a bachelor’s degree in accounting or any other related subject. There are also associate degrees, but it’s not as common to see professionals following this path alone. Many professionals use their associate degree as a stepping stone in their education before earning a bachelor’s degree.

If you want to advance your career, you can get a master’s or doctoral degree. Continuing education increases your possibilities of earning a better salary.

Associate Degree in Accounting

An Associate Degree in Accounting is a two-year postsecondary major. It offers you lessons in fundamental financial concepts like payroll accounting, management fundamentals, and income tax. You will also learn about organizing accounting records and the essential steps to follow a budget.

There are several entry-level jobs you can have with this degree, such as accounting assistant or technician, bookkeeper, auditing clerk, and tax preparer.

Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting

A Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting is a four-year education path that will teach you about finances, math, statistics, and legal issues. You will still want to sit for the CPA exam to become a certified public accountant. Although the requirement is not mandatory in every state, you should get certified to avoid potential issues.

With a bachelor’s degree, you can work as a financial analyst, corporate or public accountant, or auditor.

Master’s Degree in Accounting

A Master’s Degree in Accounting will provide you with advanced accounting skills. You will need to go through one to two years more years of education to obtain this degree. However, you are given the option to specialize in subjects like forensic and taxation accounting.

This degree can help you obtain jobs in high-level positions such as senior accountant, senior financial analyst, or tax accountant. This also means you can earn a higher salary.

Accounting Doctoral Degree

A Ph.D. in Accounting is the highest educational level you can get. A program takes about four to six years to complete and will provide you with advanced knowledge of accounting and financial practices.

With an accounting doctoral degree, you will be able to work as a university professor, researcher, consultant, and public policy researcher.

What Does an Accountant Do?

An accountant has to improve or maintain a company’s financial well-being. Some of the things you are expected to do include monitoring budgets and spendings, providing clients with financial advice, and evaluating the company’s risks.

Conducts Internal Audits

Internal auditing is one of the most fundamental accounting activities in a company. It is the process of objectively evaluating a company’s financial records to avoid risks. They must do this before an external audit discovers anomalies or financial threads. The accountant must monitor the company’s spendings and provide solutions to any problems.

Prepares Accounts

This involves verifying bank account details, invoices, insurances, wages, and inventory to evaluate company performance. They must also calculate depreciation and taxes. An accountant can issue any financial statement based on this information. Keep in mind this process will vary depending on your company’s dynamic.

Drafts Financial Reports

A financial report is a document that reveals company cash flows, balance sheets, and income statements. Financial reports must show the company’s revenues, expenses, risks, and financial problems.

Essential Accounting Skills

An accountant must be skilled in math, statistics, finance, and regulatory laws to succeed. Below are some of the most relevant accountant skills you should know about.

Forecasting and Statistics

Forecasting is an essential element in the business decision-making process. You must be able to forecast trends based on your company’s financial data. Forecasting also allows you to provide clients with financial guidance and advice.

Computer Literacy

Accounting is a technical profession, so you must be proficient at using finance software and tools, including payroll apps and spreadsheet platforms. These software and apps also allow you to visualize data for presentations during company meetings.

Auditing

Auditing consists of evaluating a company’s internal control of finances to ensure efficiency. Having auditing skills is crucial for accountants, and it is something you will more likely learn about in university.

How to Become an Accountant:
A Step-by-Step Guide

There isn’t one general recipe for becoming an accountant. This profession has several career paths you can take, depending on your goals and expectations. Below is a set of the most basic steps you can take to become an accountant.

1

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

Having a bachelor’s degree is an excellent starting point to becoming an accountant. Remember, there are many other ways to do it, but this career path opens many doors. You will learn essential topics like accounting information systems, tax law, and financial reporting during your studies.

2

Complete an Internship

On-the-job training through an internship program is one of the best ways to gain experience. An internship will help you put the training into practice while being paid. As well, many companies decide to hire their interns. Deloitte, a reputable financial firm, says that it employs more than 3,000 interns each year.

3

Earn a Master’s Degree

Earning a master’s degree is optional, but this is the moment for you to get a specialty and advance your career. Some of the specialties you can go for include government finance, auditing, forensic accounting, and Information management, and technology assurance. You will be able to get more high-paying jobs with a specialization.

4

Get a License or Certification

Getting a license is another way to advance your career. You should review the particular requirements in your state. However, most of them ask you to have a bachelor’s degree. You will also need to first pass the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam. This includes at least two years of accounting experience.

There is also a variation among all states. You can pass the exam without having any experience, then work for a couple of years and obtain the license afterward. In other states, you need to meet the experience requirement before taking the exam.

There are other certifications you can obtain if you want to validate your specialty. Some of these accounting certifications include Certified Management Accountant (CMA), Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), Certified Internal Auditor (CIA), an Enrolled Agent (EA).

5

Start The Job Hunt

Now, you are fully prepared to become an accountant. You can start submitting your resume to the companies you’d like to work for. Make sure to highlight your skills and experience, including exciting projects you may have worked on during your internships.

How Long Does It Take to Become An Accountant?

It takes four years to complete your bachelor’s degree program, and you need about two years of experience to obtain a certification. Therefore, it might take you from four to six years to become an accountant in the US.

Should You Become an Accountant in 2021?

Yes, you should become an accountant in 2021. Accounting is a profession that provides you with a steady income and high job security. This occupation is still valuable since people will always require financial services as long as they’re making money.

The growth of accounting job opportunities is as fast as average, according to the BLS. However, there are specialized careers that are growing even faster, including financial management. According to the BLS, financial manager job opportunities will grow by 15 percent by 2029. You can also earn a higher salary.

Accountant FAQ

Is accounting a stressful job?

Accounting can be a stressful job if you’re not used to working under pressure. This job requires a lot of skills, so you should have attention to detail and precision. A single mistake in the accounts might mess up your work.

How will technology affect accounting?

Many believe that technology could optimize most tasks like forecasting or auditing. Artificial intelligence and machine learning will play a huge role in the future of accounting. However, accountants are still important for companies to have.

What is the biggest challenge facing the accounting profession?

The biggest challenge that accountants are currently facing is automation. Today, more than ever, it is extremely important for accountants to have IT literacy. You must be able to adapt to new technology and learn tech-related skills like managing cloud-based accounting software or machine learning.

How much do accountants earn per hour?

According to PayScale, the average hourly rate for accountants is just over $20. However, this will vary depending on the specialty, the years of experience, and how much the company is willing to pay for the job.

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