- A bachelor’s or master’s degree in accounting or a related field is preferred.
- Internships and other opportunities to learn in a workplace setting can be an advantage in a job search. CPA license or desire to pursue license preferred.
Public accountants assist individuals and corporations with a variety of financial tasks, including computing and filing income taxes, reviewing financial records, staying up to date on fiscal regulations, creating financial statements and providing general accounting advice. Whether they are working in private practice or for an accounting firm, public accountants are responsible for understanding the needs of each client and helping them make the most cost-effective decisions.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) currently reports that there are more than 1.6 million public accountants employed as of May 2013, not including those self-employed in private practice. Demand is predicted to increase 13% from 2012 to 2022, meaning an additional 208,000 jobs will be added to the workforce. In general, demand for accounting professionals increases proportionately with economic growth, though an additional boost is expected due to expanding auditing and compliance requirements stemming from new financial regulations.
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Pursuing the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) credential is highly recommended for anyone entering the public accounting field, as it is a minimum requirement for nearly all employment opportunities and also confirms an applicant’s grip on the essential knowledge and skills of accounting. CPAs can also choose a specialization focusing on a specific service (e.g., taxes, auditing, consulting, forensic accounting), industry (e.g., government, aviation, manufacturing, information technology), or type of client (e.g., small business, investors, nonprofits).
Public accounting expertise is required in a wide range of business, government and nonprofit settings, with CPAs working under a number of job titles. From entry-level “staff accountant” at a small company to senior-level “partner” at a large firm, public accountants are in demand and have opportunities for advancement and specialization throughout their careers. Major responsibilities include:
Career paths in accounting can vary by industry and individual employer. Potential job titles include budget analyst, tax examiner, external auditor, business systems analyst or compliance professional. The following profiles include general expectations for public accounting positions from the first job after graduation to senior executive roles.
New accounting graduates are employed in a range of roles that can include working as a junior-level associate at an accounting firm, performing accounting functions at a small business or non-profit organization or serving in a financial-related position in a government agency.
Accountants can advance to staff and senior accountant positions that include additional responsibilities and require advanced skills. These roles may include management functions as well as specialization or certification requirements. Accountants at this level also gain experience that can help them obtain consulting positions and eventually start a private practice.
Job titles such as partner, finance manager and financial controller are found at the senior or executive level of accounting. These positions require advanced management and leadership skills, as well as the ability to oversee high-level accounting and reporting functions. Senior-level accounting professionals may also manage the work of mid-level managers.
Discover how an online bachelor's degree in forensic accounting can jump-start your career. Explore our 2021 rankings of best forensic accounting programs.
Explore our 2021 rankings of the best online forensic accounting degrees and see how this degree could affect your accounting career prospects.
Earning a master's in taxation could change your career trajectory. Start by taking a look at our list of the top taxation master's programs for 2021.
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