Like Numbers? Become an Accountant

In many ways, being an account is a smart choice as a career.

Accountants are often well-respected pillars of their community. Well-trained and intelligent, they often have a secure living earning decent wages.

Being good with numbers might be a good start on the career path toward becoming an accountant, but much more is required. Here’s key elements involved with becoming an accountant.

Best Schools for Accounts

Looking at a given career, people often presume that there are some leading schools to attend to get work in that field.

Accountancy is a little different. Many schools offer accountancy degrees. But, just as law is often a postgrad degree, a lot of accountants do not study accountancy as their undergraduate major. Instead, they study it later or in a series of professional exams.

A lot of accountants who do not study accounting, focus on a related discipline, such as different types of maths, or something relevant to business, such as management or business.

An Accounting Education

As you might expect, for a specialization in accounting, Ivy League schools generally do well. Harvard, MIT, and Stanford are all in the top 5. U Penn also does well, along with Chicago, UC Berkeley, and NYU. But there are much smaller institutions, such as Keller and Capella, that offer accounting-related training.

The educational track to becoming an accountant starts in different places, but tends to end up at the same place in the end.

Accountants are typically affiliated to a professional body, such as the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, Institute of Public Accountants, or American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Each is different, but they tend to have a similar approach. Membership is contingent upon taking and passing a certain number of exams within a set syllabus. Some mandate all the exams, while others require members to only take some common exams.

These exams tend to be rigorous and lengthy. For people whose degree backgrounds are not in accounting, it is common for the process to take three to five years. Those with relevant degrees may be awarded waivers in some subjects but still need to take some exams, which can take years to achieve.

In most cases, the exams can be done concurrently with professional work. Many firms allow some paid study leave prior to exams for the exams to not impact on earning, but they are usually time intensive and take a big toll on leisure time. Upon passing all the relevant exams, the candidate can join a professional organization, which broadens the scope of their work and is necessary for career advancement.

For example, a posting on Indeed.com for an entry level hedge fund accountant at SS&C requires a bachelor’s degree in accounting or related field, as well as Excel knowledge; strong written and verbal communication skills; good analytical skills; and strong organizational skills.

A posting for a senior account position at Riot Games requires a bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance, or economics and at least four years of experience in public or corporate accounting. You also need to be software-savvy and familiar with handling accounts for multi-national, multi-entity firms that require GAAP and SEC knowledge.

Experience Needed?

Unlike a lot of jobs, experience is not necessary to become an accountant.

If you have some background in accounting or general business, that helps. But as most people do not do accounting until they study it, accounting firms typically do not expect that candidates have accounting experience.

They do look for general aptitude for the profession, so they look for good to strong academic results. Sometimes they want people who are deemed to be a good fit with accounting culture – being extremely risky or frivolousness can be frowned upon in this situation.

Additionally, as accounting is a profession that requires certain ethical standards to be applied, failure to demonstrate them can act against a candidate. For example, a criminal record for crimes of dishonesty would likely undermine your chance of getting a job as an accountant.

Salary and Prospects

Accountants spend all day thinking about money/ The good news is that they get a decent amount of it as a reward for their efforts.

The starting salary is decent, but unspectacular. It rises sharply upon completion of relevant professional qualifications. Most accounting firms are structured as partnerships, so the spoils are shared amongst equity partners, and they pay salaries to employees. Exact returns vary widely depending on the size and profitability of the firm.

The median, annual salary for accountants is around $67,000. Partners earn more – usually well into six figures.

On Indeed.com, a search for accountant jobs in Los Angeles generated 1,175 results for a salary around $35,000; 1,507 results for $45,000; 1,051 results for $60,000; 756 results for $70,000; and 413 results for $85,000.

There is some talk about whether artificial intelligence reduces career prospects amongst accountants. For example, critics suggest that a lot of paperwork review and number crunching could be done automatically. However, to date, there is no evidence that accountancy is in decline. Firms continue to expand into new areas and practice offerings. It seems likely that the demand for accountants will be undimmed in the years ahead.

Accountancy may not seem like an exciting profession but it can be rewarding and remunerative. Do you think being an accountant might be a good career choice for you?