Accounting still remains one of the best career paths to follow. Overall job growth in the field of accounting is expected to rise over the next decade. Another huge advantage of going this route is that there are many careers in accounting that you can pursue. This can give you lots of career flexibility while still having a focused career path. Today, we are going to discuss some of the more common accounting career paths.
This is probably the most difficult, yet rewarding path to follow in the field of accounting. Many accounting students work extra hard in college for a chance to get in with one of the Big 4 public accounting firms (PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, Deloitte, KPMG). They are viewed by many as the elite public accounting firms that have the best clients and are one of the best careers in accounting. That being said, heavy travel is a norm and long working hours is expected. The updside is that you gain an incredible about of experience in a short period of time. This is why Big 4 candidates with 2-5 years of experience are in incredible demand.
Beyond the Big 4, there are some fantastic regional and local accounting firms. Sure each of them have their certain strengths and weaknesses, but they can still be a great way to gain solid accounting experience. I usually advise fresh accounting graduates that if all possible they should head for the public accounting route when just starting out in a career in accounting. More opportunities will open up down the road if they do.
An accounting career in auditing requires an inquisitive personality. They
naturally ask questions well. Most often they work for a company and do an extensive amount of travelling to branch locations in order to do financial and operational investigative work. A day in the life of an internal auditor would include checking accounting ledgers and analyzing financial statements.
General Ledger Accounting
A mainstream accountant does the nuts and bolts of accounting for a company. They work daily in the general ledger, journal entries, accounts payable, accounts receivable, and month end close. They can even tackle the financial analysis side of things which would include budgeting, forecasting, and modeling. To get a well rounded experience like this can be great for your accounting career. However, there are many careers in accounting that can cause you to be pigeon-holed if not careful. Usually the larger a company is the more “vertical” the position becomes. In other words, an accounting clerk in a large company may only end up working a small segment of the accounting cycle due to the sheer volume that the company has.
Tax is another area that an accountant can pursue. I have found that it often takes a certain type of person to stick it out in the taxation realm. You must be a “learner” at heart as the tax laws and rules are constantly changing and you have to stay on top of what is going on. If you like taking a mess and putting it all together than tax work might be your thing.
There are some clear advantages and disadvatages to going the governmant route. One big advantage is the fact that the salary and benefits are unmatched by the corporate world. You can definitely get to use to the gracious benefits and perks that you get working for the government. One of the downsides is that government work is not for the “go-getter.” You will get frustrated at how long it takes to get something done. Sometimes it is referred to as “red tape.” You have to have patience to understand that changes do not happen suddenly but slowly over time. Another disadvantage is that not all of the experience you gain is 100% transferable in the the private sector. Some hiring managers struggle with candidates that only have a governmtent related background because certain accounting functions are handled differently.
As you can see there are many careers in accounting that you can pursue. There are even more that were not even discussed today. Still, the above mentioned careers should give you a good feel for the type of accounting opportunities that exist.