Exciting Careers in Accounting

Accounting may be one of the most versatile degrees a college graduate can attain. Those who enter the job market with a bachelor’s or master’s degree in accounting have a multitude of potential career paths at their fingertips. Many of these jobs can be accessed right out of college, but as you gain a bit more experience, you can unlock the keys to many more.
This type of career flexibility is great, but it can also feel overwhelming. What path should you take? What job will be the best fit? To begin, ask yourself some of the following questions to learn more about what you want out of your career.
• Do you want your day-to-day duties to constantly change or be more predictable?
• Do you work better under the pressure of upcoming deadlines, or do you prefer to work at your own pace?
• Do you like working with a team of people or working alone?
• Do you want to manage people or be managed?
• What sort of work/life balance do you seek?
• Are you an analytical thinker or a creative thinker?
• Do you want to work for a large company or be part of a smaller work family?
• Do you have entrepreneurial aspirations?
• What projects have you worked on that you’ve found especially fulfilling?
• What do you like about your job now? What do you dislike?
If you’ve been through a college accounting program, you know that the first decision accounting graduates typically make is whether they want to work in public or private accounting.
Public accountants work for CPA firms to provide services for multiple different business or individual clients.
Private accountants, also called industry accountants or corporate accountants, perform services for a single organization as part of the internal finance department.
There are many different career paths in each category. Let’s go over just a few.
Career Options in Public Accounting
Some of the most common career paths you can take as a public accountant are:
• Auditor
Auditors at CPA firms, also called external auditors, assess the organizations’ financial statements and disclosures. Most auditors’ day-to-day work will be planning, performing, or reviewing audit testing procedures to ascertain whether the client’s financial statements are sound and if they conform to generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). In general, auditors must know how to work well in groups and have great attention to detail.
• Tax Accountant
At the most basic level, tax accountants prepare tax forms for their clients. But they can do so much more than that. Tax accountants can also recommend tax strategies, represent their clients in front of the IRS, recommend adjustments to the trial balance, optimize account groupings for tax reporting, perform feasibility analyses for taking certain tax stances, and so much more. Some tax accountants work exclusively with businesses or exclusively with individuals, but many will know how to prepare all types of tax returns.
• Consultant/Advisor
Consulting is often seen as the catch-all bucket for anything else a CPA or accountant can provide. Accounting consulting requires a certain degree of creativity and flexibility as each client job is unique. For example, consultants can do some or all the following:

o Forecast and budget their client’s finances
o Predict the financial consequences of a merger or acquisition, a large asset purchase, a new business venture, expansion into a new territory, etc.
o Assess the financials to see where their clients can save money
o Help establish or improve internal controls
o Perform feasibility studies to determine if their client should make a certain strategic move
o Assess if their client is compliant with financial regulations

Career Options in Private Accounting
Taking a corporate accounting position can be a stable career choice, and there are a wide range of jobs options for in-house accountants. Some of the most common ones are:
• Staff Accountant
Staff accountants help maintain the financial records of their employer. They may perform bookkeeping services, organize the business’s chart of accounts, post journal entries, review financial statements, estimate upcoming liabilities, forecast, prepare financial reports for internal review, and so much more.
• Internal Auditor
Internal auditors review the company’s records and financial documents looking for risks, errors, fraud, and inaccuracies. Internal auditors can also help ensure the financials are presented in a way that complies with GAAP and/or IRS standards.
• CFO/Controller
Jointly, controllers and CFOs manage their companies’ financial departments, but the two positions are a bit different. Controllers typically manage the day-to-day finances, maintain the financial statements, and oversee the accounting department. CFOs are executive-level positions and strategic decision makers. They review the financials from a big-picture perspective, and they work with other departments to help advise the CEO.
Other Accounting Career Options
Public and private accounting are not the only two options. There are other categories of employment that can be great avenues for accountants looking to make a change.
• Financial Planner
Financial planners help individuals and businesses meet their financial goals. As trusted advisors, financial planners must be able to tailor their advice to the needs of their client. A degree in accounting isn’t required, but an accounting, finance, business, economics, or law degree are usually the most sought-after education to become a financial planner. Certified financial planners (CFPs) must obtain a certification to practice, and in certain states, they may even be required to maintain a license.
• Forensic Accountant
Forensic accountants investigate instances of fraud. They often work for law enforcement agencies, insurance companies, and financial institutions, but forensic accountants can be used in almost any organization that suspects they’ve had an instance of fraud or financial misconduct.
• Actuary
Most actuaries are statisticians or mathematicians, but accountants can become actuaries if they have interest in the profession and are willing to put in the additional course work that’s required. Actuaries use financial data to make predictions about business outcomes and assess risk. Most actuaries need to be licensed to perform actuarial work in the US.
• Tax Attorney
Although tax attorneys aren’t required to have accounting degrees, many choose to get certified as a CPA in addition to obtaining their law degree. Tax attorneys help individuals and corporations with tax legal matters. Their day-to-day duties might include performing legal research, representing clients in court, negotiating on behalf of their clients, and advising their clients on legal matters.

As you can see, there are many different avenues an accountant can take to find fulfillment in their career. Take time to learn about your options and take the next steps toward finding the job that’s the best fit for you and your life goals.

About the author

Mike Whitmire is Co-founder and CEO of FloQast, an accounting close management software company headquartered in Los Angeles. The company works closely with a range of organizations of varying scope and size, helping them to close their books more quickly, efficiently, and accurately.

By Mike Whitmire
Mike Whitmire Co-founder and CEO