We have all heard accountants called “bean counters” or “number crunchers.” And sure, accountants do need to enjoy working with numbers and have the ability to perform regular, routine (i.e. not very exciting) tasks such as accounting reconciliations.
But the accounting profession has become much more diversified than 25 years ago and there are many choices for accounting careers these days. Let’s take a look at a handful of careers in accounting.
Although this accounting career path is the one most people think of first when they think accounting jobs, tax accountants have become more and more specialized as the tax law continues to become more and more complex. Tax accountants can become very specialized and easily become subject matter experts.
As Benjamin Franklin said, “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes.”
On a day-to-day basis, tax accountants focus on tax return preparation for individuals and businesses. Some tax accountants work directly for private companies processing their sales tax returns and perform other business-related tax compliance work.
As a tax accountant, you will also enjoy working leisurely hours eight months out of the year. Potential clients including every citizen in the country and unlimited excitement as the tax law continues to evolve.
Career growth opportunities usually include moving from tax associate to tax manager to partner in public accounting firms. In private companies, the highest position is usually a director of the tax department, depending on the size of the company.
If spending your days talking tax sounds like your cup of tea, you can search for careers in this accounting field at any public accounting firm in your city. Many firms also hire contract workers for tax season.
This career is the most popular path for accounting graduates looking to obtain their license as a Certified Public Account (CPA). Although, even if this is not your career goal, auditing may still be a good fit for you.
According to CareerExplorer.com, an auditor is a result of crossing an accountant and detective. Auditors typically review the parts and pieces of a company’s financial statements to ensure they are accurate. Careers in the audit world include both internal auditing and external auditing.
Internal auditors typically work for larger companies as staff and review the financials as well as other business process areas within the company. External auditors typically work for public accounting firms and are hired by various organizations to perform third-party verification of the accuracy of the company’s financial statements.
On a day-to-day basis, auditors working in public accounting visit a variety of clients’ offices to perform the fieldwork required for audits. Internal auditors working directly for a company, spending their time reviewing various pieces of the company: both financial and organizational. Both types of auditors work as a member of a team the majority of the time.
Career growth opportunities follow a similar path as tax accountants and can grow as far as a partner in public accounting firms. In private companies, the highest position is usually a controller (one step under Chief Financial Officer “CFO”) or CFO in some cases, depending on the size of the company.
A simple Google search for “auditor jobs” will give you lots of options on this career path.
These careers in accounting include everything from an accounts payable clerk to a staff account to a Chief Financial Officer (CFO). Financial accountants are responsible for every piece of the traditional accounting cycle that results in the publication of the annual financial statements for an organization.
On a day-to-day basis, financial accountants work through the nuts and bolts of the transactions in the financial statements. Positions such as account payable clerks work with vendors to pay invoices and ensure they are accounted for accurately. Staff accountants ramp up at month, quarter, and year-end when they are responsible for “closing the books.”
At year-end, they are also heavily involved in preparing the documentation required for the external auditors (when an audit is required). The CFO is the big dog in the finance department and a member of the executive team. They oversee the operations of the finance department and assist the Chief Executive Officer and the rest of the executive team at the strategic level.
Finance departments usually have various positions in the supervisor and manager levels and Controllers and CFO’s frequently have backgrounds in financial accounting.
If this sort of bean keeping sounds like it is right up your alley, start with an internet search for positions in financial accounting. This will give you a list of options and you can start to research which type of position fits you best.
If rubbing elbows with the leadership team of an organization is what you enjoy, a career in managerial accounting might be what you are looking for.
According to Accounting.com, “Managerial accountants work within companies and organizations to direct internal financial processes; monitor costs, sales, spending, and budgets; conduct audits; identify past trends and predict future needs, and assist company leaders with financial decisions.” Typical job titles in this area include Budget Analyst, Financial Analyst, and Accounting Manager.
On a day-to-day basis, these accountants are usually found reviewing historical financial information and using that along with other inputs from company management to run various financial forecasts and models.
As far as career growth opportunities go, the management accounting functions frequently have supervisor and manager roles as well as director roles.
Want to work for the FBI? Wait…hold the phone, an accountant can work for the FBI? You bet! Accountants working for the FBI perform forensic accounting duties. According to the FBI website, forensic accountants use their “…skills to investigate and analyze financial information and mission-critical assets.”
They indicate that “following the money” skills are a huge piece of the puzzle in building a criminal case. According to Robert Half, “This job will keep you on your toes. There really isn’t a typical day in forensic accounting. Some days you may be crunching numbers, some days you might be conducting interviews, while others you may be reviewing documents.”
Forensic accountants can expect career growth opportunities to include various certifications including Certified Forensic Accountant along with CPAs. Supervisory, management, and director positions are typical career paths in government and private companies along with partnerships in public accounting firms.
If a career in the public sector and giving back to your community seems like the sort of ledger attending you want to spend your career doing, then working for the government as an accountant is your ticket to accounting happiness.
Governmental entities including the city where you live to the federal government (and everything in between) employ various types of accountants including auditors, analysts, and all of the folks needed to prepare financial statements.
Governmental accountants spend their time day-to-day doing many of the same functions as the accounting positions listed above, just using a slightly different set of technical guidelines specifically for governments.
Career growth opportunities in government follow many of the similar paths as the previous accounting positions and folks with a finance background are good candidates for many high-level leadership positions within the government.
To get started with a career in government accounting, first determine which type of position interests you most, then search for those positions in the government sector.
Account Job Search Tips: Get out there on social media!
If you stuck with us this far, you are probably considering one of these careers in accounting. Although the traditional methods of job hunting apply, don’t discount the power of social media.
Using these platforms, especially LinkedIn, will open you up for direct exposure to the people making the hiring decisions. Recruiters and hiring managers routinely search LinkedIn for folks that fit what they are looking for and will reach out to you even if you don’t appear to be looking for new opportunities.
LinkedIn is also a great place to be proactive and “connect” with hiring managers in your chosen field. Don’t be afraid of posting content either, there is no better time than now to start building your professional brand and getting one step closer to your dream career in accounting!