A career in accounting is a natural choice if you like organized, systematic work processes that center on accurate record-keeping and reporting. To get into an accounting career, you typically need a bachelor's degree along with additional training. You also want to explore various career sectors to find the right fit.
You can take some basic accounting courses in high school to get a feel for accounting principles. This experience sets you up well for an accounting or business degree, which are standard educational options for this field. To earn your accounting or business degree, you will take general education courses, business and economics courses and specialized accounting classes. Finance classes are also standard in a business or accounting degree program. A master's degree in accounting or an MBA with accounting emphasis improves your career options.
While you can get basic accounting and bookkeeping jobs in private companies with just a college degree, becoming a certified public accountant increases your career options. A CPA requires 150 total contact hours in education as well as successfully completing the CPA exam. Many CPAs complete a five-year bachelor's and master's program to accrue the necessary contact hours. A major distinction with a CPA is the ability to file formal financial reports and documents with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which greatly increases your value to a public corporation.
It is common to complete an internship as part of your accounting degree requirement. In a business administration program, you may have a required internship. Regardless of whether it's required, gaining practical experience while finishing school offers a tremendous advantage. Many employers seek interns or student workers as part of their recruiting strategies. Accounting professors often have contacts in the professional arena to aid students in finding entry-level work. Along with the hands-on training you get from an internship, employers may offer entry-level positions to top performers.
Career Options and Pay
While in school, it is helpful to choose the right career path to focus your classes and internship. A degree allows you to work as a management accountant for a public or private company or a government agency. A CPA can work for corporations, government offices and private clients. You also can work for the government in a tax regulation role. Auditing is another career track in which you apply your expertise to review company accounting practices and records. Accountants are well-paid, with an average annual salary of $72,500 as of May 2013, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.