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Admit it, there are certain stereotypes that come to mind when you think about characterizing the typical accountant. There’s a lot more to the profession that spreadsheets and complex equations. Most accountants, in fact, would say their jobs are varied and interesting, providing them with detailed information about how a company or organization conducts its business. As a profession, accounting offers a number of specialty areas, with opportunities in high-level management for those who’ve earned an advanced degree. An accountant salary, master's degree level is $67,000 annually.
What Do Accountants Do?
In short, accountants are responsible for the financial records of a department or an organization. They compile, analyze and verify financial data to ensure efficiency and compliance with the law. Accountants prepare written reports for their clients or an organization's management. Accountants use their findings to guide management through different ways to streamline operations, reduce costs and improve profits. Virtually every industry uses accountants. Accountants find employment in large corporations, small businesses, and nonprofit organizations such as academic institutions and foundations. Some are in solo or small group practice catering to individuals and small, local businesses and groups.
What Kind of Jobs Can You Get With an Accounting Degree?
There are a number of accounting degree jobs in different specialty fields. Your interests, college coursework and work experience will help you find your niche.
Although this is not a specialty field, it's often the starting point for a career in accounting. Accounting associates help accountants and auditors by preparing some of the documents needed for accounting procedures. Associates need bookkeeping and other basic accounting skills. Assistants process, record and pay invoices and similar transactions. They may be required to resolve matters of outstanding payments with customers, clients and vendors. A bachelor's degree is typically required for an associate position.
Auditing and Assurance Services
Auditors work for companies, government agencies (internal auditors) or for independent firms or agencies. They are the watchdogs of the profession, examining financial records to ensure proper fiscal conduct.
Actuaries specialize in risk management and typically work for insurance companies or large corporations. Most actuaries have accounting degrees and have passed a series of exams to become actuaries, although a number of colleges and universities are now offering degrees in actuarial science.
Cost accountants analyze business expenses to help a company improve its processes and save money. They examine the costs associated with every aspect of a business, such as administration, labor, materials, production and shipping. After compiling their data, cost accountants prepare a written report that business leaders can use in their decision-making.
If auditors are watchdogs, forensic accountants are the detectives of the accounting profession. Forensic accountants , also known as forensic or investigative auditors, specialize in uncovering embezzlement, fraud, money laundering and tax evasion. In some cases, forensic accountants are called upon to provide expert testimony in a court of law.
Government accounting involves the records of taxpayers and government organizations. The two largest federal agencies employing accountants are the Department of Treasury (DOT) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Governments at the state, county and municipal levels need accountants too, employing them to oversee finances and manage budgets.
Investment accountants work for brokerage houses and asset management firms. They manage their clients' investments and ensure compliance with the regulations of the state in which they practice. They are highly knowledgeable about stocks and bonds, currencies, precious metals and other types of investments.
Managerial accountants prepare financial information for use within an organization, typically a private corporation. They analyze financial data for budgeting and planning purposes. A nationally-recognized credential, that of Certified Management Accountant (CMA), is desirable to many employers of managerial accountants, as it denotes a high level of specialized training and professional competence.
Of all the accounting specialties, public accounting has the broadest range of duties and the greatest number of practitioners. Public accountants serve individuals, small businesses and corporations. If you want to have taxes prepared professionally rather than do them yourself, a public accountant is usually the person you'll see. Public accountants sometimes work as financial planners or financial advisors.
A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) holds a minimum of a bachelor's degree in accounting and has passed the rigorous Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination.
Staff accountants are generalists. Their duties vary depending on the needs of their employers. Staff accountants working for a large company may have supervisory duties, while those employed by small companies have a greater role in bookkeeping and day-to-day transactions.
How Does an Accountant Salary Change, Depending on Your Degree?
If you want to get started in the accounting field but don't want to spend a lot of time in school, consider a one-year diploma or two-year certificate program from a community college. Either of these programs will prepare you for most jobs in data entry or bookkeeping. You may also be able to get a job as an accountant's assistant. Although you probably won't have opportunities for advancement without further formal education, it's a good introduction to the field.
To get a job as an accountant, you'll need to earn at least a bachelor's degree. U.S. News and World Report ranks the top schools to study accounting. Among them are Stanford University, University of Southern California, University of Texas at Austin, Brigham Young University, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Chicago, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and University of Pennsylvania. But you're hardly limited to these schools. In all, there are 67 schools ranked on the U.S. News list. Many more accredited programs in accounting are available, including online degree programs. A bachelor's degree can cost $10,000 to $15,000 per year for in-state tuition at a public university and $55,000 per year or more for a private university.
Depending on the school and the program you choose, a major in accounting culminates in a Bachelor of Science (BS), Bachelor of Arts (BA) or a Bachelor of Accountancy (BAC). It usually takes four years of full-time study to earn a bachelor's, so you'll need more time to complete your degree if you're attending classes on a part-time basis. Most schools require that you complete 120 credit hours of coursework that includes accounting, business and general education.
How Much Do Accountants Make With a Master's Degree?
Accountants who aspire to careers in management can earn a master's degree in accounting or finance. The average accountant salary, master's level is $67,000. The salary of a CPA with a master's degree averages $72,799. Accounting managers earn an average of $76,584 per year. An MBA in accounting salary averages $77,288. Financial controllers earn an average of $82,208 and corporate controllers an average of $98,876. A master's in finance salary typically averages $93,007.
With job titles such as Chief Executive Officer or Chief Financial Officer, an accountant with a master's can earn much more. The investment you make in a master's degree can translate to big dividends in your career.
What does it take to get a master's in accounting? A bachelor's degree in accounting is usually not required for admissions to a master's program, although if your degree is not in field related to accounting, finance, or business, you will likely have to fill a number of prerequisites. These courses could including accounting, pre-calculus and statistics. Each graduate school has its own specific requirements with respect to there may be specific admissions undergraduate grade point average and score on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). An academic advisor can help you evaluate your credentials and plan your program for the master's degree.
A master's program usually requires two years of full-time study. Coursework includes advanced accounting topics, methods and theory. Students can take electives according to their areas of interest. In some cases, schools are offering 4+1 programs, giving students an opportunity to complete the master's in one year after the bachelor's degree. Most graduate programs require selection of a specialty area.
Where Do Accountants Work?
Accounting degree jobs are usually in an office setting, although some accountants, particularly those who are self-employed, work from home. Accountants and associates usually work during regular business hours, Monday through Friday, but they may have to put in extra hours during tax season or at the end of a company's fiscal year. Some accountants and associates may travel to work at a client's place of business.
The days of the calculator are over! The accounting profession has changed rapidly in recent years because of the availability and affordability of quality accounting software. The programs that enable accountants to manipulate numbers faster and in a variety of more complex ways.
In general, accountants report a high rate of job satisfaction. Statistics from U.S. News and World Report attest to this, ranking accounting as third best among jobs in business. U.S. News looks at growth potential of the occupation, opportunities for advancement, stress and work/life balance. As a profession, accounting score high on all of these factors.
What Is the Average Pay for Accountants?
Accounting associates earn a reported median salary of $44,483 per year, with a range of $33,568 to $60,120. Median salary means that half in the profession earned more, while half earned less. The median salary for an accountant is $49,749 per year, with an average range between $37,049 and $70,571. Of accountants surveyed, 73 percent reported that they receive medical benefits. Among the same group, 57 percent reported they also receive dental benefits.
Salaries for accountants vary with the amount of education and certifications one has. Employer and geographic location are also factors. The number of years of experience alone do not have a great impact on salary. Skills that enhance pay and job opportunities include budget management, financial applications, analysis, and reporting and general ledger analysis.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tracks data and makes employment projections for all civilian jobs. According to BLS estimates, there will be a 10 percent rate of job growth in the accounting field through 2026. This rate is higher than average for accounting degree jobs when compared to all other occupations.
Fact vs. Fiction: The Real Dollars and Sense of the Accounting Profession
You have to be a mathematical genius to be an accountant, right? Not at all. The math skills required for accounting are actually pretty basic: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Just as important are strong analytical, writing and communications skills.
Accounting is a profession for men, isn't it? No, and in fact, the numbers are starting to favor women. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that women are earning 52 percent of the bachelor's degrees in accounting and 53 percent of the master's degrees. Over the past 20 years, women have comprised half the membership of the ranks of new certified public accountants (CPAs).
Aren't accountants stuck at their desks all day? Hardly. Most accountants find themselves working with colleagues in fast-paced, time sensitive environments. Because accountants complete reports and other special projects, they're generally part of a team and meet with colleagues regularly.
My cousin is an accountant, so she can do my taxes, right? She could, but would you go to an eye doctor if you had a broken arm? As in the medical profession, the accounting profession has areas of specialty. Not every accountant is updated on current tax code or is in a position to give detailed tax advice.
- PayScale: Masters of Account (MAcc) Degree
- PayScale: Average Salary by Degree/Major Subject for Certification: Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
- Rasmussen College: What Do Accountants Do?
- US Bureau of Labor Statistics: Accountants and Auditors
- Financial Career Options: 6 Myths About Being an Accountant
- PayScale: Master of Finance (MFin) Degree