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How to Become an Accountant Without a Degree
There are paths you can take to become an accountant without earning a college degree. You will, however, need some post-secondary education to get an entry level job as a bookkeeper, accounting clerk or auditing clerk. Sometimes, financial considerations or other issues make it difficult to spend four years in college. Non-degree options can be a good choice if you are interested in a career in the accounting field.
Non-degree Accounting Options
Positions in the field of accounting that do not require a degree include bookkeeper, accounting clerk and auditing clerk. Although many employers insist that accountants have a four-year college degree, some will promote experienced employees who have proven their skill working at non-degree jobs. Bookkeepers typically perform routine tasks such as posting transactions in a general ledger and in accounts such as accounts payable and payroll. They use spreadsheets and databases to produce reports and financial statements. An accounting clerk is similar to a bookkeeper, except that she usually works for a large employer and specializes in a particular area like payroll. Auditing clerks review accounts for accuracy, correct errors and report discrepancies.
Qualifications for Accounting Jobs With No Degree
The requirements for bookkeepers, accounting clerks and auditing clerks combine formal education and on-the-job training. You need a high school diploma and some college. Basic math and computer skills are essential. You should be detail-oriented and honest. Useful college courses include basic bookkeeping and accounting, as well as classes teaching the use of spreadsheets and other accounting software. On-the-job training takes up to six months. In large companies, the training may be through a formal program. A small business might pair you with a supervisor or experienced co-worker. You'll learn how to use specialized software and follow your employer's procedures. Although a four-year degree is not necessary, an associate's degree is helpful when you are trying to get your foot in the door.
Working Your Way Up
The duties of bookkeepers are similar to those of accountants in some ways. The difference is that accountants focus on the big picture. For example, the accountant prepares tax returns, assesses department efficiency and monitors compliance with accounting standards and regulations. Bookkeepers concentrate on day-to-day tasks. This gives a bookkeeper a chance to demonstrate his skill and ability. That can lead to promotion to accountant. Another way to enhance your chances of becoming an accountant without a degree is to become certified. Once you have two years of full-time experience as a bookkeeper, you are eligible to take a certification exam administered by the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers. The National Association of Certified Bookkeepers also offers an online certification exam.
Figures compiled by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the median salary for bookkeepers, accounting clerks and auditing clerks was $38,390 in May 2016. For accountants, the median salary was $68,150. The BLS projects good opportunities for these occupational categories. For bookkeepers, overall jobs are expected to decline by 8 percent from 2014 to 2024 due to automation of many accounting tasks. However, people leaving this job category mean employers will continue to need new workers. As a result of changes in tax codes and regulations, combined with economic growth and the complexities of globalization, accountant positions are expected to grow by 11 percent during the same period.
Based in Atlanta, Georgia, William Adkins has been writing professionally since 2008. He writes about career, employment and job preparation issues. Adkins holds master's degrees in history and sociology with a focus on employment and labor from Georgia State University. He has conducted research sponsored by the National Science Foundation to develop career opportunities for people with disabilities.