You have an aptitude for mathematics and possess well-honed analytical skills. Your family and friends are encouraging you to consider a career in accounting. This career can open doors to a wide variety of opportunities in both the profit and nonprofit sectors. Before entering this lucrative and prestigious career, carefully consider the pros and cons of being an accountant.
Career opportunities are very favorable. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employment of accountants and auditors will grow by 22 percent during the decade ending 2018. As the need for more accountability, transparency and controls in financial reporting increases, all types of accountants--public, management, government, internal auditors--will be in demand. As an accountant, you can work almost anywhere: private industry, government office, tax preparation firms and college and university campuses. You can also consider the self-employment option. If you obtain your CPA (Certified Public Accountant) license, you will be recession-resistant.
Salaries and Benefits
In 2009, the National Association of Colleges and Employers surveyed recent graduates in accounting and discovered that bachelor's degree candidates received starting offers averaging $48,993, while master's degree candidates were offered $49,786. Although salaries will vary from state to state, experienced accountants can easily earn six-figure salaries and have many opportunities for advancement. The majority of accountants receive health and medical insurance, a 401(k) plan and paid annual leave. Senior accountants may also have an expense account and company car.
Many accountants struggle with maintaining a work-life balance. They work beyond the standard 40-hour week, especially during the tax season. A CPA is also required to take continuing education courses in order to renew her license. Most states require 120 hours of continuing professional education every three years with a minimum of 20 hours per calendar year. As client load increases, self-employed CPAs may find themselves working more than 50 hours a week.
CPAs are ultimately responsible for the reports and forms they sign. As external auditors, they assure investors and authorities that the company's statements have been correctly prepared and reported. Internal auditors verify their organization's practices and check for fraud or mismanagement. In both cases, the CPA must demonstrate high levels of integrity and confidence. If a CPA is working for a government agency or organization with multiple locations, he may be required to travel frequently throughout the state or country. CPAs must learn to carefully monitor energy and stress levels.
2016 Salary Information for Accountants and Auditors
Accountants and auditors earned a median annual salary of $68,150 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, accountants and auditors earned a 25th percentile salary of $53,240, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $90,670, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 1,397,700 people were employed in the U.S. as accountants and auditors.