Pursuing a career in accounting can set you up for a lifetime of stable earnings. Accounting is a large field that’s always in demand, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a job.
However, the accounting field is widespread and diverse, with dozens of potential ways to develop your career and hundreds of potential positions to hold. How can you be sure which accounting career path is right for you?
Potential Career Paths
Let’s start by reviewing some of the potential career paths you might take as an accountant:
One of the most common paths is to become a certified public accountant (CPA), allowing you to work for a public accounting firm. Here, you’ll provide tax, accounting, tax planning, and consulting for a wide range of different clients. It’s an all-in-one position that almost anyone can achieve and has plenty of room for upward development.·
You could also consider becoming a tax accountant specifically. Here, you’ll be focused on tax-specific accounting work, such as quarterly and annual tax returns. Depending on your career path, you could work primarily with companies or individuals as clients.
If you’re a financial accountant, you’ll spend most of your time preparing reports that analyze a company’s performance. For example, you might work with profit and loss statements, cash flow statements, and balance sheets.
If you like the idea of working with management accounting and financial management with internal stakeholders, you could become a certified management accountant (CMA). To do this, you’ll need to pass the CMA exam, but the long-term career earnings will make it worth it.
Forensic accountants don’t deal with DNA analysis; instead, they use financial auditing to provide analyses and expert opinions on legal cases. For example, you may work with a prosecution team to investigate white-collar crimes like fraud or embezzlement.
You may also want to become a financial planner, working with companies to provide them advice on financial matters like budgeting, investing, and planning for taxes.
You could also become an internal auditor. These auditors work within a company to ensure it’s operating in a fiscally responsible and efficient manner. They may also ensure compliance with various laws and regulations.
Different Approaches to Career Development
Additionally, you’ll need to consider different approaches to career development, such as:
Working for a company
Many accounting professionals begin their journey working for a company; this might be as a team member within an accounting firm, or as a dedicated professional in a company within another industry. Either way, you may be able to work your way up the corporate ladder, eventually achieving the rank of Chief Financial Officer (CFO) or something similar.
You could also work as an independent consultant. This affords you more flexibility and control over your work, but also comes with greater instability. You’ll also be responsible for your own growth, securing more clients and more responsibilities.
Starting a firm of your own
If you like the idea of employing a team of accountants under you, or if you want to serve more in a leadership capacity, you could also start a firm of your own. This is usually done as a late-stage career move, once you have more experience.
Factors to Consider
How are you supposed to decide which of these paths is best? Consider the following aspects:
Don’t discount the power of personal interest. If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. Gravitate toward a field or subfield that genuinely sounds enticing. Your interests may change in the future, but at least you’ll start on the right path.
Long-term earning potential
Even entry-level positions in the accounting field make a decent income. However, you may want to choose a career path that affords you the highest possible trajectory of long-term growth.
You’ll also need to think about market demand – and how that demand might change over time. Is this a position that every company needs?
How much education do you need to achieve this position? Most accounting roles require a bachelor’s degree in accounting at minimum.
Some positions in accounting only require a minimum amount of education. But others require you to pass a formal exam and earn a specific certification. Most of the time, this is a straightforward process, but it’s still time consuming.
You may also want to choose a career path that affords you the most flexibility, giving you a wide range of options for the future.
There’s no shortage of possibilities for the development of your accounting career. Whatever your preferences are, and whatever your limitations are in terms of education and certification, you’re likely to find a path that works for you.