In terms of opportunity and job stability, there are few careers that have more to offer than that of an accountant. But before you get too far into things, you should have an understanding of what it takes to get started.
Why Do You Want to Become an Accountant?
The first step is to figure out why you want to become an accountant. If you don’t have a clear motivation for pursuing this career path, it’ll be easy to get off track and give up when circumstances get tough.
One of the keys to knowing why you want to become an accountant is having a clear understanding of what accountants actually do and the benefits that come with this type of career.
For starters, accountants aren’t just number-crunchers. The days of tapping on calculators and feverishly balancing paper books are behind us. Today’s accountants are analytical decision-makers who keep businesses (or individuals) operating smoothly. Depending on the niche, you may be expected to do any or all of the following:
- Prepare invoices
- Prepare tax reports on behalf of individuals and/or companies
- Analyze profits and losses (and offer suggestions for maximizing and minimizing)
- Reconcile bank statements
- Develop and review budgets, expenses, and balance sheets
- Create and maintain robust financial databases
- Implement and maintain payroll processes
Most accountants have a specific niche or title. Common types of accountants include auditors, CPAs, forensic accountants, and government accountants.
The benefits of becoming an accountant include excellent job security, lucrative pay, opportunities for career growth, and the cultivation of a diverse skill set.
Speaking of skills, there are a few that you’ll need in order to become a top accountant:
- Superb math skills and familiarity with numbers
- A knack for systematic organization
- A preference for analytical thinking
- An eye for detail
- Ability to quickly learn and execute with new technology
Some of these skills are innate, while others are learned over time. Most require a combination of natural talent and formal education and experience.
This is just a quick breakdown of what an accountant does, what’s required, and what can be expected. It’s highly-recommended that you conduct thorough due diligence before entering this career field. If it’s a good fit, you’ll know it!
6 Tips for Becoming an Accountant
The accounting industry is competitive, but it also offers plenty of opportunities. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in this industry, there are a few things you can do to get things moving in a positive direction:
1. Enroll in a Degree Program
Becoming an accountant starts with enrolling in a degree program at an accredited university. Regardless of which path or niche you ultimately choose, you’ll need a Bachelor of Science in Accounting to be taken seriously.
As part of getting a bachelor’s degree, you’ll find it helpful to take a combination of business-related courses on topics like finance, ethics, management, statistics, international finance, etc.
Getting an accounting degree can be expensive, but don’t let costs prevent you from pursuing one. There are plenty of ways to offset the cost, including grants, university scholarships, and federal scholarships. You’ll also find private scholarships, like this accounting scholarship from Wiley, to be helpful in lowering the cost.
2. Pick a Path
Saying you want to become an “accountant” is like saying you want to go into “business.” That’s great, but what aspect of accounting are you interested in? You don’t have to be married to one track, but choosing a career path early on will help you focus your efforts. (You can always pivot down the road.)
There are a couple of different ways to choose a career path. You can go into a particular type of accounting – meaning bookkeeping or forensic auditing – or a specific industry or sector, like government, nonprofits, or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).
Again, don’t get totally overwhelmed by picking a path. Your career will evolve over time. For now, you simply want to focus your efforts so that you’re able to improve your skills and earn valuable experience.
3. Find an Internship
Internship programs offer one of the best ways to earn experience and build connections with future employers. These internships can come in both paid and unpaid formats. And while many students are picky and only apply for programs that are willing to pay them now, we’d encourage you to maintain proper perspective.
While it’s nice to get paid now, consider experience and on-the-job learning the primary form of compensation. In many cases, internships lead to full-time job offers after graduation. But even if you don’t get an offer from the company, you’ll at least have the chance to earn valuable referrals and build out your professional network.
4. Secure a Job
Upon graduation – or in the months leading up to graduation – your goal is to obtain a job. While it’s nice if this job pays well, you’re more focused on getting your foot in the door with a company that offers plenty of upward mobility.
5. Gain Experience
The first 12 to 18 months on the job are critical. During this time, you have an incredible opportunity to learn and gain valuable experience. Ask questions, show up early, leave late, take higher-ups out to lunch to pick their brains, etc. This is one of the few times in your life where you’ll be able to buckle down and work without a bunch of distractions and personal obligations. Take advantage of your long leash.
6. Keep Growing
Once you’re in the industry, your ultimate goal is to keep growing so that you can advance your career and accomplish your goals. There are two primary ways you do this:
- Continuing education. If you’re serious about moving up and earning new opportunities, you’ll need to invest in continuing education. You may even want to go through a certification process to get your CPA designation.
- As the old saying goes, it’s not what you know, but who you know. Make sure you’re building strong relationships with as many industry power players as possible. You never know when you’ll need to tap into this relational capital.
If you remain laser-focused on continuing education and network (while also doing your job well), you’ll never have a shortage of opportunities.
Adding it All Up
The process of becoming an accountant is a challenging one. But it’s also a realistic goal to set for yourself. By going through the proper steps and treating each stage of the process with the seriousness it deserves, you can begin moving towards a rewarding career that promises many lucrative benefits. Best of luck!