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Most accountants and auditors need at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field. Certification within a specific field of accounting improves job prospects. For example, many accountants become Certified Public Accountants (CPAs).Education
Most accountant and auditor positions require at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field. Some employers prefer to hire applicants who have a master’s degree, either in accounting or in business administration with a concentration in accounting.
A few universities and colleges offer specialized programs, such as a bachelor’s degree in internal auditing. In some cases, those with associate’s degrees, as well as bookkeepers and accounting clerks who meet the education and experience requirements set by their employers, get junior accounting positions and advance to accountant positions by showing their accounting skills on the job.
Many colleges help students gain practical experience through summer or part-time internships with public accounting or business firms.Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Every accountant filing a report with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is required by law to be a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Many other accountants choose to become a CPA to enhance their job prospects or to gain clients. Many employers will often pay the costs associated with the CPA exam.
CPAs are licensed by their state’s Board of Accountancy. Becoming a CPA requires passing a national exam and meeting other state requirements. Almost all states require CPA candidates to complete 150 semester hours of college coursework to be certified, which is 30 hours more than the usual 4-year bachelor’s degree. Many schools offer a 5-year combined bachelor’s and master’s degree to meet the 150-hour requirement, but a master’s degree is not required.
A few states allow a number of years of public accounting experience to substitute for a college degree.
All states use the four-part Uniform CPA Examination from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). Candidates do not have to pass all four parts at once, but most states require that they pass all four parts within 18 months of passing their first part.
Almost all states require CPAs to take continuing education to keep their license.
Certification provides an advantage in the job market because it shows professional competence in a specialized field of accounting and auditing. Accountants and auditors seek certifications from a variety of professional societies. Some of the most common certifications are listed below:
The Institute of Management Accountants offers the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) to applicants who complete a bachelor’s degree. Applicants must have worked at least 2 years in management accounting, pass a two-part exam, agree to meet continuing education requirements, and comply with standards of professional conduct. The exam covers areas such as financial statement analysis, working-capital policy, capital structure, valuation issues, and risk management.
The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) offers the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) to graduates from accredited colleges and universities who have worked for 2 years as internal auditors and have passed a four-part exam. The IIA also offers the Certified in Control Self-Assessment (CCSA), Certified Government Auditing Professional (CGAP), Certified Financial Services Auditor (CFSA), and Certification in Risk Management Assurance (CRMA) to those who pass the exams and meet educational and experience requirements.
ISACA offers the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) to candidates who pass an exam and have 5 years of experience auditing information systems. Information systems experience, financial or operational auditing experience, or related college credit hours can be substituted for up to 3 years of experience in information systems auditing, control, or security.
For accountants with a CPA, the AICPA offers the option to receive any or all of the Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV), Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP), or Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) certifications. The ABV requires a written exam, completion of at least six business valuation projects, and 75 hours of continuing education. The CITP requires 1,000 hours of business technology experience and 75 hours of continuing education. Candidates for the PFS also must complete a certain amount of work experience and continuing education, and pass a written exam.Advancement
Some top executives and financial managers have a background in accounting, internal auditing, or finance.
Beginning public accountants often advance to positions with more responsibility in 1 or 2 years and to senior positions within another few years. Those who excel may become supervisors, managers, or partners; open their own public accounting firm; or transfer to executive positions in management accounting or internal auditing in private firms.
Management accountants often start as cost accountants, junior internal auditors, or trainees for other accounting positions. As they rise through the organization, they may advance to accounting manager, chief cost accountant, budget director, or manager of internal auditing. Some become controllers, treasurers, financial vice presidents, chief financial officers, or corporation presidents.
Public accountants, management accountants, and internal auditors can move from one aspect of accounting and auditing to another. Public accountants often move into management accounting or internal auditing. Management accountants may become internal auditors, and internal auditors may become management accountants. However, it is less common for management accountants or internal auditors to move into public accounting.Important Qualities
Analytical skills. Accountants and auditors must be able to identify issues in documentation and suggest solutions. For example, public accountants use analytical skills in their work to minimize tax liability, and internal auditors use these skills to detect fraudulent use of funds.
Communication skills. Accountants and auditors must be able to listen carefully to facts and concerns from clients, managers, and others. They must also be able to discuss the results of their work in both meetings and written reports.
Detail oriented. Accountants and auditors must pay attention to detail when compiling and examining documentation.
Math skills. Accountants and auditors must be able to analyze, compare, and interpret facts and figures, although complex math skills are not necessary.
Organizational skills. Strong organizational skills are important for accountants and auditors who often work with a range of financial documents for a variety of clients.
Average Length of Employment
Top Careers Before Account Leader
Top Careers After Account Leader
Hispanic or Latino10.1%
Black or African American0.8%
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University of Phoenix18.2%
University of Alabama6.1%
George Mason University5.4%
University of Central Oklahoma4.7%
Stephen F Austin State University4.7%
University of Maryland - University College4.1%
West Virginia University4.1%
University of Utah4.1%
University of Houston4.1%
Cleveland State University4.1%
University of Maryland - College Park3.4%
Ohio State University3.4%
University of Connecticut3.4%
University of Florida3.4%
University of Washington3.4%
University of Texas at Austin3.4%
Southern New Hampshire University3.4%
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|Job Title||Company||Location||Start Date||Salary|
|Lead Accountant, Global Reporting & Tax Compliance||Aptify||Tysons Corner, VA||Feb 06, 2016||$103,168|
|Lead Accountant||Salesforce.Com, Inc.||San Francisco, CA||Jul 30, 2016||$103,106|
|Lead Accountant||Worldtransload and Logistics LLC||New Hope, MN||Jan 10, 2015||$102,877|
|Lead Accountant||Salesforce.Com, Inc.||San Francisco, CA||Jan 16, 2012||$100,000|
|Accountant Lead||Whirlpool Corporation||Benton Harbor, MI||Mar 05, 2012||$100,000|
|Account Leader||Cummins Inc.||Columbus, IN||Nov 19, 2015||$91,600 -
|Account Leader||Cummins Inc.||Columbus, IN||Nov 20, 2015||$91,600 -
|Account Leader||Cummins Inc.||Columbus, IN||Oct 15, 2015||$91,600 -
|Senior Technical Account Lead||SONY Computer Entertainment America LLC||San Mateo, CA||Nov 23, 2016||$90,355|
|Lead Accountant||U.S. Environmental Rental Corp.||Waltham, MA||Sep 29, 2011||$89,211|
|Accountant Leader, Cash Operations||Computer Sciences Corporation||Falls Church, VA||Feb 15, 2013||$87,464|
|Lead Accountant||KBR, Inc.||Houston, TX||Sep 18, 2010||$85,000|
|Lead Accountant, Adhesives||Henkel Corporation||Rocky Hill, CT||Aug 17, 2015||$84,510 -
|Lead Accountant||Halliburton Energy Services, Inc.||Houston, TX||Oct 02, 2010||$81,803|
|Lead Accountant||KBR, Inc.||Houston, TX||Dec 20, 2011||$80,000|
|Lead Accountant||Laureate Education, Inc.||Baltimore, MD||Jan 09, 2016||$77,000 -
|Lead Accountant||AOL LLC||Dulles Town Center, VA||Feb 13, 2010||$76,000 -
|FS Account Lead||R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company||Rockville, MD||Oct 01, 2014||$72,933|
|FS Account Lead||Donnelley Financial LLC||Rockville, MD||Dec 20, 2016||$72,155|
|Lead Accountant||AOL Inc.||Dulles Town Center, VA||Feb 19, 2011||$70,000 -
|Financial Services Account Lead||RR Donnelley & Sons Company||Rockville, MD||Oct 31, 2016||$69,995|
|Financial Services Account Lead||RR Donnelley & Sons Company||Rockville, MD||Dec 23, 2016||$69,995|
|Lead Accountant||Transamerica Life Insurance Company||Cedar Rapids, IA||Aug 01, 2015||$68,869 -
|Technical Account Lead||Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc.||Redlands, CA||Sep 11, 2012||$68,765|
|FS Account Lead||R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company||Rockville, MD||Oct 01, 2014||$68,177|
|Lead Accountant||The Hanover Insurance Company||Worcester, MA||May 08, 2016||$65,000 -
|Senior Accountant Lead||Thunder Group Inc.||Industry, CA||Mar 16, 2015||$63,066|
|Senior Accountant Lead||Renoir Fashion Inc.||La Puente, CA||Aug 18, 2016||$61,880|
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