Accounting is the recording of financial transactions, and accountants prepare and examine this information for various reports and analyses. Accountants also assess financial operations as well as ensure taxes are paid properly.1 These functions can be considered essential to any business, regardless of whether it is small or large, public or private.
Students who pursue a degree in accounting have the opportunity to prepare for their career path by learning about foundational accounting concepts and principles. In an accounting program, a student may learn how to interpret financial statements and perform core accounting functions for small to moderate-sized organizations.
By studying accounting, students will have the opportunity to acquire skill sets that include the ability to distinguish between financial accounting, managerial accounting, cost accounting and tax accounting principles and practices. They may also learn about relevant accounting issues and the importance of the moral standards embodied in the professional code of ethics. Accounting curriculum, can be designed to develop an overall knowledge of corporate accounting, taxation, governmental and not-for-profit accounting and auditing. All in all, a degree in accounting can help students prepare for many professional pathways and a variety of career options.
Accounting Career Possibilities
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for accountants are projected to grow faster than average compared to other occupations across the country through the year 2024.1 Employers surveyed by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) also indicated that they plan to hire 11% more fresh college graduates from the class of 2016 than they did from the previous year.2
Dr. Uzell Williams, Lead Instructor of Accounting at Colorado Technical University (CTU), isn’t surprised by the growth in opportunities for accountants. According to Dr. Williams, “A variety of organizations may benefit from accounting professionals who are abreast of the changing laws and prepared to do the work.” While the following positions are only a sample of the possible careers a student with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting degree may pursue, these occupations demonstrate the wide range of industries and organizational roles available in the accounting field.
Accountants and Auditors
Accountants and auditors prepare and ensure the integrity of important business reports, such as profit and loss statements. They may also verify an organization’s bookkeeping practices for compliance with federal, state and local laws and regulations. Furthermore, accountants and auditors may analyze trends and make appropriate budget recommendations to management. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, opportunities for accountants and auditors are projected to grow by 10% through the year 2024.1
A cost estimator uses data to calculate the labor, time, materials and money necessary to manufacture a product or construct a building, for example. They conduct research including analyzing technical documentation and blueprints as well as consulting with contractors and clients. A cost estimator’s projections assist managers in price estimates or project bidding. Cost estimators often collaborate with engineers and generally specialize in a particular product or industry. The BLS reports the job market for cost estimators is projected to grow 11%, or faster than average, through 2026.3
Budget analysts help public and private businesses organize their finances by working with program and project managers to develop an organization’s budget. They review managers’ budget proposals for completeness and accuracy and ensure the proposals adhere to laws and other regulations. They also evaluate funding requests to verify they have merit. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job opportunities are projected to grow at a rate of 7% for budget analysts through 2026.4
A financial analyst guides businesses and individuals looking to make investments. For example, a financial analyst might recommend buying or selling a company’s stock based on either its current strength or projected growth. Banks, buy- and sell-side investment firms, insurance companies and investment banks hire financial analysts. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects opportunities for financial analysts is projected to grow 11% through 2026.5
Personal Financial Advisor
As the title suggests, personal financial advisors direct clients on how to allocate or invest their finances. They meet with clients, discuss their financial situation, and learn about their long-term financial goals. Then, they devise a financial plan to help their clients meet those goals. For some clients, a personal financial advisor might be working on a retirement plan and therefore dealing with pensions, retirement packages, and so forth. For other clients, a personal financial advisor might answer questions involving real estate, taxes and insurance. According to the BLS, the number of opportunities for personal financial advisors is projected to grow 14%, or much faster than average, through 2026.6
Financial managers oversee the monetary concerns of businesses. They help companies decide how to invest money, identify the best way to raise funds for growth, and set short and long-term revenue goals. Financial managers also coordinate accounting and produce financial reports, business activity reports and financial forecasts. The BLS reports opportunities for financial managers are projected to grow at a rate of 19% through 2026.7
Management consultants, often referred to as management analysts, provide guidance to companies on how to surpass obstacles and improve performance. In general, they gather and review a company’s information, recommend new systems or procedures, and communicate objective solutions or alternative practices for business problems. Management consultants must analyze financial data to help reduce costs and increase revenue. According to the BLS, the number of opportunities for management consultants is projected to grow 12% through 2026.8
Additional Career Paths
According to the BLS, there were approximately 1.3 million accountants and auditors in the United States in 2014.1 Companies continue to hire financial and business analysts to help them identify growth positions, and business also seek accountants with specialized experience in revenue recognition, Securities and Exchange Commission reporting, and risk and compliance.9
Additional career paths for accounting degree holders include:
- Bookkeeping, accounting or auditing clerk
- Loan officer
- Tax examiner, collector or revenue agent
- Information technology (IT) auditor
- Postsecondary teacher (accounting)1
Accounting professionals may choose to build their credentials to create new career opportunities and meet employer requirements through the completion of professional certifications. For example, accountants can become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) to enhance their job prospects or to gain clients. A CPA certification provides an advantage in the job market because it shows professional competence in a specialized field of accounting and auditing. Furthermore, every accountant filing a report with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is required by law to be a CPA. CPAs are licensed by their state’s Board of Accountancy, and almost all states require CPA candidates to complete 150 semester hours of college coursework to be certified as well as pass a national, four-part exam from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).10
The Association of Accountants and Financial Professionals in Business sponsor the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) certification. Professionals who hold this accounting certification demonstrate proficiency in financial analysis, budgeting, strategic assessment and other skills. To qualify for a CMA, professionals must have a bachelor’s degree and at least two consecutive years in either financial management or management accounting. In addition, there is a two-part exam that must be passed. Accounting professionals may opt to receive both the CPA and CMA certifications since there is an overlap in exam material.10
Finally, The CFA Institute confers the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification to investment professionals who have at least a bachelor’s degree, four years of work experience, and pass three exams covering topics such as accounting, economics, ethics, money management and security analysis.10, 11 The CFA can be considered to be one of the most respected designations in finance, often thought of as the “gold standard” in the field of investment analysis.11
Technology and Advancement
With a career in accounting, motivated professionals may not only earn certifications for pursuing advanced education, but they may also choose to stay up-to-date on technological developments. Mobile devices and cloud computing are already permeating many aspects of a CPA’s daily duties. In addition, CPAs also have increasing access to more robust business intelligence and data analysis tools that use XML and XBRL tags, large databases and sophisticated algorithms to quickly analyze a company’s financial activity to identify risks, concerns and opportunities.12
Accountants may also choose to develop a horizontal, rather than a vertical, view of accounting. This means becoming well-versed in aspects of finance as well as in accounting. Accountants may have the opportunity to do this by participating in rotational programs and reaching out to subject matter experts. Understanding all areas of both accounting and finance may help an accounting career immensely and even lead to discovering a specialty field to pursue based on personal interests.13
Study Accounting at CTU
Accounting courses at Colorado Technical University align to the educational standards of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). A student who meets the unique requirements of the State Board of Accounting in their state’s Application for CPA Licensure is qualified to sit for the CPA exam. CTU’s programs are not designed to prepare students for the CPA or CMA examination or any other certification exam but cover the knowledge areas of the uniform CPA and CMA certification.
1. “Accountants and Auditors.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/accountants-and-auditors.htm (Visited 9/14/17).
2. O’Neil, Cheri. “Why this is a Good Time to Be a New Accounting Graduate.” Robert Half. Retrieved from: https://www.roberthalf.com/finance/blog/why-this-is-a-good-time-to-be-a-new-accounting-graduate (Visited 9/14/17).
3. “Cost Estimators.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/cost-estimators.htm (Visited 9/14/17).
4. “Budget Analysts.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/budget-analysts.htm (Visited 9/14/17).
5. “Financial Analysts.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/financial-analysts.htm (Visited 9/14/17).
6. “Personal Financial Advisors.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/personal-financial-advisors.htm (Visited 9/14/17).
7. “Financial Managers.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/financial-managers.htm (Visited 9/14/17).
8. “Management Analysts.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/management-analysts.htm (Visited 9/14/17).
9. “2016 Salary Guide: Accounting & Finance.” Robert Half. Retrieved from: https://www.roberthalf.com/sites/default/files/Media_Root/images/at-pdfs/robert_half_2016_salary_guide.pdf (Visited 9/14/17).
10. “Accounting and Financial Certifications Employers Want to See.” Robert Half. Retrieved from: https://www.roberthalf.com/finance/blog/accounting-and-financial-certifications-employers-want-to-see (Visited 9/14/17).
11. “Chartered Financial Analyst – CFA.” Investopedia. Retrieved from: http://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/cfa.asp (Visited 9/14/17).
12. Drew, Jeff. “Technology and CPAs: Visions of the Future.” Journal of Accountancy. Retrieved from: http://www.journalofaccountancy.com/issues/2012/jun/20114844.html (Visited 9/14/17).
13. Ursick, Mark. “Ten Career Tips for Young CPAs.” AICPA. Retrieved from: http://www.aicpastore.com/Content/media/PRODUCER_CONTENT/Newsletters/Articles_2013/CPA/Feb/BuildCareers.jsp (Visited 9/14/17).
For important information about the educational debt, earnings, and completion rates of students who attended this program, go to www.coloradotech.edu/disclosures. CTU cannot guarantee employment or salary. Not all programs are available to residents of all states. Financial aid is available for those who qualify.