Why Choose Accounting? Benefits of a Career in Accounting

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An accountant working at a desk on a computer with paperwork and a calculator.Accountants can have a significant impact on an organization’s finances and are often the steady hand behind their success. Accountants are consistently in demand to track financial transactions and recommend balance sheet-boosting strategies to their clients. This ongoing need for finance experts is one of the reasons why many choose careers in accounting. Other benefits to an accounting career include a manageable work schedule, an emphasis on work-life balance, and a variety of options for career paths.

Today’s accountants recognize that they need to be proficient in data analytics and modern accounting practices to advance in their careers. An advanced education, such as a Master of Accountancy, can arm prospective accountants with up-to-date data analytics tools to enhance their existing expertise in the field.

Why Choose a Career in Accounting?

Accountants appreciate the rewarding challenge of applying critical thinking and financial expertise to business decisions. Some of the reasons to choose a career in accounting are:

  • Marketable skills: A vast range of opportunities are available for accountants in government, the nonprofit sector, and the private sector.
  • Advanced roles: Experience as an accountant can be a key step to advanced roles in finance and business, from financial manager to chief financial officer.
  • Choice of employment: Accountants may work alone in a small business, work alongside other accountants in a large department, or launch an independent entrepreneurial venture serving a host of clients.
  • Variable career options: Accountants can pursue a variety of careers, such as auditor, investment accountant, financial consultant, or cost accountant.
  • Stability: An accounting role is normally stable, with demand increasing across industries.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), accountants can expect to undertake a variety of financial tasks. Most accountants work in offices. However, some also work from home. They may travel to different locations for meetings with clients or colleagues.

Typical accounting tasks may include:

  • Preparing, examining, and interpreting financial records
  • Identifying business opportunities and risks
  • Ensuring proper tax compliance
  • Recommending cost-effective financial strategies
  • Communicating findings through reports and meetings

Aspiring accountants can work in any of a host of different industries including:

  • Assurance services
  • Risk management
  • Finance
  • Insurance
  • Health care

Accountant Skills

Accountants build up a number of skills that can benefit them in their accounting careers or easily be transferred to related career paths. These skills include:

  • Analysis and critical thinking: Accountants learn how to critically assess and understand different types of financial data, identify any errors or incongruities, and then address them with appropriate solutions.
  • Math and technical skills: Accountants should be proficient with data, finance systems, and technology. They also use statistical and mathematics knowledge to understand and interpret figures and solve financial problems.
  • Communication: Accountants should be able to explain complex financial information clearly to clients and colleagues and give unambiguous reports on their work.
  • Organization: Accountants often work with a variety of financial documents and undertake several tasks at once. This requires organizational skills and acute attention to detail.

Specializations

Another reason to choose a career in accounting is the variety of available specializations. Specializing can help accountants hone specific skills and make them competitive candidates in their areas of expertise. Accounting specialty choices include:

  • Information management and technology assurance: This specialization ensures that accountants will be up to date on the latest technological innovations in the finance industry. Professionals can earn the certified information technology professional (CITP) credential through the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).
  • Valuation: Accountants in this area are experts at valuing assets, whether they were obtained legally or illegally. Accountants who want to work with corporate or business clients can gain accredited business valuation (ABV) program certification through the AICPA. Those who want to work primarily with intangible assets can earn the certified entity and intangible valuations (CEIV) credential through the AICPA. Finally, those interested in financial instruments can obtain the certification in the valuation of financial instruments (CVFI) credential through the AICPA.
  • Personal financial planning: This area focuses on helping clients with their personal finances, such as planning for retirement. Professionals can gain the personal financial specialist (PFS) certification through the AICPA.
  • Forensics: This specialization is for accountants who want expert investigative skills for evaluating clients’ finances. Professionals can earn the certified in financial forensics (CFF) credential through the AICPA.

Other common accounting specialties include payroll services, bookkeeping, taxes, and consulting.

Job Outlook for Accountants and Accounting Professionals

Some may choose accounting because of the field’s stability. There is a steady demand for accountants, as financial services are always needed across industries. According to the BLS, “Globalization, a growing economy, and a complex tax and regulatory environment are expected to continue to lead to strong demand for accountants and auditors.”

The BLS predicts jobs for accountants will grow 7% between 2020 and 2030. This growth rate is about equal to the average projected for all occupations.

Typical Salaries for Accountants and Accounting Professionals

According to the BLS, the median annual salary for accountants is $73,560 as of 2020. Accountants at the top 10% of the pay scale earned more than $128,680, according to the BLS.

Salary figures may vary based on factors including industry, experience, position, and location. For example, as of 2020 accountants working in the finance and insurance industry have a median annual salary of $78,600, while accountants in government have a median annual salary of $72,260, according to the BLS.

Benefits of an Accountant Work Schedule

The appeal of the traditional accountant work schedule lies in its predictability. As a general rule, accountants can expect to work long hours during tax time or during audits (usually from January through March). This time crunch is offset by less busy “off-season” time periods.

An accountant’s regular work hours can make it easier to achieve a good work-life balance. For example, an accountant can anticipate and plan for personal time off for a vacation trip or socializing with family and friends. The predictable accountant work schedule allows these professionals to foresee downtime and stay motivated during the busy season. ​

Accountant work schedules may vary based on the particular role and whether or not the individual works for a firm or as a consultant. To see how a specific schedule might look, consider that accounting roles fall into two main categories, corporate and public, and their respective work schedules are quite different.

Corporate Accountant Work Schedule

Corporate accountants (also known as private accountants) usually work for a single organization as full-time employees. Corporate accountants have schedules that:

  • Are consistent, with employees reporting to the same location every day
  • Don’t involve a great deal of travel
  • Offer flexible scheduling and telecommuting options

Corporate accounting may be a good fit for those who favor more consistent schedules and an office environment.

Public Accountant Work Schedule

Public accountants and their firms may work for many business clients at one time. Their schedules are less regular than those of corporate accountants, with varying hours per week. Public accounting work can involve:

  • Frequent air travel
  • Less consistent team meetings
  • Dividing time among different clients

Those who enjoy travel and novelty in their work may prefer a public accountant role.

Accountant Work-Life Balance Benefits

Some may choose accounting because the field supports a healthy balance between work and personal time. While accountants often work long hours at their organizations, the predictability of their schedules allows them to manage their workloads efficiently and maintain a strong work-life balance. The ease of planning to avoid uncertainty makes accountancy a field that can support professionals in search of work-life balance benefits.

As Mental Health America points out, rushing to meet work deadlines can:

  • Raise stress levels
  • Affect concentration
  • Trigger depression, anxiety, or irritability
  • Weaken the immune system
  • Increase the risk of heart attack

The benefits of a healthy work-life balance, on the other hand, can include:

  • Improved productivity
  • Higher job satisfaction
  • Better mental health
  • Reduced anxiety
  • More time for family, friends, and hobbies

Tips for Accountant Work-Life Balance

Fortunately, the accountancy profession has embraced the issue of helping accountants maintain a healthy work-life balance. For instance, the Journal of Accountancy offers the following tips:

  • Talk to a trusted person: Having a conversation with a manager, colleague, or mental health professional about any work-life issue and what can be done to address it is the best way to alleviate the problem.
  • Set firm time boundaries: Saying no to nonessential requests and stepping away from work tasks on evenings and weekends provides individuals with time for life outside of work.
  • Try to follow the 20% rule: It’s healthy to spend at least 20% of work time on the tasks that hold the most meaning—for example, client interactions. Individuals may need to delegate other less-meaningful tasks to accomplish this shift in focus.
  • Take micro-breaks: People who hesitate to take time out from work can take five- or 10-minute micro-breaks instead, eventually getting comfortable with taking longer breaks and even vacations.
  • Tackle workplace issues with colleagues: Fraught work issues stemming from a lack of resources, support, or autonomy can trigger stress—not only in the affected individual but in their colleagues as well. Discussing shared concerns validates each person’s experiences and can pave the way to solutions.

Following these tips and maintaining a healthy work-life balance can help accountants improve their personal lives, increase their productivity, and advance their careers.

Accounting Career Paths

The wide span of career opportunities in the field is another one of the reasons why many choose to pursue accounting. Advanced accounting skills and expertise can open the door to many high-level accounting career paths with competitive salaries. These include financial analysts, financial examiners, financial managers, and chief financial officers.

Financial Analyst

A financial analyst guides and advises businesses and individuals on how to make smart, profitable investment decisions. Financial analysts normally work in offices, sometimes traveling to meet clients. Most commonly, financial analysts work in investments, commodity contracts, and other financial services, according to the BLS.

Responsibilities

Their responsibilities may include:

  • Recommending investments actions
  • Evaluating financial data
  • Interpreting economic and business trends
  • Determining the value of a company’s financial statements
  • Discussing a company’s future with management
  • Preparing written financial reports

Salary

According to the BLS, the median annual salary for financial analysts is $83,660 as of 2020, with the top 10% earning more than $159,560. The highest earners worked in investments, securities, and commodity contracts. The BLS projects 6% job growth for financial analysts between 2020 and 2030.

Financial Examiner

Those drawn to the financial examiner accounting career path can expect to uphold the important duty of ensuring a financial institution’s compliance with legal and governmental requirements. Financial examiners commonly work in offices but may travel to inspect banks on-site. Most financial examiners work in credit intermediation or other financial services, according to the BLS.

Responsibilities

The duties of a financial examiner may include:

  • Monitoring financial institutions
  • Reviewing and confirming assets and liabilities
  • Preparing reports on financial soundness
  • Training others in the financial examination process
  • Analyzing regulations and policies for their impact on a business
  • Establishing procedures and policies for complying with regulations

Salary

According to the BLS, the median annual salary for financial examiners is $81,430 as of 2020. The top salaries for financial examiners are more than $159,560. The best-paying industry for financial examiners is the federal government, where the median annual salary is $124,070. The BLS projects 18% job growth for financial examiners between 2020 and 2030.

Financial Manager

Another important accounting role is that of a financial manager. These individuals create financial reports, offer investment guidance, and develop long-term strategies to reach organizational goals. Financial managers may work in offices with high-level executives developing data for analysis. Most financial managers work in insurance and finance, according to the BLS.

Responsibilities

Some of a financial manager’s responsibilities are:

  • Preparing financial activity reports, forecasts, and statements
  • Monitoring fiscal details and ensuring compliance
  • Overseeing employees’ financial reporting and budgeting
  • Reviewing reports and finding ways to reduce spending
  • Analyzing market trends to find opportunities for expansion and profit
  • Advising company leaders on financial decisions

Salary

According to the BLS, the median annual salary for financial managers is $134,180 as of 2020. The highest 10% earn an annual salary of more than $208,000 as of 2020. The top-paying industry for financial managers is the professional, scientific, and technical services sector, where the median annual salary is $154,790. The BLS projects 17% job growth for financial managers between 2020 and 2030.

Chief Financial Officer

An ambitious career path for accountants may culminate in the top executive role of chief financial officer. Chief financial officers (CFOs) oversee their company’s financial operations, monitoring the efficiency and compliance of accounting and finance departments. CFOs often work in offices with other senior managers and executives. However, they may frequently travel locally, nationally, or internationally to attend meetings and conferences, according to the BLS.

Responsibilities

Some of the duties of a chief financial officer are:

  • Leading the administrative, accounting, and budgeting efforts of their companies
  • Directing the writing of financial statements, business activity reports, financial forecasts, annual budgets, and regulatory agency reports
  • Developing and analyzing internal policies and procedures for budgeting, cash and credit management, and accounting

Salary

According to PayScale, the median annual salary of CFOs is around $137,300 as of 2021. Also according to PayScale, those in the top 10% earn more than $226,000. The BLS projects 8% job growth for top executives, including CFOs, between 2020 and 2030.

Pursue a Steady, Satisfying Career in Accountancy

Accountancy can offer solid job security, plentiful job opportunities, good pay, and chances to advance to high-level roles in institutions. Accountants often maintain a work-life balance and manageable work schedules while leading their organizations toward financially bright futures. These are just a few reasons to choose accounting as a career path.

Having expert financial and data analysis skills allows accountants to help their clients and their employers achieve great financial success. With courses including Advanced Managerial Decision Making, Advanced Tax Planning, and Strategy, and Accounting Theory and Research, Ohio University’s Online Master of Accountancy degree can help students build these necessary skills. Discover how you can compete in today’s business landscape and start a rewarding career in accounting today. 

Recommended Readings

Exploring the Field of Corporate Accounting

The Importance of Data Analytics in Accounting

MAcc vs. MBA: Examining the Key Similarities and Differences

Sources:

American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Credentials

American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Specializations & Credentials

Houston Chronicle, “The Advantages of a Career in Accounting”

Houston Chronicle, “Public Accountants vs. Corporate Accountants”

Indeed, “11 Advantages of Being an Accountant”

Indeed, “Public vs. Private Accounting: Definition and Key Differences”

International Federation of Accountants

Investopedia, “Accountant”

Investopedia, “Becoming a Financial Analyst”

Investopedia, “Chief Financial Officer (CFO)”

Journal of Accountancy, “Six Tips for Mitigating and Recovering from Burnout”

Mental Health America, Work Life Balance

NYS Society of CPAs, “The Work-Life Balance Sheet: How the Accounting Profession Is Adding Value”

PayScale, Average Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Salary

Robert Half, “Private or Public? How to Choose Your Accounting Career Path”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Accountants and Auditors

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Financial Analysts

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Financial Examiners

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Financial Managers

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Top Executives