Accounting is a foundational element of business, linked to providing control, stability, and accountability to a company’s finances. It’s a role that will likely always be in demand. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the accountant and auditor job market will grow by 10 percent between 2016 and 2026. Even so, students may still ask themselves, why study accounting? The answer goes beyond a projected uptick in job availability.
Why Accounting Is Important
In many ways, accounting is the backbone of business. Its role is to track a company’s finances in their numerous forms, from credits, debits, and profitability to payroll and tax filing. It is a field driven by analytics and analytical interpretations, and the information derived from such functions provides a business with a record of its financial health and stability. Financial reports generated from this information can drive a company’s strategies in both the short and long term.
There are key occupations in the accounting field that collectively work to push a business toward long-term stability. Accountants, for instance, are commonly charged with examining financial records to ensure accuracy and to spot financial inefficiencies, and they’re also typically tasked with overseeing corporate tax preparation. Controllers commonly supervise a company’s accounting department, from departments directly correlated to business expenditures like accounts payable to peripheral ones like payroll. A chief financial officer (CFO) is an executive tasked with analyzing a company’s financial health and using that information to plot current and future strategies for growth.
Where Can an Accountant Find Work?
The type of jobs that a person with an accounting degree can hold generally depends on the type of degree earned. While it’s possible to get entry-level accounting positions with a bachelor’s degree, most employers prefer to hire people with advanced degrees for higher-level positions such as accountants and controllers.
For these positions, it’s commonly required that prospective employees have some level of certification or licensure. Such documentation provides employers with validation that the candidate has a firm grasp of the core competencies required to excel in a given role. In some cases, it also provides potential employees with a necessary requirement to carry out the duties of their position. For instance, any accountant who files a report with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is required by law to be a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).
These requirements can open the doors to several accounting positions spread among many industries. Degree-holders can find opportunities in the private sector, from health care and education to manufacturing and insurance. In some cases, private sector accountants may be tasked with becoming familiar with their particular industry, which may lead to a long accounting career in that field.
More independence may be found by choosing to work for an accounting firm. Those who work in this capacity are part of an organization that is hired to prepare, maintain, and audit clients’ financial records and statements. They can also help businesses and individuals prepare personal tax returns. This diverse portfolio can allow an accountant to interact with a wide range of industries, which could make the job more interesting.
Accountants may also seek employment at federal, state, or local government agencies. Job responsibilities vary depending on the level of government. For instance, federal accountants may be called upon to manage public funds, conduct audits of government agencies, or investigate high-level white-collar crimes. Federal agencies with large accounting staffs include the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), and the U.S. Department of the Treasury. State and local government accountants, meanwhile, may be asked to manage the use of state and local revenues and investigate fraud at the local level.
Accountants can also take a more entrepreneurial approach to their careers by opening their own firms. Some upstart accounting firms distinguish themselves from established competitors by developing new types of services beyond more conventional work such as audits, compliance, payroll, and taxes. Entrepreneurial accountants may also create alternative fee structures, market to different types of clients, and take more strategic risks in their business models.
The Rise of Tech in Accounting
Advances in technology have fundamentally changed several aspects of business, and accounting is no exception. Tech innovations such as real-time data, remote conference meetings, mobile apps, and evolving accounting software have made it possible for accounting functions to become more efficient than in the past and even automated. These programs include standalone products such as Quickbooks and Quicken, online options like Freshbooks, and enterprise packages such as SAP or Sage. Because of this, it’s important that those entering the accounting field be cognizant of the technical evolution, as they may be asked to help research, analyze, and implement various types of accounting-driven tech as part of their jobs.
A Necessary Position
Even as accounting becomes more of a tech-driven process, the role of the accountant will always be in demand. As the job metrics produced by the BLS indicate, demand for qualified accountants isn’t expected to wane. While this bright job market may make studying accounting a great option, the versatility of potential job opportunities in the field can make a career in the profession attractive in many ways beyond projected job growth.
Find out more about how Ohio University’s online Master of Accountancy program strives to prepare students for success as financial professionals in today’s competitive landscape.