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Career Paths for Candidates Looking to Break into the Accounting Industry

Published March 28th, 2018 by Haley

Money makes the world – and business – go round, and no one understands that quite like accounting professionals. Often, these roles serve at the core of the corporate landscape, providing a necessary service to keep financial operations running smoothly.

For those who enjoy working with numbers, a career in the accounting industry can be especially enticing. But, there isn’t a single path to follow. Instead, you have options, and navigating them can be challenging if you aren’t fully aware of what they have to offer. If you are interested in breaking into the accounting industry, here are the career paths you should consider.

Public Accounting Path

Public accountants typically work at CPA firms that manage associated accounting tasks for other organizations. This means that the roles are just as much about the numbers as they are about maintaining relationships with clients. While these firms will work with a wide variety of clients, some might have specialties such as real estate, publicly traded companies, manufacturing, business services, or non-profit just to name a few.

Typically, after obtaining a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, a person begins in a staff accountant or junior auditor role as these are generally considered entry-level regardless of the size of the firm. Working in this type of company, most young professionals will determine whether to specialize in either tax or audit. Audit pertains to reviewing the operations of a client’s business, while tax focuses more on preparing and filing taxes and minimizing tax implications.

Corporate Accounting Path

In contrast to public accounts, corporate or private accountants usually work for a specific company and handle internal accounting work. Like public accounting roles, a bachelor’s degree is often required to get started in the field.

Accountants or bookkeeper could hold a more generalized position in a smaller company. In a larger organization they can find more specialized opportunities as a corporate account, cost accountant, tax accountant, staff and senior accountant, internal auditor, finance specialist, accounts receivable manager, or payroll manager among other roles.

Generally, you begin by handling monthly reporting duties and working with general ledger and credits/debits. Over time, as you gain experience or advance your education, you can move up the ladder, obtaining positions like assistant controller, followed by controller.

Typically, most private accountants aim to reach the senior-management level, such as by becoming a chief financial officer. Obtaining a CPA is not necessary on the corporate accounting path, but it is often pursued by those looking to quickly move into higher-level positions.

Government and Nonprofit

Both government agencies and nonprofit organizations have accountants on staff. While much of the work may resemble that of a private accountant, there are nuances to working in these industries, and certain roles are relegated to these areas. For example, tax examiners largely work for government agencies and nonprofit accountants may need to have an understanding of grants, as well as the tax implications associated with the organization type.

While having a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in accounting or an allied field is common, some people chose to pursue an education in the specialty that relates specifically to government or nonprofit work, to ensure they have the knowledge base necessary to succeed.

Sometimes accountants that work for government agencies or nonprofits receive lower salaries than their counterparts at for-profit companies. The intrinsic value of working for these organizations can outweigh the pay differences. Many people value working for a cause they believe in and receive flexibility and perks not always offered in a for-profit company, including long-term benefits like pension programs.

Ready to Get Your Accounting Career Started?

If you are interested in pursuing a career in accounting or would like to know more about how to break into the field, the professionals at Equis Staffing have the expertise to help you succeed. Contact us to speak with one of our experienced staff members and see how our services can allow you to get your career off on the right foot.

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