Careers in the financial industry are in high demand. A specialized degree in business and accounting qualifies graduates for a variety of roles related to accounting and finance. From tax accounting to corporate finances, accounting graduates fill roles that are essential to long-term financial success for individuals, small businesses and corporations.
Accountants and auditors earn a high median pay for careers requiring only a bachelor’s degree, and accounting jobs are estimated at higher-than-average growth, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Specifically, the average salary for these roles is $67,190 and demand is expected to grow 11 percent through 2024. Salary may vary depending on location, setting and years of experience.
Though accounting is one of the most practical and in-demand career paths in the business world, the number of career options with an accounting degree is often underestimated. Students who pursue a degree in this growing field have several paths to choose from after graduation.
What Jobs Can You Get With an Accounting Degree?
The following are many of the key career paths available to business professionals with accounting expertise. Keep in mind that some roles require additional certification and licensure.
Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
CPAs have earned the designation through the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants by passing the CPA exam and meeting work experience requirements. They can operate independently or within organizations. In many cases, professionals with the CPA credential are qualified for management and leadership roles within accounting departments. CPAs have the option to specialize in areas such as the following:
- Income tax preparation
- Forensic accounting
- Managerial accounting
Some CPAs choose to work for the government, serving many of the same roles for school districts, state and federal programs like workers’ compensation, IRS offices, the Office of the Treasury and more.
Tax specialists act as accountants, advisors and tax preparers. They navigate the complex laws of the U.S. tax code in relation to personal and corporate finances. Tax specialists can work independently, as consultants attached to a firm, internally at corporations or for the IRS. Because they commonly work with complex software in tax processing and preparation, it is a good idea for prospective tax specialists to be technically inclined and capable of learning new systems quickly.
The titles of financial advisor and financial planner are often used interchangeably to describe a qualified investment professional who helps individuals and corporations meet their long-term financial objectives. Financial planners specialize in the following:
- Tax planning
- Asset allocation
- Risk management
- Retirement and/or estate planning
According to the BLS, personal financial advisors have a higher average salary ($89,160) and estimated job growth (30 percent) than other accounting roles.
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Auditors have the responsibility of reviewing, analyzing and evaluating processes, systems and organizations. They examine internal financial reports, ensuring both accuracy and validity. Another key responsibility is assessing a company’s operations to recommend best practices and areas of focus to stakeholders. This may include strategies to “reduce costs, enhance revenues, and improve profits,” according to the BLS. Because of the regulatory nature of this role, auditors should have a strong sense of ethics and be able to objectively review finances and processes for legal compliance.
Also known as a chief accounting executive, controllers organize and direct the work of accounting personnel within an organization. They usually lead a team that prepares financial data for the use of management, creditors, investors and tax authorities. This role is an executive position that usually reports to the chief financial officer and requires both management and accounting experience.
Beginning a Career in Accounting
The path to a career in accounting starts with earning a degree that combines core business skills with specialized study in accounting. West Virginia State University offers a fully online B.S. in Business Administration: Accounting degree that focuses on fundamental theories and concepts that prepare students for successful careers in the accounting field. This program, which is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools & Programs, helps students learn to think critically and solve problems in the workplace.