Accountants and auditors generally work within government, accounting firms and finance, examining financial statements, computing taxes and suggesting financial improvements. Typically using highly developed math and analytical skills, they also usually prepare budgets and provide both internal and external auditing services. With the skills gained through a bachelor’s degree, accountants and auditors could make a lucrative income and find stable employment growth. (1,3)
How to Become an Accountant and Auditor
Getting into the field of accounting or auditing likely requires a bachelor’s degree. (1,3) These programs are available as a Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting, among other titles. These four-year programs typically examine concepts in financial accounting, auditing, taxation, accounting information systems and managerial accounting. Hands-on training could be gained through internship opportunities and accounting labs. Many programs are only 120 credits, but some may extend to 150 credit hours. (4-6)
In addition to a bachelor’s degree, many employers also prefer accounting professionals with a master’s degree; however, ONet Online noted that only five percent of workers had a master’s degree in 2010. (3) Students could also find a combined bachelor’s/master’s degree in accounting. (6) In addition to providing students with additional training, graduate programs could provide the additional 30 credits necessary to meet the 150 credits required for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) credential in most states. (1, 6)
The CPA, which is available through the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, is necessary for any accountant that files a report with the Securities and Exchange Commission and requires passing a four-part exam. Additional voluntary certifications are also available through various associations, including the Certified Management Accountant, Certified Internal Auditor and Certified Information Systems Auditor credentials. In addition to meeting education and/or experience requirements, all accountants wanting to earn these certifications must almost always pass an exam. (1)
In 2012, there were 1.3 million accountants and auditors working in the field, and these workers are projected to see average growth of 13 percent from 2012-2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). (1) In May 2013, 90 percent of these workers earned from $40,370-$113,740, with a median wage of $65,080. Profiled below are the average wages for the top five industries with the highest employment in 2013, according to the BLS. (2)
- Accounting, Tax Preparation, Bookkeeping, and Payroll Services: $77,310
- Management of Companies and Enterprises: $71,920
- Local Government: $61,410
- State Government: $57,880
- Management, Scientific and Technical Consulting Services: $79,040
Accountants and auditors could have a variety of specialties including public, management or government accountant, as well as internal or information technology auditors. Most of these professionals work full-time within an office environment setting; however, traveling to a clients home or business may be necessary. Overtime is typical for these workers with one in five working more than 40 hours a week, according to the BLS, especially at tax season or the end of the fiscal year. (1,3)
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Accountant and Auditor, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/accountants-and-auditors.htm#tab-4 (visited October 13, 2014).
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2014-15 Edition, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/OES/current/oes132011.htm (visited October 13, 2014).
3. ONet Online, Accountant and Auditors, on the Internet at http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/13-2011.01 (visited October 13, 2014).
4. Florida International University, Bachelor of Accounting, on the Internet at http://business.fiu.edu/landon/bachelor_of_acg.cfm (visited October 13, 2014).
5. Pace University, BBA in Public Accounting, on the Internet at http://www.pace.edu/lubin/public-accounting-bba (visited October 13, 2014).
6. University at Albany, BS in Accounting, on the Internet at http://www.albany.edu/business/school-of-business-undergraduate-accounting.php (visited October 13, 2014).