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How to Become an Accountant

Career News September 1, 2013

Businesses are rapidly viewing accountants as one of the most valuable assets to a company. An accountant can help a company save on expenses, document transactions correctly and provide valuable information on tax and finance. Despite an uncertain economic future, or perhaps because of it, accountants are among the most secure professions in today’s world. The demand for accountants is expected to grow at 18% by the year 2016.

CPA and Accountant Profession Differences

There is a great deal of difference between an accountant and a Certified Public Accountant. If you had a strong math background, you can become an accountant with a high school diploma. Many small businesses will hire someone with mathematical skills to manage the day by day financial and accounting processes of their company. Your qualifications will be an ability to find mathematical errors and knowledge of the laws and regulations pertaining to the tax codes.

Becoming a CPA requires licensing. You must study accounting in depth before taking an examination. Before applying for the examination, you should read the Candidate Bulletin, which is the official handbook for accountants who wish to take the CPA examination. You must complete the application and pay all required fees. Academic documents for first time applicants are required.

It’s not uncommon for students to begin their accounting careers through an internship with a company while they complete their studies for an accredited degree program. A CPA has a number of options for furthering advanced studies. As an accredited accountant, you may pursue a Master of Science in Business Management or Business Administration, or choose a Master’s in Accounting or Finance. Most states require a minimum of 150 semester hours of education to become a CPA

Skills and Training make the Difference

Although good math skills can open the door to an accounting job, it’s a highly competitive field. Once you’ve earned your CPA, you will qualify for an entry-level position in this industry. You will then begin learning the fundamentals of accounting and accounting software, which is necessary to keep your skills current as accounting technology is constantly evolving, becoming increasingly more complex and sophisticated.

A bachelor’s degree in accounting is the best way to enter a specialized field. Along with an understanding of accounting software, you will need to experience with general ledger software, spreadsheets and databases. While QuickBooks and Turbo Tax are some of the better known accounting software, there are hundreds of different types of programs. Most larger companies have software built specifically for their industry.

A bachelor’s degree prepares you by training you in various types of software applications, as well as providing a greater understanding of intermediate and advanced level accounting procedures. Along with acquiring the basis for pursuing a Master’s in Business, Accounting or Finance, this degree gives you the qualifications for an entry-level or mid-level accounting position. You will generally need 120 semester hours of education for a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting.

If you start from the ground up, your first job may be as an accounting clerk or accounting assistant. Within a few years, you may then become a staff accountant, and later, a junior accountant. It takes a minimum of five years to become eligible for a senior accountant position.

If you feel accounting is the right job for you, concentrate on the field of study you feel you would enjoy most. The most common area of choice is in public accounting. This field includes bookkeepers, tax consultants, auditors and forensic accountants, who investigate criminal activities, such as fraud and embezzlement. Management accountants work for companies, analyzing data and are directly involved in the planning, budgeting and expenditure maximization for the company. Government accountants work within the public sector for government agencies or for businesses subject to government regulations.

Whichever area you choose, you should be able to communicate well, work with the public and have a strong sense of ethics. Critical thinking is vital, along with a strong sense of loyalty to your company.

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