A degree in accounting prepares graduates for a career as one of the most vital components of a company. Accountants and auditors are responsible for the preparation and examination of financial records for a business or non-profit organization. Because of the opportunity for advancement offered, the healthy salaries, and the above average flexibility involved, U.S. News & World Report ranks accountant as its third best business job, which is great news for accounting majors. It may also explain why the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects strong growth for the field by 2020. In addition to preparing and examining financial information, accountants and auditors must be able to communicate their findings to managers and clients through written and verbal reports:
- Ensuring financial statements are accurate and in compliance with laws and regulations
- Computing and processing taxes properly and punctually
- Inspecting account books and accounting systems for efficiency and appropriate accounting procedures
- Suggesting best practices to management for ways to reduce costs, enhance revenues, and improve profits
Accounting majors may become one of four specific types of accountants and auditors: public accountants, management accountants, government accountants, and internal auditors. Each of these capacities addresses a different aspect of a company's finances, such as forensic accounting, budgeting and performance evaluation, government record-keeping, and identifying mismanagement of an organization's funds.
Becoming an Accountant and Auditor
Becoming an accountant or auditor requires the right educational background, proper licensure and certification, and adequate experience in the industry in most cases. In terms of education, accountants and auditors need to have a bachelor's degree at minimum, but preference is usually granted to those with a master's degree. Accountants filing reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are required by law to hold Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensure, but gaining that designation can be a strategic move for enhancing job prospects as well. Most states require candidates to have adequate experience in the field prior to applying for a CPA license, which can be gained through internships with public accounting or business firms, or by working as a junior internal auditor. The recommended major for both accountants and auditors is an accounting degree, but related fields such as business management, internal auditing, and business administration will also be adequate. Because there is usually a preference to hire accountants and auditors with graduate degrees, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) can be a strategic choice for students seeking better careers in accounting and auditing. Even if the major isn't specifically related to business, students can incorporate the right classes to supplement their degree program that will give them the preparation and foundation they would need to satisfy the job requirements for accounting and auditing careers:
- Federal Tax
- Business Math
- Business Law
In addition to earning CPA licensure, accountants and auditors can gain a significant advantage in the competition for accountant and auditor jobs with certification. There are several different types of certification that accountants and auditors can achieve. The Institute of Management Accountants provides the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) certification to applicants with a bachelor's degree and at least two years of management accounting experience. The Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) certification offered by the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) is granted to college graduates with two years of experience in internal auditing. The BLS lists several other options for certification for accountants and auditors.