In this era of economic uncertainty, it’s not all about maximizing revenue for businesses.
Minimizing expenses, staying up to date on the current financial regulations, and determining business financial position have become critical elements for ensuring the survival of a business.
That’s where accountants come in.
From financial reporting and managerial accounting to bookkeeping and payroll management, accountants are the ones who determine the company’s financial position as well as give advice on major business decisions.
- But how do you become an accountant?
If you have a knack for numbers, possess impeccable attention to details, and have killer time management skills, then a career in accounting perfectly suits your profile.
However, those skills are merely not enough. Becoming a professional accountant requires formal certification, advanced education, and experience too.
This article will give you the step-by-step guide on how to become a professional accountant.
How to Become an Accountant in 5-Easy Steps
Step 1: Find a Program That Suits You
Most employers prefer accountants and auditors who have at least a bachelor’s degree.
As you make decisions on what type of programs to pursue, consider what type of degree you want. You can pursue an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree, or even advance to master’s level.
Also, consider the mode of learning that suits you best. Are you looking for an on-campus program or an online program?
Some institutions offer both programs. Others have self-paced programs that allow candidates to earn degrees at their own pace.
Keep in mind that some states require advanced coursework beyond the degree level in some subjects such as auditing, taxes, financial reporting, and other specialized areas.
Step 2: Pick a Specialty
Once you’ve earned your degree, there are different types of accounting credentials that you can pursue.
All this requires you to go through rigorous certification exams. It all depends on what you want to become or your area of interest.
The two general areas of specialization are public accounting and corporate/business accounting.
Various sub-specializations also exist, such as managerial accounting, internal auditing, taxation, and environmental accounting.
Most aspiring accountants choose a specialization that coincides with the accounting degree they earned.
Step 3: Choose Between ‘Accountant and CPA’
Though the scope of their duties is literally the same, there is a difference between an accountant and a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).
While accountants can perform several accounting tasks such as preparation of financial statements, tax returns, and the general bookkeeping, their functions are limited.
For instance, they cannot conduct audits or review financial statements.
CPA’s, on the other hand, can perform all the accounting tasks as well as review financial statements. They also conduct audits and represent clients before the IRS.
For this reason, they have to meet a number of requirements including passing all the CPA exams and working for a given number of hours under the supervision of an experienced and licensed CPA.
Step 4: Pass Certification Exams
The CPA certification requires candidates to pass all four sections of the CPA exams.
The four sections are:
- Auditing and Attestation (AUD)
- Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)
- Business Environment and Concepts (BAC)
- Regulation (REG)
The CPA exams are rigorous and candidates can take sections in any order they choose.
Upon passing one section, candidates are required to complete the remaining three sections within 18 months.
Step 5: Get a Job
Once you have earned the CPA certification and you already have a degree, you are ready to start your accounting career.
There are many sites like LinkedIn that regularly posts accounting jobs and let you apply directly from the site.
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All corporations need accountants to perform bookkeeping and other account related functions so you will never run out of job opportunities in this industry.
In fact, Bureau of Labor Statistics projects accounting jobs will grow at a rate of 11% through 2024.
Accountants play an overriding role in the success of any business or corporation. For this purpose, accountancy has become one of the most secure professions.
Corporations have come to realize that having a professional accountant is not just a sound financial decision. It’s a decision that can keep the business out of bankruptcy.