The study and practice of accounting has grown rapidly in the past decade in both number of jobs and level of salary. Those with work experience or education concentrated in accounting can both practice accounting and teach accounting at a postsecondary or higher level. Compared to recognized occupations in the field of business and the overall workplace in the United States, accounting is a promising and desirable profession.
The median salary for accountants in 2014 was $65,940 per year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The expected employment growth from 2014-2024 is projected at 11%, compared to an overall workforce growth of 7% (1). In the past few years, accountants’ salaries have consistently risen, a hike significantly greater than overall salary growth in the United States (2). The demand for accountants is projected to rise as automation increases in the workforce.
Most accountants spend between five and seven years in school, as 150 credit hours are required to take the CPA exam in most states. The 150 credit hour requirement can be met with courses taken at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Aspiring accountants have trended towards attending graduate school in recent years, many of which opt to pursue an academic path in accounting less than ten years after completing the 150 hour requirement.
Teaching accounting at a postsecondary level or higher can be substantially more profitable than practicing accounting. Academic paths in accounting rely heavily on having a Ph.D. Without a terminal degree, job opportunities for instructing and researching accounting are low-paying and difficult to find. A Ph.D. in accounting typically takes four to six years to complete that could be spent practicing accounting, a tradeoff all aspiring academics should consider before assuming a Ph.D. program’s responsibilities.
A firm grasp on the fundamentals of accounting provides a relatively strong basis for those wishing to pursue another discipline than accounting. Undergraduate accounting degrees are often sought by those planning careers in economics, finance, law, and marketing. Both the academic and practical backgrounds in accounting are helpful in familiarizing one’s self with fundamentals of accountancy. Having experience in either — not necessarily both — is required in landing a position at an accounting firm.
As technology becomes increasingly integrated in business worldwide, accounting becomes more reliant on control systems and information systems to accurately bookkeep and provide meaningful financial statements. Those with a firm understanding of both sometimes-complex information technology and more easily-navigable Microsoft Office are exponentially more hireable by employers, as digitized computer systems are always used by accounting firms to store valuable financial information.
– Guest Contributor