Few career fields today offer the kind of opportunities and job security that accounting does. In fact, in a 2008 survey of 500 finance and accounting professionals, a full 65 percent believe they have the same, if not better, job opportunities than they did the previous year. National statistics support these findings: the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of accountants and auditors will grow by 18 percent--faster than the average for all occupations--by 2016. If you're thinking of beginning, or continuing, your career training in accounting, now is a great time to do so.
Accounting Degrees Are in Demand
Recent corporate scandals involving high-profile accounting firms have spurred the demand for accountants and auditors. This is because accounting and reporting guidelines have become stricter in the U.S. in order to head off further scandal; the federal government passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) of 2002. This act requires public companies to strengthen internal financial controls and to ensure the accuracy of their reporting. Such legislation, of course, has greatly increased the demand for ethical, knowledgeable, and well-trained accountants.
Other factors contributing to the demand for those with accounting degrees include the increasing globalization of companies in recent years, forcing them to comply with International Financial Reporting Standards, as well as an aging baby boomer population, which will leave many vacancies as retirements continue to increase.
Accounting Degrees and Certifications
In the United States, there are three main classes of certified accountants: Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Certified Internal Auditor (CIA), and Certified Management Accountant (CMA). CPAs provide a wide range of services to the public, including auditing, accounting, litigation, tax planning, and financial advisory services. CIAs work in an auditing capacity for employers, while CMAs generally work for companies but might also serve the public in a more limited way than CPAs.
Although requirements vary from state to state, becoming a CPA requires the completion of a college or university bachelor's accounting degree. A business program in accounting degree typically includes 150 credit hours of coursework, and specific courses, usually in financial accounting, managerial accounting, taxation, and auditing. According to the BLS, opportunities will be best for those whose career training includes either a master's degree or certification or licensure. Any accountant whose work involves filing reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is required to be a CPA.
A Lucrative Career Begins with the Right Career Training
According to the BLS, accountants and auditors earned a median annual salary of $54,630 in May 2006. The highest concentration of accountants and auditors work in accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, or payroll service firms. And a 2006 National Association of Colleges and Employers salary survey found that employment candidates with bachelor's degrees in accounting received an average starting offer of $46,718 per year.
Of course, no educational program can guarantee a future salary or employment upon completion, but accounting degrees and licensure certainly increase your opportunities for employment and advancement.