For those who are good with numbers and the analytically minded, professional accounting designations such as the CPA have always been a popular educational and career choice. Accountants provide in-demand value-added services to a wide range of businesses and individuals and, as such, the accounting career path is usually quite stable and predictable.
If you are contemplating an accounting designation from an accredited post-secondary institution, below are some things to consider when making your decision.
Accountants provide companies and individuals with the financial information they need to conduct business, make important investments, structure tax and other liabilities, and interpret financial statements and records. Being able to do all of this requires specialized skills, education and licensing. These are acquired over many years of training and practice.
Because of the specialized nature of accounting, good accounting services tend to be costly. Accountants and accounting functions are also vital to business success, which means accountants naturally command higher wages than other functions. Earning potential is always something to consider when deciding to invest in your education and a professional designation, so make sure you understand what you can expect to earn as an accountant. This will also depend on a particular location and job market.
Does Your Career Path Require Multiple Designations
There are certain career paths and options that you may be interested in pursuing that require more than an accounting designation. Or, it might be that a particular job market requires more than one specialization or certification to really stand out.
In that case, it is wise to consider levelling up your accounting designation with something that is more general purpose and highly regarded across industries. Accounting and an additional project management designation are always highly sought after complements. The specialized financial knowledge and understanding combined with holistic project management expertise can help companies keep their major projects on schedule and on budget.
Modern Accountants Need Data Analysis and Synthesis Skills
The switch to big data and analytics has in some way changed virtually every major profession, and accounting is no exception. Modern accountants are responsible for more than just finances, they are increasingly asked to possess high-level data analysis and synthesis skills that extract and turn numbers into easily communicable ideas.
In many cases, accountants who possess advanced excel skills, such as VBA Excel capabilities, represent important data analysis and synthesis potential for an organization. Most accountants are more than proficient in Excel by the time they graduate and start applying for jobs, but advanced skills will set you apart, especially in highly competitive markets.
Does a School Offer a Joint Designation
When shopping around for post-secondary education, there are several things to keep in mind. The location of the school, the cost of living in the surrounding area, the amenities, the faculty. Another consideration for those planning on undertaking a professional financial services designation is whether a school offers a joint designation. With accounting programs, these programs are usually law-accounting hybrids that provide both a JD and CPA designation.
Joint designation or degree programs are important to consider in light of what is often called the credentials arms race. More and more people are graduating with advanced degrees (especially in STEM fields), but also accounting, MBAs, JDs and other prestigious fields. Dual knowledge of both accounting and law, for instance, represents tremendous human capital to potential employers and could help with getting a job straight out of school, including expanding your job options, as well as salary negotiations.
How Does a Career in Accounting Mesh With Your Personality
When you enter many professional postsecondary programs and often when you are hired by large firms, you are usually subject to at least one major personality profile questionnaire. Usually, these tell you things you already knew about yourself, including your level of introversion and extroversion.
Accountancy is frequently included on lists of the best career choices for introverts because being an accountant involves a lot of time spent interacting with numbers and information rather than people. This is not to say that extroverts don’t make good accountants, but the nature of the work is something to consider when investing your time and money into a career path that could potentially last a lifetime.
Do You Plan on Working in the Public or Private Sector
There are essentially two different kinds of accounting jobs: public and private. A bachelor’s degree in accounting will prepare you for a variety of accounting roles in the private sector, but in order to practice as a public accountant, additional education is required. Many bachelors programs do not offer the courses and experience necessary to become a Certified Public Accountant.
The public accounting certification typically requires an additional 150 hours of education, which can vary on a state-by-state basis, and which some schools attempt to provide by offering a combined bachelor and masters program. If you aspire to be a public accountant, make sure your program options offer what you need.
Accountants and accounting designations are almost always in demand and provide you with specialized skills and knowledge that companies in every industry rely on to conduct business and remain financially healthy. Because of this, a career in accounting is typically characterized by good job security, steadily rising wages throughout a career and, for those who enjoy the analytical and logical nature of accounting, a fulfilling and stimulating education and life's work.