A number of occupations and career paths are available for those wishing to pursue a career in accounting. Depending on the job, some positions require higher education, such as associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s degrees.
Bookkeeping positions typically require a two-year associate’s degree or a high school diploma with prior experience in accounting. Bookkeepers can become certified through the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers or the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers. This position requires an attention to detail and accuracy in recording financial transactions such as payroll, sales, purchases, and any accompanying documents. Once financial information is compiled, the bookkeeper writes internal documents and external reports. Bookkeepers are often employed by small businesses which do not need to or cannot hire a full-time accountant. Salaries vary by region, employer, and responsibility.
An accounting clerk often requires a two-year associate’s degree in accounting or a high school diploma with prior experience in accounting. Accounting clerks assist accountants at businesses which are large enough to have more than one accountant on staff. Accounting clerks typically take on more specialized tasks than bookkeepers, focusing solely on payroll, inventory, purchases, etc. Salaries vary by region, employer, and responsibility.
An accountant is required to have a four-year bachelor’s degree in accounting and may need to become a certified public accountant (CPA). Some accountants specialize in a certain area, while others have more general responsibilities. If working in a general area, you may supervise accounting clerks, each with specific tasks. Larger businesses typically have more accountants than smaller businesses, each responsible for more specific areas of financial information.
A certified public accountant is required to have a master’s degree in accounting with at least 150 total hours of education and must become certified by taking the CPA examination, the requirements of which vary by state. As such, accounting courses at universities should be rigorous enough to meet the criteria for the examination.
After passing the CPA examination, most state boards require a year of experience and an ethics test before licensing someone as a CPA. Some state boards may waive the experience requirement if the applicant has a higher level of education, such as a master’s or doctorate degree. CPAs must renew their licenses on a regular basis by taking additional educational courses called Continuing Professional Education. This can be done through self-study or by attending seminars or conferences.
Employers which typically hire CPAs include large companies with have dedicated accountants and CPA firms which perform accounting work for companies. CPAs may perform audits on public or private companies, offer financial consultation, or assist in preparing personal and business taxes. Salaries vary by region, employer, and responsibility.