According to the US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos001.htm
Most jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field.
Overall job opportunities should be favorable; jobseekers who obtain professional recognition through certification or licensure, a master’s degree, proficiency in accounting and auditing computer software, or specialized expertise will have the best opportunities.
An increase in the number of businesses, changing financial laws and regulations, and greater scrutiny of company finances will drive faster-than-average growth of accountants and auditors.
Most accountant and auditor positions require at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field. Beginning accounting and auditing positions in the Federal Government, for example, usually require 4 years of college (including 24 semester hours in accounting or auditing) or an equivalent combination of education and experience. Some employers prefer applicants with a master’s degree in accounting, or with a master’s degree in business administration with a concentration in accounting.
Previous experience in accounting or auditing can help an applicant get a job. Many colleges offer students an opportunity to gain experience through summer or part-time internship programs conducted by public accounting or business firms. In addition, practical knowledge of computers and their applications in accounting and internal auditing is a great asset for jobseekers in the accounting field.
Professional recognition through certification or licensure provides a distinct advantage in the job market. CPAs are licensed by a State Board of Accountancy. The vast majority of States require CPA candidates to be college graduates, but a few States substitute a number of years of public accounting experience for a college degree.
Persons planning a career in accounting should have an aptitude for mathematics and be able to analyze, compare, and interpret facts and figures quickly. They must be able to clearly communicate the results of their work to clients and managers both verbally and in writing. Accountants and auditors must be good at working with people, as well as with business systems and computers. At a minimum, accountants should be familiar with basic accounting software packages. Because financial decisions are made on the basis of their statements and services, accountants and auditors should have high standards of integrity.
Capable accountants and auditors may advance rapidly; those having inadequate academic preparation may be assigned routine jobs and find promotion difficult. Many graduates of junior colleges or business or correspondence schools, as well as bookkeepers and accounting clerks who meet the education and experience requirements set by their employers, can obtain junior accounting positions and advance to positions with more responsibilities by demonstrating their accounting skills on the job.
Beginning public accountants usually start by assisting with work for several clients. They may advance to positions with more responsibility in 1 or 2 years and to senior positions within another few years. Those who excel may become supervisors, managers, or partners; open their own public accounting firm; or transfer to executive positions in management accounting or internal auditing in private firms.
According to a salary survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, bachelor’s degree candidates in accounting received starting offers averaging $43,269 a year in 2005; master’s degree candidates in accounting were offered $46,251 initially.
According to a 2005 salary survey conducted by Robert Half International, a staffing services firm specializing in accounting and finance, accountants and auditors with up to 1 year of experience earned between $28,250 and $45,000 a year. Those with 1 to 3 years of experience earned between $33,000 and $52,000. Senior accountants and auditors earned between $40,750 and $69,750, managers between $48,000 and $90,000, and directors of accounting and auditing between $64,750 and $200,750. The variation in salaries reflects differences in size of firm, location, level of education, and professional credentials.
In the Federal Government, the starting annual salary for junior accountants and auditors was $24,677 in 2005. Candidates who had a superior academic record might start at $30,567, while applicants with a master’s degree or 2 years of professional experience usually began at $37,390. Beginning salaries were slightly higher in selected areas where the prevailing local pay level was higher. Accountants employed by the Federal Government in nonsupervisory, supervisory, and managerial positions averaged $74,907 a year in 2005; auditors averaged $78,890.