Many people know exactly what they want to be when they grow up. Whether they are following a family member’s footsteps, were inspired by an experience, or simply made a decision and stuck with it, they know in which direction they’d like to take their career.
But for others, choosing a college major is difficult enough, let alone deciding what to do once they’ve earned their degree! If you’ve chosen accounting as your major, there are several career options to explore. The list below is by no means exhaustive, but it will show you a few ways to put your accounting degree to work.
Public or Certified Public Accountant
The most obvious career path for an accounting major is to pursue a license as a Certified Public Accountant, or CPA, and practice public accounting. Public accountants are professionals who provide a broad range of financial advisory and external accounting services for their clients.
Some services provided by public accountants include assurance (audit), tax compliance and advisory, mergers and acquisitions due diligence, and estate and financial planning. In order to complete the CPA certification process, public accountants must pass the CPA exam and work in public accounting for at least one or two years.
While a CPA certification might be the most common, there are other accounting certifications as well, including Certified Management Accountant (CMA), Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), and Enrolled Agents (EA) for those specializing in tax.
Private or Industry Accountant
A private or industry accountant performs internal accounting tasks, services and functions for a company. A private accountant may act as an internal auditor and review and verify the company’s financial results, policies and internal controls.
He or she may also work as a staff accountant and perform typical internal accounting duties or as a financial analyst providing budgeting, operational and review support. Gaining experience in a corporate structure can prove to be invaluable, as many high-level executives have backgrounds in accounting, internal auditing or finance.
Although it may not seem like the most obvious career choice for an accountant, many Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents are actually CPAs. In fact, most FBI agents are either attorneys or CPAs. If you choose to pursue a career with the FBI, there are two main types of accounting jobs from which to choose.
You can work as an internal accountant, or you can serve as a Special Agent. As an internal accountant, you will be responsible for typical accounting services, such as tax, audit or budget. If you choose to be a Special Agent, you will be responsible for investigating financial crimes.
Another career option for an accountant is to teach at the college level. Although this might not be the best career choice for new college graduates with no work experience, it is a great option once you’ve had a few years of accounting work under your belt.
As a seasoned accountant, you will not only be qualified to teach accounting lessons to students, but you can also share your experience in the professional world. This will help students apply the textbook lessons to the real world, giving them a glimpse into their possible careers in accounting. There are also opportunities to teach accounting-related courses at elementary or high school, but keep in mind that most states require you to have a license to teach at these levels.
Zeshawn is a doctoral student in the Accounting & Management Department at the Harvard Business School. His research uses archival and field methods and covers managerial accounting topics including employee and organizational incentives, cost management and profitability analysis...