How to Become an Accountant
May 24 • 9 min read
Being an accountant is a career path that opens the doors to multiple industries. Although your primary duties don’t vary very much regardless of the institution you work within, the job comes with many perks and isn’t as cut and dry as it seems.
If you want to know how to become an accountant but aren’t sure if this career is right for you, read on. We cover all the basics you need to know – including accountant salary expectations – to help you make a sound career decision for the future.
Accountants are professionals specializing in the field of accounting. Your job involves systematically recording, analyzing, and reporting financial transactions. With your knowledge and skills, you can analyze, interpret, and summarize financial information and review the accuracy of statements and records.
Your job also involves maintaining compliance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and regulatory requirements. Your primary duties involve settling financial statements, preparing tax returns, and making budget forecasts.
Accountants manage, analyze, and record financial transactions. Their primary responsibilities include maintaining accurate financial records, preparing statements, ensuring compliance with tax laws, and providing financial advice. Accountants also play a crucial role in identifying discrepancies, detecting potential fraud, and implementing measures to streamline financial operations.
Not all accountants have the same roles, however. Some specialize in fields like auditing, tax accounting, managerial accounting, or forensic accounting. Each one of these fields requires unique skills, education, and experience.
But regardless of their roles, accountants contribute significantly to organizations’ fiscal health and growth, helping individuals maintain financial stability and meet financial goals.
Becoming an accountant involves getting a degree, professional experience, and the required certifications. The first step is to get your bachelor’s degree in accounting. Many institutions offer specialized accounting programs that include coursework in financial accounting, managerial accounting, auditing, and taxation.
The second step is gaining practical experience through internships or part-time jobs in accounting firms or related industries. Experience helps you apply the theoretical knowledge you learned at college and develops your skills.
After graduating, you can pursue certifications to enhance your marketability and career prospects. One of the most widely recognized accounting certifications is the Certified Public Accountant (CPA). To become a CPA, you must meet specific education and experience requirements, pass the Uniform CPA Examination, and adhere to the ethical and professional standards set by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).
Other certifications include Certified Management Accountant (CMA) or Certified Internal Auditor (CIA). These require passing their respective exams and meeting education and experience requirements.
It may take up to four years to complete a bachelor’s degree, followed by one to two years to obtain professional certifications such as the CPA. In total, it can take between five and six years to become a regular accountant. However, the timeline depends on how long you spend on your education, the required work experience, and the specific certifications you are pursuing.
Accountant training depends on the educational path you choose and completing certifications. A bachelor’s degree in accounting takes approximately four years if you study full-time. After graduation, you may choose to enter the workforce directly, or you decide to pursue further certifications to enhance your career prospects.
Becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) requires one to two years of study and experience. You must meet the 150 credit hour requirement, entailing a master’s degree or additional coursework beyond a bachelor’s degree. You must also pass the Uniform CPA Examination and fulfill the experience requirements established by the state board of accountancy where you plan to practice.
Your day involves checking financial records and statements to ensure accuracy. This involves reconciling discrepancies, analyzing financial transactions, and adjusting entries.
You may also be responsible for preparing financial reports like income and cash flow statements. This process requires compiling and analyzing data, ensuring that the information adheres to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). Depending on your role, you may also participate in budgeting, forecasting, and financial planning processes, which involve analyzing data and trends to make informed projections.
Another essential aspect of your day is communicating with colleagues and clients. You must provide clear explanations of complex financial information and address concerns or inquiries raised by internal or external stakeholders.
The average accountant salary is $60,181. However, the average accountant salary does not factor individual roles, which we cover below.
- Entry Level Accountant Salary: An entry-level accountant salary is $50,351 annually.
- Junior Accountant Salary: A Junior Accountant salary in the US is $55,000 a year.
- Staff Accountant Salary: A staff accountant salary is $52,980 a year on average.
- Senior Accountant Salary: A senior accountant salary is $71,000 - $100,000 a year.
- Tax Accountant Salary: A tax accountant salary ranges between $56,001 and $69,388.
Accountant salary ranges are between $43,000 - $73,000 a year. However, keep in mind that these averages vary depending on your educational experience, certifications, the industry you’re in, and your state.
If your annual salary is $60,181, your hourly wage is $28.93. If you make $73,000 a year, your hourly wage is $33.65.
Determining if an accounting career is right for you requires self-assessment and an understanding of the skills and qualities accountants need. Start by reflecting on your interests, strengths, and long-term goals to see if they align with the job.
You should have strong analytical and problem-solving skills to analyze complex financial data, identify discrepancies, and provide accurate information.
Moreover, it would help if you had effective communication and interpersonal skills because you would interact with colleagues, clients, and other stakeholders consistently. If you are comfortable explaining complex concepts and can adapt your communication style, accounting might be a good fit.
Organizational and time-management skills are crucial in accounting. It involves meeting tight deadlines, balancing priorities, and adhering to strict regulatory requirements. If you can work well under pressure and manage your workload efficiently, you may thrive in accounting.
Accountants can find employment opportunities across various industries and sectors. Organizations of all sizes and types require professionals to manage and analyze their financial information. Some places where accountants work include:
- Private accounting firms
- Business Consulting
- Government agencies
- Colleges, universities, and school districts
- Having your consultancy
- Banks and financial institutions
- Hospitals, medical facilities, and health insurance companies
- Manufacturing and production
- Technology and software companies
Applying for accounting jobs involves steps that can help you effectively showcase your qualifications and stand out to potential employers. The first step is to have an updated resume highlighting all your skills from Rocket Resume.
Rocket Resume allows you to customize what kind of resume you want. So whether you want a staff accountant resume, a resume for senior accountant, or a regular accountant resume, you can find any type of accountant resume templates you need.
With an accountant resume from Rocket Resume, you can quickly fill in the required information and have a professional CV in minutes. What’s more, a resume template from Rocket Resume passes through Applicant Tracking Systems without glitching, ensuring it reaches the right hands without issues.
Once you choose the best accounting template from Rocket Resume’s database, it’s time to research job opportunities. You can find openings on several platforms like job sites. You can apply directly through a company’s website if you like a specific place and want to work there. If you want to go the extra mile, you can create an accountant cover letter for added professionalism.
If you receive a call for an interview, research the company to have an edge over other applicants. Prepare responses to common accounting interview questions, focusing on how your skills and experience relate to the job requirements.
For example, if you are advanced, you can look for “interview questions for senior accountant” online. If you are still not there, you can look for “interview questions staff accountant.” Practice your answers and consider conducting mock interviews with friends or family to build confidence.
Unfortunately, you will need a degree as a minimum qualification for accountant jobs in the United States. Because accounting entails dealing with mathematics and data – not to mention compliance – it would be difficult to excel in your position without having a degree.
Moreover, most employers require that you have a degree for this position, even if it is at the junior level. Accountant qualifications don’t have to be complex, but having a degree is vital to do your job correctly.
In California, you can only call yourself a Certified Public Accountant if you took and passed the CPA Exam and obtained your license. Although all CPAs are accountants, not all accountants are CPAs. If you want to take on a more prestigious job and receive a higher salary, looking into a CPA in California is worth the time and investment. Accountant salary California searches on Google yield great results, but investing in a CPA license yields much higher wages.
If you do not want to pursue a CPA license, you can become an accountant with a degree that isn’t specifically in accounting. However, it would help if you had a degree with some accounting basics, such as business management.
You can work as an accountant in Texas without having a CPA. What you would need is to have a bachelor’s degree in accounting to find a suitable job. However, to become a CPA in Texas, you must follow the guidelines established by the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy. These requirements take time to complete and have specific requirements. However, the investment is worth the time and effort, leading to better job opportunities and a higher accountant salary.
If you want to become an accountant without a certification, you simply need to complete a bachelor’s degree in accounting or business management. The degree typically takes four years if you are a full-time student. If you are studying part-time, it depends on how long it takes to complete your degree and graduate.
If you want to become a regular accountant in Florida without certifications, you need an accounting degree. However, you cannot apply to any jobs that require a CPA as this entails licensing, taking the CPA exam, and completing the required work hours under the supervision of a licensed CPA.
No matter how good you are with numbers, taking and passing the CPA exam is difficult. Becoming an accountant is tedious if you do not like finance mathematics and accounting principles. But if you enjoy these topics, being an accountant can be a great opportunity with high earning potential.
You need to study and prepare in advance for this exam, which takes 16 hours. If you have the time, money, and resources to receive a CPA license, it is well worth it in the long run due to the many opportunities you have professionally.
You can work as an accountant in New York without having a CPA license. However, remember that licensed CPAs make more money and have more experience over time. Many companies hire accountants without certifications, however. If you are unsure, always check the “job description of accountant” segment to ensure you have the right qualifications before applying.
If you want to know how to become an accountant online, you can register at a college or university that provides remote learning opportunities. Many institutions offer online courses, helping you get your degree and start working without being physically present. To get started, you can conduct a search engine query and see what programs are available.
Accounting is not an easy profession, so make sure you can manage the responsibilities that the job entails before applying. You can become an accountant without a bachelor’s degree in accounting if you majored in something similar to the field.
For example, you can probably take on light accounting duties if you have a business management degree. You can also join a company as an intern or junior accountant and learn the basics before committing.
Get started on your accountant resume today with Rocket Resume!