Careers in Accounting
Accounting is a profession, not a mere job. And, in an ever-changing business landscape, it’s about so much more than just numbers.
Accounting is the language of resource measurement and management. Careers in accounting are challenging and rewarding, whether they be in private industry, public accounting, or the government sector. Accountants can obtain a variety of professional certifications, including certified public accountant, certified internal auditor, certified fraud examiner, certified information systems auditor, and certified management accountant. Each professional certification program includes rigorous examination and experience requirements. Professional accounting organizations such as the American Institute of CPAs, Colorado Society of CPAs, Institute of Management Accountants, Internal Auditors Association, Information Systems Audit and Control Association, Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, and American Accounting Association, have rigorous codes of ethics that their members must follow. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service, and many other government agencies actively seek out accounting majors in their recruiting efforts.
Every type of entity needs accounting. A master’s degree is becoming the new standard for a successful career in the accounting field. Accounting students will position themselves for a variety of career options from industry, government agencies, community service organizations, small local or large international certified public accounting firms, or even as entrepreneurs.
Successful accounting students possess these skills and attributes: ability to organize, analyze, and interpret numerical data; strategic and critical thinking skills; proficiency in oral and written communications with the ability to explain complex financial data to others; ability to apply current technology; knowledge of financial and economic history, practices, and trends; ability to work collaboratively as well as independently; understanding of the methods for creating, leading, and managing change in organizations.
The accounting profession has emerged as one of the leading growth professions. Careers are open to women and men of all backgrounds. It is a profession that offers good income potential, stability, and benefits.
Refer to the Bureau of Labor Statistics website to learn about career outlook information for the accounting field.
Accounting graduates usually pursue career path options from one of four general types of work. Each is discussed below.
Certified public accounting firms range in size from large international companies to individual practitioners working from home offices. Accountants working for CPA firms perform audits, prepare tax returns, and do tax research and planning. They act as management advisors offering expertise to individuals and industries in a variety of consulting areas.
Business and Industry
Accountants working in industry can choose from a wide variety of positions. An accounting degree can provide the path to positions such as Chief Financial Officer and Chief Information Officer. Other accountants in industry specialize in areas such as forecasting, budgeting, financial analysis, or internal auditing. Many students begin as staff accountants and progress to senior accountant, supervisor, manager, controller, and up to CFO, CIO, or even CEO.
Government and Not-For-Profit
All levels of government need accountants. With their understanding of financial systems, accountants have the opportunity to select from among numerous options in the public sector. They can use their expertise to gain management positions. Accountants are employed by federal, state, local, and educational agencies. The FBI, IRS, GAO, CIA, and Secret Service all employ a large number of accountants.
Accounting educators are members of colleges, universities and business, professional and graduate schools. As faculty, these accountants help prepare students for careers in the profession. In addition to classroom-related activities, faculty members are also expected to engage in research and provide service to their educational institution, the profession, and the community.
Certification of Accountants
Recognizing the need for reliable accounting services, a number of organizations have established a process through which to gain professional certification. The process typically includes examination, education, and experience requirements. The MPAcc program at MSCD helps prepare students for the rigors of the various accounting certifications. Some of the most popular certifications are CPA, CMA, CIA, CFP, CISA and CFE.
Each state has specific requirements for CPA certification. Most states require 150 semester hours of college education, including a bachelor's degree. Candidates must have at least 30 credit hours in accounting subjects. The CPA is the only accounting-related certification requiring 150 hours of education in most states (although until 2015, Colorado currently requires only 120.)
Certified Management Accountant (CMA)
The CMA examination is administered by the Institute of Management Accountants. The CMA certificate gives professional recognition to the management accountant. CMA certification began in 1972.
Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)
The CIA certification provides recognition to individuals who have achieved technical competence in the field of internal auditing. The Institute of Internal Auditors administers the CIA exam.
Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
The CFP certification denotes that an individual aspires to the highest level of excellence in financial planning. The certification process is overseen by the Institute of Certified Financial Planners.
Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
Individuals with expertise in information systems auditing can be certified as a CISA by meeting established education, experience, and examination requirements. The Information Systems Audit and Control Association governs the process for CISA certification.
Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE)
The Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) certification designates proven expertise in fraud prevention, detection and deterrence. CFEs are trained to identify the warning signs and red flags that indicate evidence of fraud and fraud risk. CFEs around the world help protect the global economy by uncovering fraud and implementing processes to prevent fraud from occurring in the first place.
CISM- Certified Information Security Manager
CGFM- Certified Government Financial Manager
DORA – Department of Regulatory Agencies