Three Career Options Every Accounting Major Should Consider
The field of accounting is consistently growing; job opportunities abound, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates accounting roles will grow exponentially over the next decade. With so many opportunities, it can be hard for accounting majors to nail down the correct career path. While a wonderful problem to have, it still presents a great deal of stress and frustration.
Accountants in all stages of their careers consider becoming a CPA at one point or another, and it’s not hard to see why. This designation enables accounting professionals to seek better employment at higher compensation rates. CPAs are constantly in demand in a variety of industries. They are tasked with helping clients keep accurate records, prepare taxes, and file documents with the IRS correctly. They generally provide account analysis, investment consulting, and strategic tax planning. The salary rates for this profession can vary, but the average salary for a CPA comes in at around $62,055, with many in certain industries seeing six figure salaries at some point in their career.
The path to becoming a CPA isn’t without its challenges. Candidates must first earn their bachelor’s degree in accounting or finance. In total, you must acquire 150 semester hours of education in a related field before sitting for the CPA Exam, which is about 30 more hours than the typical bachelor’s degree. This leads many to pursue a master’s degree, while others attend 5-year universities designed for accounting hopefuls. You must also acquire a certain amount of months or years of experience, then sit the exam.
The CPA Exam is a 14-hour test broken up into four parts. It can take many individuals years to pass; however, once you pass the first portion of the test, you’re required to pass the last three parts within 18 months. Many find they must invest in rigorous review courses before taking the exam, and acquiring your CPA designation can mean an investment of time and money on your part.
Are you interested in law? Tax attorneys specialize in assisting their clients with issues involving state or federal taxes. This can be a great career path for those who thrive on debate, and follow a strong sense of right and wrong, with a specific interest in justice. Tax attorneys need excellent research and communication skills, and must have the ability to analyze key details as they play into larger concepts.
The career path to this position requires a bachelor’s degree; a tax attorney generally holds a degree in accounting, but there are some who have business and finance backgrounds. After receiving your bachelor’s degree, you’ll be tasked with taking and passing the LSAT, a standardized test that examines logical and analytical reasoning skills, along with reading comprehension. After taking the exam, you must apply to law school.
When researching schools, take size, reputation, location, and tuition into consideration, but keep in mind that all states require lawyers to graduate from an institution that’s been accredited by the American Bar Association. While in law school, it’s important to garner experience in your field; apply for a law internship and learn the lay of the land with first-hand experience. After graduating, you’ll be required to sit for your state’s bar exam, which can take some individuals multiple tries. All this effort does pay off; in 2014, the average salary for lawyers came in at $133,470, so it’s safe to say this career path offers enticing compensation.
If you have visions of working with and for the IRS, you may want to consider a career as an Enrolled Agent. This certification is designated for federally licensed tax practitioners that are empowered by the U.S Department of the Treasury to represent taxpayers in front of all areas of the IRS. Whether you want to specialize in tax preparation or hope to help taxpayers resolve issues with the government agency by settling outstanding debt, there’s plenty to do in this illuminating career.
To become an Enrolled Agent, you can take an exam known as the SEE, or work for the IRS for five years. The EA Exam can be difficult to pass on first attempt; it contains three parts that must be completed individually, and most find they must spend months on enrolled agent exam preparation before sitting for the exam. Once you’ve passed the exam and received your license, the work isn’t done. Enrolled agents are required to receive continued education, at least 72 hours per three years. However, this job path does offer plenty of opportunity for advancement, and can be a great route for those interested in specializing in tax resolution.
Accounting degrees offer a great deal of latitude. Consider one of these three career paths and find a fulfilling position that’s everything you’ve ever wanted.