So you've graduated from college with your degree in Accounting, the ancient art of number-crunching.
You've learned GAAP rule after GAAP rule and had to apply them to what feels like thousands of hypothetical scenarios.
And after all of that hard work, logging in hours and hours of studying, test-taking, essay writing, and let's face it, wondering why you ever decided to go to college in the first place, and was it really worth it? You're left with one big question:
Well, that's where we come in. We literally created a map, just for Accounting Majors such as yourself, to navigate your way through the choppy waters of recent graduation.
Feel free to focus on the map alone -- it's pretty cool, if we do say so ourselves. But for those of you who prefer step by step navigation on your path, keep reading. We'll give you the rundown on:
- What skills you'll need
- How to begin
- What jobs you can expect to find as an Accounting Major
- Some quick interview tips
- Consider graduate school
- External resources
First thing's first: what skills you'll need to get started.
1. Skills for Accounting Majors
While the education gained in the classroom is without a doubt beneficial, you've learned more from your accounting degree than just how to memorize accounting principles m. Beyond personal development and simply learning how to learn, employers will want to see how you can reflect, realize, and grow.
An Accounting Major is analytical and good at taking the big picture into account when trying to solve a problem. While it's true that much of the major is in identifying which GAAP rules to apply to a given situation, the larger meta-skills developed as a result of this tend to make Accounting Majors quick learners and thinkers.
Applying these skills to real world learning opportunities yields a more robust and balanced career. Here are some of the common skills that you should have when trying to get a job with an Accounting degree.
Attention to detail. In any accounting-related job, overlooking something small can spiral into something enormously bad. Having the ability to spot small inconsistencies before they become big problems should be second nature to accounting majors.
Knowledge of information technology. While the particular software you'll need to know will likely be specific to the position that you find, having a general knowledge of finance or accounting-related problems will come in handy when looking for jobs. Basic Excel is a must, but Quickbooks or experience with data modeling programs will also look pretty good on a resume.
Critical thinking and analysis. Again, you've learned all about the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and have worked to apply them to hypothetical situations so far, and it's true that most of these problems you've solved have been specific to accounting-related positions.
But the ability to apply theories and abstract concepts to real-world solutions is an extremely adaptable (not to mention marketable) skill that you can translate into any career you can imagine.
2. Where to Begin Your Career After Getting an Accounting Degree
Perhaps the most important thing you can do right now is put yourself out there for internships (though, hopefully you have one or two under your belt from your time in school. If not, don't fret! It's not too late.)
Internships are an excellent way to get your foot in the door at a company you might want to continue a career with, or just in the field that you're interested in entering.
Here are some common types of internships for Accounting Majors:
- Tax preparation
- Forensic accounting
- Government internships
Before you settle on an internship, though, you'll want to make sure it's the right fit for you. Ask yourself these questions:
- Where (in the state/the country/the world) do you want to work?
- What size and type of organization do you want to work for?
- Do you need compensation in an internship, or might you be able to consider alternative compensation (experience, work samples, references, networking, etc.)
- Is relocation an option?
3. Available Jobs For Accounting Majors
And now, the step you've probably been waiting for -- getting a job. But we assure you, mastering your skills and getting an internship first are invaluable.
With our map, you can click the Job Titles and learn more specific information for each position (what their responsibilities are, how much they get paid, etc.) But here, we wanted to call out some of the most common jobs for recent Accounting major grads.
Here are three of the most interesting entry-level jobs for recent grads such as yourself:
4. Some Quick Job Search Tips for Accounting Majors
Get Someone With Experience to Read Your Resume
Even if you don't have any direct work experience, you need to be able to communicate your ability to get tasks done through your resume.
Because many entry level job applicants only have internships, retail jobs, or summer gigs, they haven't had any "big achievements" to mention. You will stand out tremendously if you take initiative at these jobs in small ways and add it to your resume.
Were you able to reduce time to fulfill orders? Did you take what you learned at your internship and start a side project?
Someone with experience will help think of ways to make it look like you got a lot out of the experiences. At the very least, they can make sure you format your resume appropriately.
Find a Way to Demonstrate Experience
Even if you don't have any work experience, you need to be able to communicate your ability to get the task done.
Remember that as an accountant, the skills you'll want to highlight are roughly the same across the board, as most positions you'll be going after will prize your analytical ability, your attention to detail, and your capacity for critical thinking. The main thing you'll want to vary are the IT skills you'll want to highlight, which often will be very job specific.
We put together some ways of thinking about how to show your experience on your resume, even if it is limited. Just look for an example of a project you had to complete, the steps you needed to complete it, and how you knew if it ended up successful.
Everyone should have had that experience by the time they graduate, even if it is just a senior thesis.
5. Continuing Education and Certifications in Accounting
You'll want to ensure that you stand out, particularly if you're just entering the job market. Some letters after your name go a long way, and it's worth noting that some of those letters are mandatory.
Certifications and credentials
There are a few good certifications you can grab that will help you get a job as an accountant. For the most part, they're associated with getting, or maintaining, your CPA status.
Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
- The basic certification required to practice accountancy. The rules vary state to state, and your residency can affect your certification status in certain states (such as Texas).
- CPAs typically are a part of their local state CPA organization as well as the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
Continuing Professional Education (CPE)
- Not a certification itself per se, but CPEs are required in order for you to maintain your licensure. Failure to attain your CPE within a certain degree of time can result in your CPA status being revoked or marked inactive.
Pursuing an advanced degree
Obtaining a graduate degree in your course of study can serve as an excellent way to separate you from the herd -- but you must first decide whether it's worth your time.
Try to figure out how much you'll earn your first year to see what people with your experience make with the job title you would expect to get upon graduation.
Just try to avoid the bottom tier Accounting schools as they can be a waste of time better spent with experience in a job. Remember, there's always an opportunity cost to not working.
Here are common advanced degrees that people with an Accounting degree normally consider:
MAcc (Master's in Accounting)
- Typically one-year programs, Master's Degrees in Accounting don't tend to widen the job field so much as they help new college grads get a leg up on their competition. Plus the pay bump isn't bad.
- Good areas of accountancy to look at with a Master's include taxation and auditing-related jobs.
MBA (Master's Business Administration in Accounting)
- Similar to the MAcc, but much more intensive (and expensive). However, the MBA is ultimately more useful, as it will increase your earning potential early on and immediately put you at an advantage over those with just a MAcc.
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy in Accounting)
- PhDs tend to be for those who are research-oriented, and Accounting is no exception. PhDs in Accounting look at Accounting as a field, and apply Accounting principles to studies of the economy and market behavior in order to further this field.
- Typically, PhDs in Accounting go on to become university faculty, with some focusing on teaching and others on research.
6. External Resources For Accounting Majors
If you're still not sure what to do with your degree here are some external sites, to help you with your decision:
American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)
The official organization of CPAs on a national level.
Enter "Accounting" into the search bar and you can get a sense of what kind of government jobs are available to Accounting majors. Find a job title you like and come back here to learn more about it.
Bureau Of Labor Statistics
The BLS offers detailed data on pay, location, and availability of different kinds of jobs across the country.
In fact, we draw a lot of our research on the best places for jobs from the information provided on the site.
And if this all seems like a lot -- don't worry -- the hard part (getting your degree!) is already over.