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The University of St. Thomas (UST) is Houston’s Catholic University, committed to the Catholic intellectual tradition and the dialogue between faith and reason. Our blog is dedicated to helping you explore your future career possibilities and how to make the most of your college experience.
What You Should Know Before Making a Career Change to Accounting
The days of choosing and maintaining a single career path until retirement are long gone. Whether driven by achieving a higher salary, pursuing a long-time passion or some other motivation, today’s workers are increasingly seeking a change of pace. In fact, one survey from Indeed indicates 49 percent of respondents reported having made a dramatic shift in their professional lives.
It’s probably somewhat of a relief to hear that so many others have made occupational adjustments. While you’ve been thinking about making a career change to accounting for some time, you’re not yet among those who’ve followed through. It’s in your nature to analyze everything to ensure you’re making a sound decision.
So how do you know whether switching to accounting is the right move? You can start right now by learning more about both the advantages and drawbacks to the role.
8 Facts to keep in mind when considering a career change to accounting
If you’re still weighing a major professional change, you could probably benefit from learning some more specific information about accounting. This is certainly not an exhaustive list of considerations, but it should provide you with enough information to start making some decisions.
1. It’s a stable career path
This field isn’t trendy, which is actually a significant advantage. Accountants provide vital services to both clients and organizations regardless of the economic environment. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows the unemployment rate for the management, business and financial operations category, which encompasses accountants, is consistently well below the average across all occupations. Even in times of recession, there’s a need for qualified accountants who can prepare necessary financial records.
2. Accountants need to meet certain requirements
Accountants need at least a bachelor’s degree to qualify for most jobs. Many students who know they want to pursue this field upon entering college choose to major in accounting (and complete an internship or two), but that’s not the only pathway. You can also gain the necessary education by seeking a master’s degree in accounting if you already completed your undergraduate studies in another area. Because many employers prefer hiring candidates with a graduate-level education, those with a bachelor’s degree in accounting should consider furthering their studies as well.
The other advantage of completing a graduate program in accounting is that it can help you meet the number of postsecondary hours your state requires to become a certified public accountant (CPA), granted you must pass the four-part exam as well. While not every accounting role requires this designation, many professionals find obtaining the credential makes them more competitive in the job market. Being a CPA can also help accountants who own their own business attract new clients.
3. There are numerous types of accounting roles
While most people think of the tax professional they see every year when they envision what an accountant does, that’s actually just one of the many types of accountants. These experts work in all types of organizations, often lending their expertise to help with overarching financial planning.
Here’s an overview of some common accounting positions:
- Staff accountants are employed by organizations to perform duties like analyzing budgets and preparing tax documents.
- Cost accountants analyze financial processes and recommend ways to improve.
- Tax accountants are often CPAs who help ensure clients pay the proper amount owed and assist with financial planning.
- Investment accountants work in the financial industry to maintain investments and ensure their organization adheres to regulations.
- Project accountants oversee all cost-related aspects of a particular project.
- Management accountants are responsible for analyzing an organization’s financial standing and making recommendations to leaders.
- Government accountants work at the federal, state and local level to ensure budgets are appropriately used and to assist with financial planning.
- Forensic accountants search for errors within financial records and ensure legal compliance.
- Auditors provide an objective analysis of an organization’s financial statements and operations.
Unlike emergency medicine physicians who never really know what to expect, accountants can be fairly certain of what their days will entail. Few of the latter would describe their role as “thrilling,” but that doesn’t mean the job is easy. Accounting requires a lot of calculating and investigating. Those in the most senior leadership roles are often key strategic advisors for their organization.
It’s worth mentioning that not everyone is cut out for this type of position. But for the right person, the challenge that accounting provides can be incredibly rewarding in a professional setting. Research from Robert Half actually shows that the ability to solve problems is what accountants tend to enjoy most about their jobs.
5. Self-employment is an option
Accountants can seek available positions just like anyone else, but they also have the option to start their own firms. If you were to become an accounting firm owner, you would have control over the types of technology you use, the niche you want to serve and the type of business structure that best meets your needs.
Of course, opening a firm requires a considerable amount of work as well. The basics of starting a business include obtaining an Employer Identification Number (EID) and Tax ID, determining startup costs, creating a pricing model, drafting internal policies and hiring staff.
Going the self-employed route isn’t for everyone, but it does allow you a level of flexibility that you’re unlikely to find elsewhere. Some accountants even work as a sole proprietor right from their home office.
6. The busy times can be stressful
Public accountants experience the most hectic stretch during tax season, while private accountants face their own rush at the end of a financial quarter. During their respective busy seasons, accountants often work long hours to meet deadlines.
Some people thrive under this type of pressure. For those who don’t, there are certain ways to manage the strain. Just keep in mind that experiencing some degree of stress is likely if you make the career change to accounting.
7. There are many advancement opportunities
You aren’t alone if you feel you lack good options for career growth in your current role. This is the exact reason many working professionals begin considering a major transition in the first place. One huge advantage of making a career change to accounting is that there are numerous options to pursue more advanced roles.
As you gain experience, you could progress to a supervisor role or become a partner at a firm. As the BLS points out, accountants can even achieve more senior job titles like accounting manager, budget director, treasurer and chief financial officer (CFO).
8. Accounting jobs typically offer an appealing salary
If you’re anything like other professionals who’ve considered making a career change to accounting, earning a good living is a top priority. Maybe you have children to support. Perhaps you want to begin planning for retirement.
No matter your reason, you should feel optimistic about your salary potential by transitioning to accounting. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for accountants was $71,550 in 2019. This is significantly higher than the national average for all occupations, which was $39,810 for the same time period.
Feel confident in your career change to accounting
Any major adjustment in your professional life deserves careful consideration. Instead of making an abrupt career change to accounting, take some time to reflect on how it would impact your life as a whole. You might, for instance, find that being able to run your own firm is reason enough to pursue this path.
If you’re feeling more confident that accounting is the right fit for you, it may be time to start thinking about how you can begin your transition. You’ll likely need to start by advancing your education. Believe it or not, schools like the University of St. Thomas (UST) provide great options for career changers like you.
Learn more about how you can start working toward your next act by visiting the UST Master of Science in Accounting program page.
Ready to take the next step?
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