Career Choice: Accountant
If you’re good with numbers, are analytical and interested in financial information such as company reports, the stock market, investments and tax liability, then a career as an accountant might be right for you. These professionals, who sometimes work as auditors, will encounter a wide variety of job duties depending on which of the four major fields of accounting and auditing selected: public accounting, management accounting, government accounting and internal auditing.
Accountants are responsible for preparing, examining and analyzing accounting records, financial statements or reports, to ensure that such data is accurate, complete and conforms to company and procedural standards. Accountants report to upper management, detailing the company’s financial position and making recommendations as warranted. These professionals develop recordkeeping and accounting systems for their firms, typically using existing computer technology to accomplish that task. Accountants liaise with private and government auditors, analyze business operations, trends and costs, and advise clients as needed.
About 80 percent of accountants have a bachelor’s degree according to O-Net Online. Five percent have an associate degree and approximately 1 in 10 has a master’s degree. Most accountants majored in accounting while in college and took courses in engineering, mathematics, technology and computer science.
More than one million people were employed as accountants and auditors as of 2010 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The mean annual wage was $68,960, with those in the 10th percentile earning $38,940 per year. For accountants in the 25th and 50th percentiles, their average annual salaries were $47,990 and $61,690, respectively. For accountants in the 75th and 90th percentiles, their average salaries were $81,290 and $106,880, respectively.
Approximately 25 percent of accountants worked for accounting firms, the largest employer of such professionals, paying $74,250 per year on average. Accountants employed by corporations and other businesses earned close to the national mean, averaging $68,760 per year. Local and state governments represented the third and fourth largest employer category, offering average pay of $59,190 and $56,460, respectively. Top annual pay of $89,310 was earned by accountants employed by the federal government followed by accountants who worked for the Securities and Exchange Commission. SEC accountants earned $83,610 per year on average.
Employment levels for accountants generally follows state population sizes as accountants are needed in every state, county, city and in most companies. California, the largest state, had nearly 1 in 9 of the nation’s accountants in 2010, professionals who averaged $74,360 per year. New York followed, with much higher wages, averaging $85,230 per year. New Jersey had the second-highest average wages for accountants at $79,620 per year. The greater New York City area had the highest average wages in the nation, with accountants earning $89,220 per year. Metropolitan San Jose, California, followed at $88,750 per year. In the District of Columbia, accountants averaged $84,390 per year.
Job growth for accountants should be twice the rate of all jobs according to the BLS. The bureau has forecast a 22 percent rise from 2008 to 2018, citing “an increase in the number of businesses, changing financial laws and corporate governance regulations, and increased accountability for protecting an organization’s stakeholders will drive job growth.” Achieving professional recognition is beneficial for the prospective accountant as can having a master’s degree in accounting or a master’s degree in business administration.