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When one plans to pursue a career in accounting, there is a variety of factors and aspects important to consider. Success will only come with persistence and dedication as well as with years of experience that cannot be replaced by any theoretical knowledge on the subject.
Senior accounting is a position that implies a range of competencies and responsibilities that a professional can only fulfill when he or she has enough experience and the desire to overcome challenges. Senior accountants train to analyze financial information, produce error-free reports, develop forecasts and set goals of the future, assist companies with tax audits and returns, assign and plan the work of the staff, ensure the compliance of companies with US GAAP standards, and so on.
To become successful in their careers, senior accountants must attain the appropriate level of education. A Master’s degree in Accountancy is preferred because of its comprehensive perspective on the discipline as well as the provision of additional credit hours in the classroom.
Apart from attaining a high level of education, those pursuing the opportunity should be prepared to seize different internships and voluntary work not only to gain experience but also to develop beneficial contacts that can be useful in the future career. Overall, success in senior accounting is attributed to the openness to new experiences and the pursue of knowledge. In researching the topic of becoming successful in senior accounting, one is recommended to pay attention to such aspects as the desired educational level, training and internship opportunities, networking with the help of professional organizations, as well as other activities, including research and publication. The present study aims to explore the mentioned aspects.
Accounting is a profession that offers a range of opportunities to those who pursue it. Because of this, learning from experiences of accountants that have been working in this sphere is important. In particular, the skills and knowledge of senior accountants can be of benefit for the present research because they hold top positions in their organizations and were required to go through a series of challenges such as working for no compensation.
In the current research, the experiences of ten professional accountants were explored by conducting a brief interview with them. The interviewed accountants were selected with the help of convenience sampling, which is the method that was both easy to implement and sufficient for the purpose of the study. All ten participants were interviewed in an informal context to facilitate the free exchange of information as well as make participants comfortable in terms of discussing their career path.
It was revealed that accounting was a profession that could lead people in different directions, ranging from internal auditing to public accounting, which suggests that opportunities in this sphere are vast (The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, 2016). Important topics discovered as the result of the interviews included the following:
- To become a professional accountant, a Master’s or Bachelor’s degree in Accountancy is necessary;
- To gain experience, accountants work as interns on a voluntary basis;
- Participating in professional summits and becoming members of accounting organizations gives knowledge and creates valuable business connections;
- Not many accountants agree to work at governmental accounting associations because of the range of challenges and complexities.
- Contributing to accounting publications develops creative skills and makes accountants’ names recognized within the community;
- Becoming an accountant takes time, dedication, and passion for the profession.
To explore the variety of aspects and processes that contribute to the career path of a professional accountant, interviews with ten senior accountants were performed. They were selected with the help of convenience sampling, which is a non-probability technique in which subjects are chosen based on their accessibility and proximity to a researcher (Etikan, Musa, & Alkassim, 2016). The inclusion criteria for the interviewees included the following factors: a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in Accountancy, the experience of working in the field for at least five years, and willingness to participate in the study. Differences in age, gender, race, culture, and religion were preferred during sampling due to the need to collect a diverse sample of individuals and guarantee representation.
Qualitative data was the focus of the present research as interviews were not focused on offering any quantitative data (Sutton & Austin, 2015). To explore the career path of ten senior accountants, ten questions were developed. These questions were concerned with exploring the accounting profession from several perspectives, including education, work experience, participation in accounting-specific organizations, the need for volunteer work to gain solid skills and knowledge, as well as any additional information pertinent to the topic. For instance, participants were asked such questions as “What degree did you pursue to become an accountant?” “What career paths did you consider within the context of accounting?”
The table below presents aggregate data on the ten participants (all senior accountants) involved in the interviews. It will offer a comprehensive look at the study methodology as well as give an idea about the selected sample:
|Name (Changed for confidentiality reasons)||Age||Education||Years of experience in accounting||Published in accounting journals||Experience with professional organizations|
|1||Mrs. J. M.||35||Master’s||7||–||American Association of Finance and Accounting|
|2||Mr. K. B.||41||Master’s||10||Accounting Horizons||Institute of Management Accountants|
|3||Mr. J. K.||39||Master’s||8||CPA Journal||American Association of Finance and Accounting|
|4||Ms. L. L.||29||Bachelor’s||5||–||American Association of Finance and Accounting|
|5||Mrs. V. J.||31||Master’s||9||Daily Tax Report||Professional Association of Small Business Accountants|
|6||Mr. D. O.||33||Bachelor’s||8||–||Institute of Management Accountants|
|7||Mr. E. B.||45||Bachelor’s||15||Accounting Today||American Association of Finance and Accounting|
|8||Mr. H. T.||50||Master’s||19||Accounting Today||Professional Association of Small Business Accountants|
|9||Ms. L. N.||30||Master’s||5||–||–|
|10||Mrs. J. B.||42||Bachelor’s||12||–||American Association of Finance and Accounting|
After the interviews, the collected qualitative data was transcribed in a single document to conduct the analysis of the data. Thematic analysis of the interviews was performed to identify relevant themes and concepts associated with the topic of a career in accounting. This analysis method was chosen because of its effectiveness in “identifying, analyzing, and reporting patterns (themes) within the data” (Jugder, 2016, p. 2).
In addition, thematic analysis was implemented in the context of this specific research due to the ability to investigate data inductively and make conclusions on the basis of small details pertinent to the subject of accountants’ professional development. Themes identified as the result of analysis included the necessary educational degree to become a professional accountant, the orientations that accounting can take, the scholarly contributions to well-known accounting journals, and the membership in professional accounting organizations.
Professional Life Plan
The exploration of accounting as a career showed that this area of expertise could be a smart choice for starting one’s journey to future work. When one decides to pursue a career in accounting, it becomes clear that the field is broader than expected, offering a variety of new opportunities to apply different skills in a number of areas (“Career Opportunities in Accounting,” 2016). The analysis showed that accounting is not a homogeneous business but rather a set of different areas united by the aim of measuring, processing, and communicating financial information.
Within the sphere of accounting, one can pursue several job opportunities, as revealed by the interviews of ten individuals who work in this sphere. Public accounting is the area targeted at serving clients-businesses, individual clients, non-profit organizations, and governments (Erstad, 2018). Certified public accountants (CPAs) represent the core workforce within this accounting area. To become a CPA, it is best to earn at least Bachelor’s of Accountancy; however, a Master’s degree is preferable (“Which CPA Review Course Is Right for You?” n.d.). After having several years of experience working at large public accounting firms, they predominantly leave their jobs to become employees of single businesses. CPAs usually work as private, corporate, and internal accountants.
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Tax accounting and forensic accounting are also career paths that can be pursued. While the former is focused on tax-related accounting work for companies and individuals, the latter is concerned with examining the financial statements of companies to assist in legal cases and crime investigation. A Master’s in Accountancy is preferred when it comes to these areas. In addition, internal auditing is another area of accounting that can be pursued – it is concerned with ensuring that the financial resources of organizations or individuals are used effectively and without any fraud or mismanagement. Lastly, government accountants work in the public sector and manage financial data associated with the operations of local, state, or federal governments.
They focus on fund management and whether it is managed and spent in accordance with the appropriate laws. All of the mentioned paths require accountants to earn a Bachelor’s and subsequently Master’s in Accountancy.
The interviews with accountants revealed that prior to them becoming parts of large companies, they had to pursue some of the volunteer (non-paid) jobs (Cole, 2014). This was necessary for getting them into the business as a whole as well as to allow them to gain experience that was crucial in their later careers. Seven out of ten accountants interviewed for the study revealed that they had worked as summer accounting interns as undergraduates and graduates. While these jobs were hard and were not rewarded financially, they gave them very important knowledge and expertise that they could not have found anywhere else.
In terms of the accountants becoming members of relevant committees throughout their careers, the interviewees suggested that it was a complex choice and not many senior accountants agree to pursue such an opportunity. Such committees usually operate at the governmental level. However, professional organizations for accountants are beneficial since they provide individuals in the profession with networking opportunities as well as informational resources that are necessary to advance their careers (Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, 2018).
As mentioned by the interviewees, some of the organizations require an annual membership fee while others are free to join. Five of the ten senior accountants mentioned that they had had some encounters with the American Association of Finance and Accounting (AAFA), two of them had worked with the Institute of Management Accountants, and two more had dealt with the Professional Association of Small Business Accountants. All of them indicated that professional organizations were very valuable to them because they had offered a lot of resources ranging from mentorship programs to business contacts.
With regards to the accounting publications, they also offer a range of opportunities for professional development. Six of the interviewed senior accountants mentioned that they had contributed to accounting journals, which helped them “put their names out there” as well as assisted in the development of new skills that were useful in the future. Some of the notable publications include the Accounting Horizons, The Accounting Review, Accounting Today, Journal of Accountancy, CPA Journal, Review of Accounting Studies, and many others (“Journal Rankings on Accounting,” 2018).
In summary of the research experience, it should be noted that pursuing a career in accounting takes time and dedication. One of the most important things to consider is that one should be prepared to work on a voluntary basis as an intern because of the need to gain experience and knowledge before pursuing a job position in a reputable accounting company. Interviews with senior accountants revealed many interesting findings; for example, contributions to reputable accounting journals make it possible for future accountants to get recognized within their industry and help them reach positive professional outcomes.
Association of International Certified Professional Accountants. (2018). 3 reasons to get involved in professional organizations. Web.
Career Opportunities in Accounting. (2016). Web.
Cole, J. (2014). What’s more important: Qualifications or experience? Web.
Erstad, W. (2018). Public vs. private accounting: Your guide to choosing a side. Web.
Etikan, I., Musa, S. A., Alkassim, R. S. (2015). Comparison of convenience sampling and purposive sampling. American Journal of Theoretical and Applied Statistics, 5(1), 1-4.
Journal Rankings on Accounting. (2018). Web.
Sutton, J., & Austin, Z. (2015). Qualitative Research: Data Collection, Analysis, and Management. The Canadian Journal of Hospital Pharmacy, 68(3), 226-231.
The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. (2016). Professional accountants – The future. Web.
Which CPA Review Course Is Right for You. (n.d.). Web.