If you love numbers but can’t see yourself slogging through a career in academia, you might want to consider becoming an accountant. This is a career field that has a number of advantages, including the many industries you can work in. Do you love sports or entertainment but can’t hit a ball or a note and want a reliable career? Do you love stories of space exploration but can’t bear the thought of leaving the ground even on a plane? Athletes and singers, movie stars and even NASA all need accountants. Accounting is also a flexible career in terms of location. If you want to go back to the small town where you grew up to raise a family, it’s likely you can find some kind of accounting job there. The first step in becoming an accountant is getting a college education.
Going to School
You may need to take out a mix of federal and private student loans to pay for your education, but the return will be a higher salary. Private loans can be a great supplement to whatever federal aid you are able to get and may offer low interest rates. At minimum, you need a bachelor’s degree in accounting. You might also choose to become a certified public account to position yourself better in the job market. CPA requirements vary from state to state, but passing the CPA exam is one requirement. You generally also need to do some coursework. You might increase your career prospects even more by pursuing a master’s degree in accounting.
You can pursue other certifications if there are certain areas you want to specialize in. For example, you could become a Certified Information Systems Auditor, which prepares you to work in security or auditing of information systems. Once you have a CPA, you may pursue such additional certifications as Accredited in Business Valuation or Personal Financial Specialist.
Room to Grow
The decision to pursue certification or a master’s degree does not have to be made immediately. Just as studying accounting gives you many different options in terms of industry and location, you also have many opportunities and pathways to advancement. Accounting is a common background for people who become CEOs or who hold other high-level executive positions. Small business ownership is not for everyone, but if you think it might be for you, accounting can also prepare you well for this.
Soft Skills to Develop
Accounting isn’t just all about numbers. Strong math and analytical skills are critical, but to move into top positions, you’ll need some other abilities as well. People might not think about accounting as requiring strong communication skills, but you will need to ability to explain your work, sometimes persuasively, as well as listen and respond to the concerns of others. You also need to be detail-oriented and have strong organizational skills. Leadership, networking and public speaking skills are always a plus, and starting in college and throughout your career, you can join professional organizations that give you the chance to build these as well.