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Career Guide
Accountant

If you have a knack for numbers, possess strong organizational skills, enjoy problem-solving and have a keen eye for detail, you could chart a path towards a rewarding career as an accountant in your future. 

If you enjoy planning, organizing, managing deadlines and seeing a project through from start to finish, you may excel in a career as a project manager. 

If you have a knack for numbers, possess strong organizational skills, enjoy problem-solving and have a keen eye for detail, you could chart a path towards a rewarding career as an accountant in your future.

What is an accountant?

An accountant is a business professional hired by individuals and corporations as a financial detective. Their role largely focuses on meticulously preparing and auditing clients’ financial records. Accounting professionals ensure accuracy, spot opportunities, assess financial risks and verify taxes are paid correctly and on time. More than just number crunchers, accountants use their expertise to work as strategic advisors, helping organizations run efficiently by assessing their financial operations. In a nutshell, they are the guardians of financial health for both corporate and private clients.

There are different types of accounting professionals, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS): 

  • Government accountants manage and examine government financial statements and audit private entities under government regulation or taxation. They also ensure revenues are managed appropriately and lawfully, with responsibilities including auditing, financial reporting and management accounting.
  • Management accountants — also known as cost, corporate, industrial, managerial, or private accountants — use accounting and financial data to help companies make strategic decisions. They prepare budgets, performance evaluations and other internal-use information to assist managers and help plan business costs. Additionally, they may collaborate with financial managers on asset management, guiding the selection of financial investments like stocks, bonds and real estate.
  • Public accountants manage a variety of accounting, auditing, tax and consulting tasks for diverse clients including corporations, governments, individuals and nonprofits. They specialize in areas like tax advisory, forensic accounting and personal financial guidance. They also play a crucial role in submitting documents, including annual and quarterly reports, to the Securities and Exchange Commission for publicly traded companies. Many public accountants — often certified public accountants (CPAs) — either run their own businesses or work for public firms. 

Some related job titles within the accounting profession include accounting officer, certified public accountant (CPA), cost accountant and general accountant, according to O*NET.

In the accountant career, you can explore diverse work environments, with employment opportunities spanning across various industries in both for-profit and nonprofit organizations. Around 1.5 million accountants and auditors were employed nationally in 2022, BLS states. Companies specializing in accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping and payroll services were the largest employers of accountants and auditors in 2022, BLS reports. The increasing process of globalization, a thriving economy and the intricate landscape of tax and regulatory policies are anticipated to sustain the robust demand for accountants and auditors in the future, according to BLS.

Career-relevant skills

Knowledge of the following accounting principles and skills may be needed in this role:

  • Interpersonal communications
  • Business communication
  • Budgeting
  • Accounting
  • Forecasting
  • Financial management
  • Risk analysis
  • Reconciliations and adjustments
  • Accounts payable and receivable
  • Resource allocation
  • Supply and demand
  • Microeconomics
  • Business economics
  • Economic development
  • Macroeconomics
  • Data analysis
  • Research
  • Decision making
  • Financial planning
  • Time value of money
  • Financial analysis

Additional skills:

  • QuickBooks
  • Business processes
  • Accounting software
  • Business decision making
  • Profit and loss (P&L) management
  • Managerial accounting
  • Performance assessment
  • Project budgeting
  • Cost accounting
  • Accruals
  • Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) compliance
  • Income statement
  • Corrective and preventive action (CAPA)
  • Financial accounting
  • Cash flow
  • Variance analysis
  • Financial data
  • Corporate taxation
  • Tax planning strategies
  • Business entities
  • Individual taxation
  • Accounting systems
  • Financial services
  • Bank reconciliations
  • Bookkeeping
  • Internal controls
  • Accounting records
  • Business acumen
  • Investment

Soft skills

Regularly used on the job

Important soft skills for the accountant career path include complex problem-solving, time management, judgement and decision making, critical thinking and attention to detail, according to O*NET.

Salary range $60 - $101K

25th-75th percentile

In 2022, accountants and auditors within the 25th and 75th percentiles earned between $60,290 and $101,150, according to nationwide statistics from BLS.[1]

126,500 jobs

Projected annual job opportunities

Employment in this field is projected to grow by 4% nationally between 2022 and 2032, according to BLS. Based on this projection, it is expected that 1,605,800 accountants and auditors will be present in the workforce by 2032.

[1] Salary ranges are not specific to students or graduates of University of Phoenix. Actual outcomes vary based on multiple factors, including prior work experience, geographic location and other factors specific to the individual. University of Phoenix does not guarantee employment, salary level or career advancement. BLS data is geographically based. Information for a specific state/city can be researched on the BLS website.

Advancement in the accountant career journey may depend on the specific specialization you choose, according to BLS. As an entry-level public accountant, you could progress into senior roles, such as supervisor, manager or partner. You may also opt to establish your own public accounting firm or transition into positions within management accounting or internal auditing within private companies. As a management accountant — after starting out as a cost accountant, junior internal auditor or trainee for other accounting positions — you could move up into roles such as accounting manager, budget director, chief cost accountant or manager of internal auditing. Some management accountants may go on to work as controllers, treasurers, financial vice presidents, chief financial officers or corporation presidents.

Education and experience

A pair of accountants discuss a client's finances

A bachelor’s degree is a general requirement for entry-level positions in the accounting profession, with some exceptions for those with associate degrees, according to BLS. If you are strongly considering the accountant career path, you may want to pursue a degree in a related field, such as accounting or business. 

You can also expand your expertise within the accounting profession by earning a certificate. These programs can help you stay on top of the latest trends in the industry and hone skills you may need for an accountant career in a shorter amount of time than a traditional degree.

Some employers may seek candidates with a master's degree, specifically in accounting or business administration with a focus on accounting, BLS states. For positions that require reporting to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), candidates must be licensed certified public accountants (CPA), according to BLS. You may also consider pursuing a CPA license to establish credibility with clients and potential employers. To obtain your CPA license, check your state’s requirements as these regulations vary across the U.S.

At University of Phoenix, we offer undergraduate and graduate programs leading to the accountant career outcome. Our programs allow you to fit your education into your busy schedule, taking one course at a time in five- to six-week intervals. Learn more about which of these programs — focused on teaching you the accounting principles and skills you’ll need in your career — is right for you.

Bachelor of Science in Accounting

The Bachelor of Science in Accounting program[2] prepares you with the financial skills you need to help organizations run efficiently. Develop specialized skills in managerial accounting, estate taxation, advanced topics in accounting research and more. This program does not lead to any certification or licensure including Certified Financial Planner (CFP) or Certified Public Accountant (CPA).

In this program, you'll learn how to:

  • Integrate generally accepted accounting principles throughout the accounting cycle
  • Evaluate accounting and financial information to make business decisions
  • Integrate ethical, legal and accounting standards and assumptions into financial practices
  • Integrate business practices into accounting and financial operations

The length of our bachelor’s programs is four years, and each course spans five weeks. To earn this degree, you are required to complete 120 credits through courses in general, core and elective topics.

Graduate Accounting Certificate

The Graduate Accounting Certificate program[2] prepares students with skills that can be used on the job in areas like managerial accounting, auditing, financial reporting and accounting information systems. This program does not lead to any certification or licensure including Certified Financial Planner (CFP) or Certified Public Accountant (CPA). 

In this program, you'll learn how to:

  • Apply accounting concepts to real-world situations
  • Use analytical tools and technologies
  • Consider legal, ethical and social values in accounting
  • Make managerial accounting and capital budgeting statements
  • Comply with federal tax laws

The length of this program is seven months, and each course spans six weeks. To earn this certificate, you are required to complete 15 credits in five core courses. 

[2] Each state sets forth standards required to be eligible to take the CPA exam and apply for licensure or certification as a CPA. While this program was designed with consideration for the standards proposed by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA®), University of Phoenix cannot, and will not, provide any assurance that completion of this program will allow a successful student to qualify within the student’s specific jurisdiction. Potential applicants should check with the appropriate organization within their jurisdiction to determine if this program, combined with their undergraduate degree and any other specific criteria, meets the requirements to qualify for examination in that specific jurisdiction. States frequently change their requirements for examination. There is no assurance that at the time of degree completion the specific jurisdiction’s requirements will be consistent with the requirements at the time of admission.

Additional pathways

Enroute to completing your Bachelor of Science in Accounting degree, you have the option to earn an Associate of Arts with a concentration in Business Fundamentals. This option allows you to gain an associate degree within two years of your program while you work towards your bachelor’s degree. It can also open doors to entry-level job prospects that align with the outcomes of both programs.

Alternatively, you can also get a head start on a graduate-level education. You have the option to take two graduate-level courses from our Master of Business Administration or Master of Management programs while pursuing your Bachelor of Science in Accounting degree through our Business Master’s Pathway. 

An accountant uses a laptop and ledger to reconcile accounts

How can University of Phoenix support me in pursuing my career goals?

Students and graduates can access our Career Navigator tools, which can help you evaluate career options, track career-relevant skills and discover job postings suited to your needs. From resumé building and interview preparation to networking and mentorship, University of Phoenix offers career services for life to all students and graduates. Dive deeper into our career services, resources and tools to find out how we can help you reach your goals.

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