Be Bold! Forge a Nontraditional Accounting Career Path

Are you looking for a nontraditional accounting career path outside of a CPA firm, for instance, or the corporate accounting world? A degree in accounting or finance opens the door to a more diverse range of job opportunities than most people might realize.  

From information technology to fraud investigation, a nontraditional accounting career path is worth exploring. Here are eight paths to consider:

1. Environmental accounting

Can numbers save the planet? Maybe not, but a nontraditional accounting career path exists in green initiatives, as organizations in both public and private sectors are looking for environmental accountants, auditors or consultants. A degree in accounting combined with knowledge of environmental law will put you in high demand, allowing you to work with businesses that need to comply with environmental regulations. Auditors and consultants help companies save money and “do good” by investing in green processes, products and services.

2. International accounting 

If you’re bilingual and willing to travel or relocate, a nontraditional accounting career path may have a touch of international flavor. In our global economy, international accounting managers and international tax accountants are in demand to work with overseas contractors, coordinate audits and prepare tax returns. In addition to having a thorough knowledge of International Financial Reporting Standards, specializing in tax laws and practices of a specific region may give you an advantage in this field.

3. Accounting education and research 

For experienced CPAs looking to return to academia, an adjunct faculty position at a university or college is a way to get a taste for a career as an accounting professor, as well as set you on the path to obtaining your Ph.D. in Business Administration. More education is also an ideal choice for accountants interested in pursuing independent or group research projects, as university funding may be available. Definitely a nontraditional accounting career path worth exploring.

4. Entertainment accounting 

Expertise in copyright law and royalties, combined with a background in accounting, may help you land a job with production companies, film studios, radio stations, television networks and other organizations in the entertainment industry. Another option that would be considered a nontraditional accounting career path is taking the self-employment route: offering your services to musicians, writers, actors and other entertainers whose careers often require special assistance with tax preparation, bookkeeping and investment.

Interested in one of these alternate career paths in accounting? Check out our available temporary positions and see if any strike your fancy.

5. Internal auditing 

A bachelor’s and/or master’s degree and one to two years of auditing experience qualifies you to apply for several types of certification from The Institute of Internal Auditors, including certificates in control self-assessment and risk management assurance. A career move to internal auditing can lead you to private and public companies, both large and small, that need advice on improving methods, forecasting growth and evaluating performances.

6. Forensic auditing 

Some businesses don’t take the above precautions, which is why forensic accountants will always be in demand for those taking the nontraditional accounting career path. According to global business consulting and internal audit firm Protiviti, white-collar crime and financial disputes escalate during uncertain economic times. If you have strong analytical skills or experience in criminal justice or law enforcement, you can likely forge an accounting career path within both private and public organizations. Examples include investigating insurance claims, embezzlement, money laundering and other types of fraud. It's worth taking a closer look at accounting certifications, because the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners reports that forensic accountants with the CFE credential earn 25 percent more income than those without.

7. Financial analyst 

Businesses frequently employ CPAs for positions outside of bookkeeping and tax preparation. As a financial analyst, you can find full-time jobs or offer independent consulting services to companies, guiding them in making investments, assessing stock performance, and studying and evaluating economic trends. Financial analyst jobs are available for those with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, though some employers require a master's degree in business administration or finance.

8. Information technology 

According to an Accountemps survey, technology proficiency ranked second only to general business knowledge on a list of the non-accounting skills most valued by CFOs in accounting and finance job applicants. Several accounting career paths focus on IT, like information systems, technology auditing and software revenue management.


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Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2013 and was updated recently to reflect current information.