Are you wondering what you can do with an accounting degree, outside of working for a CPA firm or as a corporate accountant? 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, the different lines of work are worth exploring, along with the accounting education, experience, or certifications required of them. What can you do with an accounting degree? Here are eight accounting career options to consider that are off the beaten path:
1. Environmental accounting
Can numbers save the planet? Maybe not, but a nontraditional accounting career 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, this is one of the alternative careers for accountants that has 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. 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 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? Look for a temporary accounting job in your city, or see what our recruiters can find for you.
4. Accounting education and research
For an experienced CPA 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 career worth exploring.
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 certifications from The Institute of Internal Auditors, including certificates in control self-assessment and risk management assurance. A move to the internal auditing career path can lead you to private or 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 accountant jobs 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 work for both private and public organizations. Examples include investigating insurance claims, embezzlement, money laundering and other types of fraud.
7. Healthcare finance
Given the increase in compliance mandates, a specialization in regulatory and compliance expertise is in demand, particularly in healthcare finance jobs. Healthcare offers a dynamic career ladder for people to climb, according to Kevin Erickson, executive director of the Robert Half Healthcare Practice. In an interview, he said, "Within the revenue cycle, you might come in as a medical billing professional, work your way up to be a supervisor and then become a manager, director, even vice president of revenue cycle."
8. Technology, data and analytics
According to a Robert Half survey, finance leaders face significant shortages of accounting and finance professionals who possess the technical and nontechnical skills required for data analytics initiatives. You could take a job that focuses on IT, like information systems, technology auditing and software revenue management.
As a financial analyst, you can find a full-time job 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.
What you can do with an accounting degree
You might have thought your only choice with your degree would be public or private accounting, but the truth is, you have a lot of accounting career options. As an accounting and finance professional, you can increase your job skills with professional development. You can ask if there are any management training opportunities available at your company, join professional associations, attend conferences, network and find a mentor to find out what else you can do with your accounting degree. The sky's the limit!
Now that you have some options for what you can do with an accounting degree, what can you earn in these different roles? You can find out!
Editor's note: This post was updated recently to reflect current information.