Maybe you chose this field because you have a knack for numbers. Or you followed your father’s profession. Or you accidentally stumbled into the job market and then discovered how you’d answer: Is accounting a good career choice?
If you’re just starting out, you might be curious about what you should consider before making the leap into accounting. If you’re already working in the industry, you may find yourself revisiting the question: Is accounting a good career choice?
Why study accounting?
Here are just a few of the advantages to pursuing this occupation: Accounting is part of every business, nonprofit or government organization. It's a highly regarded profession, with job security and opportunities for advancement. You can work as an auditor, bookkeeper, tax accountant, financial analyst, controller, accounting manager — you name it.
Almost half of the 2,600 finance and accounting professionals who responded to a Robert Half survey said they pursued this field because they liked the nature of the work and job duties.
Perhaps, they knew problem-solving would give them job satisfaction or that they’d really enjoy making strategic business recommendations. Or maybe they knew they’d thrive on the variety of options with regard to different industries and work environments that an accounting career would provide.
Some accounting professionals talk about how they like work that matters and never bores them. They have an expertise that gives them responsibility over operations, planning and decisions. And if they’re going to spend eight-plus hours a day at a job, it should be something they’re good at and enjoy.
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Why pursue accounting as a career?
There’s no arguing the potential for growth and potential for accounting careers. For 21 percent of the survey respondents, the positive employment outlook and stability of a finance and accounting career led to their choice.
Part of the job outlook is the growth potential and ability to move up the ranks in this profession. Career advancement will likely require you to pursue more accounting education or earn professional certifications, which open the door to opportunities.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that employment of accountants is projected to grow 10 percent to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. Right now, the accountant unemployment rate is at record lows, with jobless rates trending well below the national average for other specialized roles, such as auditors, financial managers, billing clerks, financial analysts and bookkeepers.
Variety of accounting career paths
For another 20 percent of survey respondents, the wide variety of career paths within the field led them to their jobs. From entry-level accounting clerk to CFO or partner, from nonprofits to government and all types of businesses in-between, accountants enjoy myriad opportunities.
Of course, there’s also the choice between private and public accounting. Private, or corporate, accountants work for single companies. Public accountants work for companies that provide auditing, tax, advisory and consulting services to others or may work as independent accountants. While public accountants may work with a variety of businesses, corporate accountants become accounting experts in specific companies and industries, with a broad range of accounting, auditing, tax and consulting duties.
Compensation and benefits
Good pay and benefits was the primary attraction for other survey respondents, and salaries are rising, with sign-on bonuses and other incentives also increasingly common.
The Robert Half Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance Professionals offers a comprehensive look at salary data, along with a Salary Calculator to examine specific salary ranges for different positions.
Here are just three accounting roles and their expected salaries in 2018:
- Staff accountant — These professionals do everything from maintaining general ledgers to meeting with clients to discuss real estate tax liabilities. The staff accountant salary midpoint for someone with up to a year of experience is $45,000. That increases to $60,000 in starting salary for one to three years of experience.
- Forensic accountant — These specialists investigate fraud, such as money laundering and embezzlement, by analyzing an organization’s financial records. The projected salary for forensic accountant jobs is $90,000 at the midpoint
- Accounting manager — They are responsible for a team of accountants in maintaining the general ledger system, preparing financial statements, coordinating the budget process, and so on. The latest Salary Guide research shows the midpoint salary for an accounting manager is $90,000.
At the midpoint, candidates have average experience with the necessary skills to meet the job requirements, and the role may be in an industry where competition for talent is moderate.
Is accounting a good career choice?
If nothing else, knowing why you chose this field — and having a good answer — can help you in your next job interview. “Why accounting?” may be one of the first questions you’re asked, so be prepared. You can certainly do better than these two responses to that question in our survey: “It just happened” and “Instructed by my parents.”