Recent college graduates in finance or accounting can usually land a job at a large firm. If you graduated from Harvard, Wharton or other Ivy League school, you’ll have a chance at getting into one of the “Big 4” accounting firms--Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers. They usually recruit right out of college and prefer someone with a few years of experience—literally the best of both worlds. That said, you should be aware that some big firms will let new hires go after a busy season.
If you’re in your mid to late 30s and you simply have a business or finance degree from an accredited college or university, you’ll have to settle for a smaller, local accounting firm. You’ll need to pass the CPA exam, which demonstrates that you’re committed to an accounting career.
If you can’t afford the time and money to attend a traditional university, you can go the online degree route. If you do, make sure your online university is fully accredited, and that your State Board of Accountancy accepts the credits from your school. Fail to do this and all your hard work and money will be for nothing.
Not surprisingly, every firm you approach for a job will want you to have some experience in addition to a degree. If you’re caught in this catch 22—no experience, but can’t get it without a job—consider volunteering your skills to non-profit organizations and community businesses. You can also set yourself apart from the pack by taking courses in IT, computer programming or advanced mathematics, things that can prove very useful in today’s high tech economy.
There are a number of career paths you can take in accounting. It simply depends on your personal preferences. Some options to choose from include:
Tax Accountant. You’ll need a background in tax and legal accounting to do this job. And you’ll be expected to keep up with ever-changing tax laws. Much of this work is seasonal. So make sure the company hires you for the long haul.
Auditing Work. Just about every business and government entity needs auditing work. You’ll need to immerse yourself in the operations of the company and its many divisions. That means how products and services are sold and how income flows into the company. You’ll have to maintain ledgers and accounts and comply with state and federal laws.
Budget Analyst. You’ll develop financial plans for businesses, and you’ll need to be a skilled negotiator if you choose this career path.
Management Accounting. You’ll be the go-to person when it comes to the financial aspects of restructuring a company or merging your company with another enterprise. Your efforts will dovetail with the company’s marketing and finance divisions to help implement new business strategies. This field will become increasingly popular as the tight economy forces more companies to merge or restructure to survive.
Certified Public Accountant. Many experienced accountants choose the CPA route. It gives them the independence of being their own boss and lets them establish a more personal business relationship with their clients.
Getting your first accounting job won’t be easy. But once in, there are many career options to choose from. If you have comments, include them below.