Pros and cons of an accounting career

All professions have advantages and disadvantages, and accounting careers are not an exception. What considerations should you take into account when choosing a career in accounting? Is it going to match your personality? Are you ready to invest enough time to prepare for such a career? In this accounting article, we will talk about benefits and challenges of joining the accounting profession.

1. Advantages of accounting careers

The decision to choose a particular profession should not be taken lightly.  Selecting an accounting career brings up lots of considerations.  There are advantages and disadvantages of becoming an accountant.  Is accounting for you?  Is it a good career choice?  What are the long-term prospects of accounting careers?  We will start by looking at the benefits of accounting careers.

Accounting professionals are always in need

It is not a secret that all mid-sized and large companies need accountants.  A lot of smaller companies, governments, and non-profit organizations also need accountants.  The demand for accountants is growing and is not expected to go down in the future.

Additionally, in the past accountants performed specialized and narrow work tasks: record business transactions, prepare financial statements, manage cash and bank balances, etc.  This has changed.  Now people in the accounting profession can not only perform traditional accounting tasks, but a wide variety of other specialized work: implement and maintain accounting systems (IT), perform company valuation studies, advise clients on wealth building and personal finances, do internal or external audits, and so on.  This naturally expands a need for accountants as they can now perform a wider range of jobs.

There is career diversity in accounting

As noted above, there are many work areas of specialization for accountants.  It is one of the best things about the profession.  Once you complete your training and education, you are not limited in what you can do.  You may or want to specialize over time in a particular area of accounting but your options are relatively open.

One can choose to become a bookkeeper, accountant, internal auditor, external auditor (also known as public accounting), information technology auditor, valuation specialist, consultant, personal financial planner, fraud examiner, financial analyst, tax expert or specialist, or owner of your own firm.  Further, you may be interested in jobs with the government.  For example, FBI hires accountants as special agents in their money laundering and similar divisions to help fight fraud.  Finally, you can decide to become an accounting educator (teacher or professor).

Compensation is good

Accountants earn relatively high salaries.  The most recent BLS reporting (2018) shows a median salary of $71,550 and a 10-90% percentile rage of $44,480 - $124,450.  On top of higher salaries, accountants usually qualify for benefits as full time employees (if their employers offer these benefits) or owners of their own firms.  Such benefits may include: health insurance, dental insurance, 401K retirement plan, life insurance, short-term disability or long-term disability insurance, reimbursement of continuing professional education and professional membership fees, and so forth.

Career paths in accounting are predictable and clear

Even though there are a lot of areas or specializations that an accountant can choose from, there is usually a clear path of career growth.  At the same time, there is quite a bit of flexibility to change your accounting career if your plans change.  Let’s take an entry-level accountant as an example.  An entry level accountant may progress to a senior accountant, accounting manager, senior accounting manager, assistant controller, controller, and finally, chief financial officer (or even chief operating officer).  Somebody working in public accounting (usually CPAs) would start as an entry level auditor (junior auditor) and progress to a senior auditor, audit manager, senior audit manager, and finally director or partner.  If the accountant or auditor in our examples want to switch companies or areas of specialization, they can do that too.

Remote work is a possibility

In the past before computers, accountants used printed ledgers and adding machines.  Remote work for accountants was not possible.  However, nowadays with the domination of electronic communication and means of sharing information, remote work for accountants is a very real possibility.  In fact, the Covid-19 pandemic forced a lot of accountants to work remotely - similar to many other professions - and it proved to be possible.  More and more accounting jobs can be done remotely now which means there is a larger market for accountants and increased labor mobility.  One can live on the east coast of the US and have a job located on the west coast.  There are a lot of benefits of working remotely (e.g., reduced commute time), but remote work arrangements present their own challenges (e.g., lack of in person interaction).

You can travel for business

One of the other benefits of being an accounting professional is the ability to travel for work.  For example, if you become an auditor or consultant in a public accounting firm, there is a high likelihood of travel (national or international).  This may appeal to some, especially more junior accountants as it gives them an opportunity to travel the country or the world at the employer’s expense.

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