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Accountant and Bookkeeping Careers Guide

Learn about different careers in accounting

As an accounting professional, you’ll provide services to your clients, ranging from audits to taxes to consulting. You’re the backbone when it comes to finances of a business or an individual. Learn more about becoming an accountant, a CPA, or a bookkeeper.

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Accountant Career Info

Main Article: Accountant and CPA

You’re an analyzer and organizer of numbers. Your clients come to you to make sure their finances are accurate, their taxes are prepared, and their personal or business accounts are legit. You try to prevent all types of monetary discrepancies throughout companies, and on personal levels, as well.

Steps to Become an Accountant

You don’t necessarily need a degree to be an accountant, but most hiring managers prefer at least a bachelor’s degree. However, if you want to be a CPA, then you have to go through the proper schooling channels.

  • Get your high school diploma or GED.
  • Complete your bachelor’s degree in accounting from an accredited program.
  • Consider an internship where you’ll get real-life experience.
  • Once you graduate with your bachelor’s degree, get some more work experience. Network. Learn additional software programs.
  • You don’t need a master’s degree to become a licensed CPA, but it’s one way to obtain the 150 credit hours needed.
  • Becoming licensed is another way to get those 150 credit hours. Keep in mind, certifications and licensing are voluntary, but hiring manager are more apt to hire you if you have them. So, there’s that.
  • As mentioned, certifications are optional. The available ones are Certified Management Accountant, the Certified Internal Auditor, and the Certified Information Systems Auditor. Each certification has its own experience requirements.
  • You’ll need to decide whether you want to be an accountant or a CPA. Accountants are more limited in their duties than CPAs.

What Accountants Do

CPAs and accountants may have taken a similar education path and have the same passion for numbers, but their job duties are slightly different.

What an Accountant Does

  • Makes sure financial records are correct
  • Ensure that everything is in compliance with laws and regulations
  • Taxes
  • Becomes very familiar with the client’s money, accounts, and balance sheets and how these are going to directly affect finances
  • Takes care of personal and/or business finances
  • Works without needing certifications
  • Cannot do the same scope of work as a CPA

What a CPA does

  • Gives financial advice to companies and corporations
  • Has the last word when it comes to financials
  • Adheres to a strict code of ethics and tries to remain as trustworthy as possible
  • Is highly state regulated
  • Renews license every two years
  • Everything accountants do

Accountant Salary and Job Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2021 that the average salary for an accountant was $83,980, with the top 10 percent earning $128,970. The employment outlook for accountants and CPAs is consistent with the national average, expected to increase 7 percent by 2030.

Bookkeeper Career Information

Never mind that accountants and CPAs don’t consider you to be an accounting professional. Because, guess what? You are. You work to make sure ledgers are balanced, and companies are sailing along smoothly. Duties given to you are similar to those of accountants, so therefore you’re definitely considered an accounting professional in the eyes of your employer.

Becoming a Bookkeeper

While you don’t necessarily need a college degree to find work as a bookkeeper, most employers do prefer their bookkeepers to have a postsecondary education. To become a bookkeeper, follow these steps:

  • Get your high school diploma.
  • Find an internship or a job that will train you.
  • Study the various accounting software available, and practice all the different functions.
  • Consider getting an associate degree or a diploma in bookkeeping.
  • After two years of working as a bookkeeper, you can get certified through the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers.
  • Get licensed through the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers. Twenty-four hours of continuing education per year is needed to keep the certification current once you have it.
  • Think about going back to school for a bachelor’s degree or even a master’s degree to become an accountant or CPA.

What Bookkeepers Do

When you are working as a bookkeeper, you’ll be taking care of a company’s financial records and accounts. Your duties make you a major asset to the company you’re employed with.

What your exact responsibilities entail will depend on where you work. The following areas may be your responsibility:

  • Accounts payable and receivable - You’ll monitor purchase orders and match them with invoices upon receipt. You have to get approval for payments and make sure all the bills are paid on time.
  • Payroll - You take care of the payroll, collecting time sheets and entering them into the system. You will also process the payroll checks or send them to a payroll processing service.
  • Banking - Preparing bank deposits and handling company spending are all part of your day’s work. You will also organize and analyze the monthly bank statements, do wire transfers when necessary, and determine spending limits.
  • Taxes - Often, tax returns are also prepared by the bookkeeper. But that really depends on the size and nature of the company you work for.

You’ll be filling out a ton of forms regarding compensation, pension or retirement, financial budgeting, and more. Clerical duties are also handled by you, from sorting the mail to organizing files with customer and vendor information.

Bookkeeping Salary and Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the bookkeepers in 2021 averaged a salary of $45,140, with the top 10 percent making an average of $61,980. Most bookkeepers are full time, and some can occasionally work from home. There will be times, particularly around tax season, where you may be working more than 40 hours per week.

Many bookkeeping systems are now automated through computer apps and cloud computing. So, by 2030, the demand for bookkeeping is expected to decline 3 percent. However, there are still many companies needing their finances and records taken care of by a bookkeeper, not a software service. So, bookkeeping jobs will be available in the future.

Online Accountant Programs

Deciding to take online college courses makes a lot of sense, especially if you have a lot going on in your life with work or family. Online school is not only convenient but also more affordable than attending in-person classes at a college campus.

There are many online accounting programs available, but just make sure whichever one you choose is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, otherwise you may not be eligible to become a certified public accountant, if that’s your goal.

Find an online accounting program.

Read: What's an Online Accounting Program Like?

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