Useful Skills within the Accounting Field
- Mathematics - Using mathematics and statistics to solve problems.
- Judgment and Decision Making - Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
- Complex Problem Solving - Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
- Active Listening - Paying attention to what other people are saying and taking time to understand the points being made.
- Time Management - Allocating and budgeting one’s time for different tasks so that things get done when needed.
- Reading Comprehension - The ability to understand complex written paragraphs, instructions, or reports.
- Communication - Concise writing skills and ability to speak in a group to convey information, explain ideas, or give instructions effectively.
- Active Learning - Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
- Critical Thinking - Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.
- Analytical Skills - Ability to identify issues in documentation and suggest solutions.
- Detail-oriented - Pay attention to detail when compiling and examining documentation.
- Organizational Skills - Strong organizational skills are needed to develop specific goals, prioritize, and work with a range of financial documents for a variety of clients.
While a CPA license is not required in order to work as an accountant, it is important to know that every accountant who files reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is legally required to be a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Please see the “Career Spotlight” section to learn more about how to become a CPA.
There are also several certifications available in the accounting field, three of which are the Certified Management Accountant (CMA), the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA), and the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA). Below is a list of other available certifications. It is up to the student to determine which certification(s), if any, would be appropriate to pursue.
- Certified Payroll Professional (CPP) and Fundamental Payroll Certificate (FPC)
- Accredited Business Accountant
- Accredited Financial Examiner (AFE)
- Accredited Tax Advisor (ATA)
- Accredited Tax Preparer (ATP)
- Certified Bookkeeper (CB)
- Certified Financial Services Auditor (CFSA)
- Certified Forensic Accountant (Cr.FA)
- Certified Professional Environmental Auditor (CPEA)
- Certified Quality Auditor (CQA)
- Forensic Certified Public Accountant (FCPA)
To identify what education or training is typical for careers within the accounting field, use the O*Net hyperlinks below and click on “Job Zone.”
As with all majors, the education you receive serves as a foundation of knowledge that prepares you for what you may face in the professional world. The career field you choose may require additional education or experience.
Career Spotlight: Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is an experienced accountant who has passed the Uniform CPA Exam and has been licensed by the state/jurisdiction in which they work.
How to Become a CPA
Get Educated: Most states require candidates to have completed 150 semester hours of college coursework. (A few states will allow a designated number of years of experience to substitute for a degree.)
Get Certified: The candidate must pass all four parts of the Uniform CPA Exam before applying for licensure.
Some states have additional requirements, so it is imperative that you check with your state’s board for details.
What Kind Of Things Can CPAs Do?
In addition to accounting, taxes, financial planning and more, CPAs can specialize in a particular area, such as forensic, environmental, or international accounting, consulting, or even IT services (for those with strong IT skills). This is by no means an exhaustive list, so keep an open mind!
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), job growth for this exciting field is projected to be 11% from 2014 to 2022.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Accountants and Auditors, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/accountants-and-auditors.htm (updated March 21, 2016).
Getting Started: Internships
Gaining real life experience is an ideal way to start a new career. The career services website has an extensive list of internships and fellowships. Browse through the internships organized by interest or by federal program.
There are government-organized internship programs which provide students or recent graduates the opportunity to gain real-life experience. Many require students to maintain either a half-time or full-time student status. The best ways to identify potential opportunities such as these is to contact branch offices directly, to search USAJobs.gov, or to look at the agencies’ career portals. Keep in mind that these positions are not always posted online, so direct contact with the agency is key.
The Pathways Program is a federal initiative that offers internship programs for current students and training and career development opportunities for recent graduates. Recent graduates must apply within two years of degree or certificate completion (except for veterans, who, due to their military service obligation, will have up to six years to apply).The internship program for current students replaces the former Student Career Experience Program (SCEP) and Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP).
The Presidential Management Fellows Program (PMF)
PMF is designed to attract to federal service outstanding men and women from a wide variety of academic disciplines who have a clear interest in, and commitment to, a career in the analysis and management of public policies and programs. To be eligible for nomination, an individual must be a graduate student completing or expected to complete, during the current academic year, an advanced degree from a qualifying college or university. Graduate students who have had their degree conferred in the preceding two years, from the opening of the vacancy announcement are also eligible for PMF.
The Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP)
WRP is coordinated by the Office of Disability Employment Policy and the U.S. Department of Defense, and aims to provide summer work experience, and in some cases full-time employment, to college students with disabilities. The program develops partnerships with other federal agencies, each of whom makes a commitment to provide summer jobs and a staff recruiter. Each year, recruiters interview about 1,500 students with disabilities at college and university campuses across the nation and develop a database listing the qualifications of each student.
Getting Hired: Government Agencies, Organizations, and Search Engines
There are several government agencies and organizations that seek candidates with degrees in accounting. The list below provides a few places one might find employment specific to this degree.
While many of the major job search engines, such as indeed.com or monster.com, will have several positions to choose from, those listed below are specific to this field.
Keeping Current: Professional Organizations and Associations
Involvement in professional organizations is a great way to stay up-to-date on new technology, tools, and best practices in your field. Professional organizations are also a great networking opportunity. Below are a few professional organizations you may be interested in.
Conferences and Expositions
Get Connected: Social Media
A login may be required for access to social media.
- Institute of Management Accountants (IMA®) - LinkedIn
- Educational Foundation for Women in Accounting (EFWA) - LinkedIn
- American Accounting Association - LinkedIn
- APU Business Administration and Management Programs - LinkedIn