Accounting can be an ideal career for someone who is good with budgets and numbers. Some of the numbers can be quite pleasant, like a median salary of just over $73,000 for the profession in 2020. And the good news for those that are so numerically inclined is that the demand for accountants is only supposed to rise soon, with the U.S. BLS predicting a 7% increase in accountant need by 2030.
Choose an Accounting Niche
One of the first things any prospective accountant should do is take some time to speak to as many different practitioners in the industry as they can. There are a wide variety of professionals that call themselves accountants. What they do day-to-day can similarly diverge enormously. This can include anything from auditing and analyzing accounts to preparing tax returns. Clients can be an accountant’s own company, governments, other corporations, non-profits, and individuals.
Not every bookkeeping job will be to everyone’s taste. Some may be abhorrent to others while pleasant to most. And knowing what you like before you try it or at least learning a little bit more about it can be nearly impossible.
For accountants, finding your niche in the big accounting world can be of paramount importance to newcomers. Remember that while you may have a preference for where in the industry you’d like to work, in the beginning, you may have little choice. And if it isn’t a necessary accreditation for your work, it’s okay if that first job isn’t as a CPA.
Get the Right Tools
There are several pieces of software that any accountant worth their salt should spend their time familiarizing themselves with. And while Excel can be a good place to start, that is about it unless you will only be working on simple projects. (Not likely.)
Other accounting software it can pay to know includes:
- Oracle NetSuite
- Sage Intacct
- Cloud ERP
- SAP Concur
It can even pay to familiarize yourself with accounting practice management software as well. Some of the best offerings, such as those by Financial Cents, will be highly versatile pieces of software that many accountants find invaluable. Such products are team management software built specifically for accountants and accounting firms. This means that good accounting practice management software will allow features such as team progress tracking, remote collaboration, central data storage, and—best of all—automatic client data harvesting. All of this is packaged with the data you need to know, all readily available for client and business use.
Practice Your Craft
Clients want to see real experience, but nothing says you must have real clients to practice your accounting skills. This practice can either mean doing the books as you would imagine them for a favorite Fortune 500 company or taking on a friend or family member as a client—free of charge. While neither is an experience you should put on your CV, both can be invaluable when practicing your craft.
Start Networking Early
It is never too soon to begin building professional relationships. You never know. The people you meet today could end up being some of your first clients, coworkers, bosses, or employees!
And don’t worry if you are young and just breaking into the industry and feel you have nothing to offer a more seasoned colleague. You would be surprised at what you may have to offer, even if it is only from a different perspective. If you really don’t know where to start, the AICPA has a good guide to networking for young accounting professionals that are filled with helpful tips to make the process less painful for even the most anti-social among us.
Accredited is one of the first steps accountants will need to take to be considered professional. While accreditation is not a requirement of being an accountant, having solid credentials can be very helpful—especially to those who are just starting out in accounting.
Some of the most popular certifications for accountants include:
- Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)
- Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE)
- Certified Management Accountant (CMA)
- Enrolled Agent (EA)
- And, of course, Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
Additionally, some find it useful to get their Financial Services Audit Certificate (FSAC), which allows accountants to gain specialized skills for internal audits and investigations, such as how to scrutinize financial statements to uncover and help prevent fraud.
Finally, there is this final step, staying motivated. This can honestly often be easier said than done. Accounting is rarely the most exciting field, and staying motivated to get tasks done on time can sometimes be difficult. Motivational issues are why having overarching goals can be so crucial. These could be external to your work—such as saving up for a new car or home—or more closely related to what you do day-to-day, like getting a new title or pay raise. Having goals to work towards will not only make all the work seem more worthwhile but setting goals can actually help improve your mental outlook in your larger life.