Working in finance
There are two distinctly different directions you can take with an accounting education: You can work for the public (and many accountants develop their own business out of this service), or you can choose government or corporate service.
A public accountant must have all the skills of a CPA, as well as keen interpersonal and communication skills that will guarantee good customer service. You may provide assistance with financial planning and investment, tax preparation or audit guidance. You might also independently consult with a business owner or manager to review financial practices.
As a public accountant, you'll certainly find that your busiest time of year is income tax time - but you might be surprised by some of the new careers that are coming out of an accounting education:
- Assurance: the analysis of data and recommendation of best procedures based on past performance;
- Fraud detection: the review of previous financial records to reveal both personal and corporate fraud;
- Information technology: the development of software and processes for financial services.
The financial compensation that accompanies a public accountant position really depends on the type and size of the accounting firm you work with, as well as your position with the organization. Smaller companies offer accountants salaries in the $30 000 to $40 000 a year range, and some larger companies provide their senior employees with upward of $100 000 year.
Government accountants work in financial planning, auditing and reporting. You might find yourself involved specifically with a revenue agency that focuses on finance but you may also work in any number of different areas as departments plan and work with budgeting and funding. You'll do much of the same work as a public accountant, but you'll be working with organizations rather than individuals.
The salary of a government accountant depends on several factors:
- The type of accounting
- Your position in the organization
- The government agency
- The level of government
For example, if you work at an entry level position for a state government, you can expect, on average, to make around $35 000 a year; at the same position in a federal government, you might expect to bring in around $43 000.
The business accountant is truly a jack of all trades. Most business accountants work for one company throughout their career, however, nowadays many people are becoming mobile in their work life. It is increasingly easy to move from company to company, depending on advancement opportunities and salary.
A business accountant is responsible for all aspects of the company's financial planning and maintenance. Depending on the level of responsibility you're given, you may need to manage the company's financial needs and predict future requirements. Other duties might include financial reporting and tax preparation, internal auditing and fraud prevention and even providing financial training for other departments.
As with other accounting positions, salaries vary widely and depend on the level of responsibility you have at your job, as well as the organization or company that you work for. Companies that operate in the millions of dollars will clearly pay better than your local organization with business in the hundreds of thousands or even thousands of dollars.
However, acting as a business accountant can prove to be a lucrative career, and in the right situation is (financially) the best option. Performing at a high level in a large company will rake in over $300 000 a year. Even starting salaries in a large company are comparable to upper level positions in smaller organizations. You can reasonably expect to start in the $70 000 range with the right company.