Accountant Career


Accountants conduct analysis of financial information and communicate related details. They help ensure that companies run efficiently, accurate public records are maintained, and taxes are paid correctly and on time.

Accountants may work for a company, the government, or for clients as a public accountant. In addition to financial document preparation, analysis, and verification, some accountants perform budget analysis, investment and financial planning, consulting regarding information technology, and offer limited legal services.

Accounting Career Assessment

Take our Accounting career assessment. This 30 question quiz let’s you know if you’re cut out for a career as an accountant by analyzing your abilities, skills, and interests.

1. Would you like preparing and analyzing accounting and financial statements?

2. Are you OK reporting to management concerning the finances of the company?

3. Are you OK advising clients in areas of compensation or long-term tax plans?

4. Would you like developing and modifying accounting systems using computer technology?

5. Would you like preparing tax returns and ensuring compliance with tax requirements?

6. Are you interested in economic and accounting principles and practices?

7. Do you have knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, and other basic math principles?

8. Do you have knowledge of the structure of the English language including the spelling of words and grammar?

9. Are you OK using word processing software and managing files and records?

10. Are you up to the task of meeting or exceeding customers/clients needs?

11. Can you give your full attention to what others are saying?

12. Are you OK using math to solve problems?

No answers for the question found.

13. Do you have the ability to understand written sentences in work related documents?

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14. Can you convey information effectively?

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15. Can you use logic and reasoning to approach problems?

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16. Do you have the ability to choose the right math formula to solve a problem?

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17. Do you have the ability to listen and understand information giving to you through spoken words and sentences?

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18. Can you read and understand information and ideas presented in writing?

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19. Do you have the ability to perform basic math problems like adding and subtracting quickly?

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20. Can you apply general rules to specific problems to come up with the right answer?

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21. Are you OK using computers to enter data and process information?

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22. Can you process information including categorizing and calculating?

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23. Are you OK getting all the relevant data through observation?

24. Can you use relevant information along with your judgment to figure out if events or processes are in compliance with laws and standards?

25. Are you OK providing information to supervisors and clients?

26. Do you have the ability to supervise employees?

27. Can you be exact and highly accurate when performing tasks?

28. Are you OK with having daily telephone conversations?

29. Can you repeat the same physical or mental activities for long periods of time?

30. Are you OK working indoors every day?

Accounting Career Snapshot

Accountants typically work in an office setting. Those that are self-employed may work out of a home office. They often work a 40-hour work week, although many accountants work overtime during tax season.

Here are further details on a career in accounting (statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Onet Online):


is the average earnings for accountants per year.


increase in employment between 2014 and 2024.


have a Bachelor’s degree in accounting/related field.

Accounting Education

Most accountants complete at least a Bachelor’s degree in accounting, business, or a related area of study. In addition to the education required, many accountants also choose to become Certified Public Accountants (CPA’s). In order to become a CPA, an individual must pass the CPA exam and meet the requirements of their particular state.

Accounting Job Outlook

According to the, careers in accounting are expected to see an 11% increase in employment between 2014 and 2024.  This increase is estimated to result in 142,400 new accounting and auditor jobs.

Accounting Salaries

The average salary of an accountant in May 2015 was $67,190. The low end of the pay scale was $41,400 while the high end was $118,930.

Accounting Job Duties

The typical accountant job description includes ensuring that their clients have paid their taxes and reported their finances correctly to various government agencies.

They also often offer budget analysis, investment planning, and limited legal services such as incorporation. Clients may include individuals, small businesses, or large corporations.

Accounting Career

Here are a few skills and abilities that are needed to become an accountant:

Accountant Skill Set:Required Abilities:Tools Used by Accountants:Typical Work Activities:
•Active Listening
•Reading Comprehension
•Critical Thinking

•Mathematical Reasoning
•Oral Comprehension
•Written Comprehension
•Number Facility
•Deductive Reasoning

•Calculators or accessories
•Facsimile machines
•Notebook computers
•Using Computers
•Processing Information
•Gathering Information
•Evaulating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards
•Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work

Accounting Career Insights

Take a look at the interviews from actual accountants and gain valuable career insights in the field of accounting.

Russell Hopkins, C.P.A. | Accountant,

Russell Hopkins, C.P.A. | Accountant,
CPA for 29 years

Why did you decide to get into the accounting profession?

I wanted a specific skill set which would make it more likely that I would work in my chosen field. I also wanted an opportunity at a career that offered a wide range of opportunities, where lifetime learning would be required, ethical standards were high, and the public image was good.

How did you get into the profession?

I started my major classes in my sophomore year of college. I graduated in four years but being allowed an early start in accounting and finance related courses gave me more opportunities to take additional classes in my field. I took the CPA exam immediately after graduation and received my certificate two years later after completing the required two year internship.

What do you like best about the accounting profession?

There is not a single profession where accounting skills are not valuable. However, working with and being mentored by people who are visionary, competent, confident, and successful is probably the most underrated part of the profession. I also like the fact that these life lessons are transferrable to careers outside the accounting profession.

What skills are most important for accountants?

The single most important skill would be hard to choose. The ability to concentrate deeply is a generalization but I think it encompasses the ideal skill. You have to be able to read, discern, and apply either financial accounting pronouncements, intricate and sometimes conflicting tax laws, or other professional standards – none of which are straightforward. You also have to be able to understand complicated systems, contracts, transactions, and relationships, view them critically, and properly address them. We live in a complex financial world so the rules for properly reporting complex transactions must also be complex.

What is the most challenging thing about being an accountant?

The most challenging part of the profession is keeping up with changing rules and standards and, if you are in a larger firm, designing and implementing the systems that make those changes part of the firm wide fabric. This isn’t only maintenance of professional skills but is also risk management.

Do you have any advice for those attending school or pursuing a career in accounting?

Absolutely learn all that you can, about everything in this field that you can, and remember that as you gain experience new doors are opening for you. You may not end your career as a public accountant but starting there is a start to many excellent careers.

Calvin Harris Jr. | Accountant, Harvin Consulting

Calvin Harris Jr. | Accountant, Harvin Consulting
Accountant for 20 years

Why did you decide to get into the accounting profession?

I decided I wanted to be an accountant in my early teenage years. I was always good in math and was interested in business. In high school, I took a bookkeeping class and immediately loved accounting. I’ve been involved in accounting ever since.

How did you get into the accounting profession?

The summer after I graduated from high school (where I took a bookkeeping class), I was a summer intern at an accounting firm. It was great exposure to what it was like to work in an office. I then attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia where I obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, with a concentration in Accounting. While in college I was a summer intern for a large company and my first job out of college was with the accounting firm Arthur Andersen. Beyond my Bachelor’s degree, I am a CPA (Certified Public Accountant).

What do you like best about the profession?

What I like best about the accounting profession is the huge number of opportunities it has. One of the great things about the profession is that every company, no matter the size or industry, needs an accountant. If you like the entertainment business, they need accountants. If you like electronics, they need accountants. I also like the number of different types of accountants. Contrary to popular belief, accountants can do much more than just taxes (though many do that as well).

What skills are most important for accountants?

There are various skills important for the profession. Being comfortable with math is helpful, though much of accounting is basic arithmetic. Often the more complicated math is done through computer software. You must be proficient with computers and software (especially spreadsheet applications which we use frequently). The ability to communicate well is often important because accountants often must provide information to non-accountants.

What is the most challenging thing about being an accountant?

What is most challenging about being in the profession is remaining aware of current accounting policies. There are numerous boards and groups that decide accounting policies around the world and accountants (especially CPA’s like me) have to remain aware of current policies. Non-accountants might be surprised to know that accounting rules are constantly reviewed and updated to ensure the financial information we report is as accurate as possible.

Do you have any advice for those attending school or pursuing this profession?

My advice for those attending school or pursuing the profession is to work for other accountants and see if they like being an accountant. I am a big fan of internships.

Kenneth Burke | CPA,

Kenneth Burke | CPA,
CPA since 1986

Why did you decide to get into the accounting profession?

I was sitting with my Dad and asked him about my choice for majors before starting at Niagara University. His advised me to choose accounting. He said accounting is the language of business; he was right.

How did you get into the profession?

I have a BBA in accounting. The accounting professors suggest public accounting as a starting point for your professional career. I was fortunate to have 5 offers from Big 8 (now the Final 4!) accounting firms during the fall of my senior year. I started my career with Arthur Young (now E&Y) and stayed with them for 4.5 years. I passed the CPA exam and was licensed in NY and NJ. After leaving E&Y, I spent 19 years with a regional CPA firm located in Rochester NY. I became a partner and was the Director of the Tax Practice. I retired at the age of 45 and began a business coaching practice and still provide some CPA related services.

What do you like best about being an accountant?

The opportunity to meet an endless variety of business owners and industries is an extremely valuable education. As you career progresses, you become a key trusted advisor to the business owner. In many instance this extends beyond tax and financial advice. Clients become woven into the fabric of your professional and business life. It is an honor and privilege to work with individual in this way.

What skills are most important for accountants?

  • Listening Skills – We all have 2 ears and 1 mouth, it is important to use them in that proportion. Your ability to listen to your clients is the most important skill. Far beyond tax, auditing and financial reporting, understanding the greatest challenges and problems your clients have is key to advising them.
  • Building Rapport – In order to acquire new business, potential clients need to know, like and trust you. Your ability to build rapport quickly will increase your business development success. This basic fact in undeniable, you can’t be a CPA without clients. You must be able to develop business.
  • Working well with others. Teams accomplish more than individuals.

You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned technical skills. It is assumed you have the technical competency to practice as a CPA. Technical skills vary considerable. After being a partner in a regional firm for almost 15 years, I can tell you the soft skills eventually trump the technical skills.

What is the most challenging thing about being an accountant?

The personal time commitment you need to make in public accounting is high.

Do you have any advice for those attending school or pursuing this profession?

Being a CPA is not about counting beans. Rather, it’s about applying your technical training in the disciplines of finance, tax and business to help a business owner achieve success in business.

Ramon Santillan | Accountant,

Ramon Santillan | Accountant,
Accountant for 10 years

Why did you decide to get into the profession?

I have always wanted to go into a business related field and when I took my first accounting class as a sophomore in high school I earned a 100% as my total final grade. My teacher noticed that and suggested I take the advanced course even thought it was only available for juniors (11th graders). I got a 99% in that class.

How did you get into the profession?

Most colleges in the United States offer an accounting degree. Depending on the state where you live the requirements may be a bit different but typically it requires a 4 year college degree with an emphasis in accounting. If you want to become a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) you may need about another year of classes and take the exam administered by your state.

What do you like best about the profession?

You will probably have to figure out what type of accounting you want to do: financial accounting, tax, audit or government/non-profit. Financial accounting deals with preparing and reporting financial statements, tax and audit are exactly that and can deal with local, state, or federal issues, and government/non-profit refers to doing any of the above three for a government or non-profit entity.

Although most of the accounting jobs may seem boring, there are several areas considered to be “sexy”. One example is forensic accounting which falls under audits. These are the people that investigate fraud and are sometimes send of to remote locations and deal with lots of cloak and dagger stuff. It’s not uncommon for a forensic/fraud accountant to meet in the middle of the night with a whistle-blower while an armed body guard acts as a look out. When you’re talking about millions of dollars of fraud at stake, many people wouldn’t think twice about killing the accountant who may uncover the scheme.

The best part about accounting is that there are many different routes you can take which don’t necessarily mean having to sit behind a desk all day. Having Accounting as a basis can also help you chart your own way in many other careers or as a business owner.

What skills are most important for the profession?

Being analytical and attentive to details is what the ideal accountant should be. You should also not think that because you have finished your college degree that you will stop learning. You will have to keep up with any new regulations for the specific area of accounting that you are working on for the rest of your career.

What is the most challenging about being the profession?

Accounting is certainly one of those fields where you have to “pay your dues” if you plan to get anywhere. There are many options but the most common and best one is to go work for one of the “Big Four” accounting firms (Deloitte, KPMG, E&Y, PwC). These are the top accounting firms in the world and having worked at any is the best way to become an expert in your field. The hours are long, the work tedious, but once you have been there at least 2-3 years, you are almost guaranteed a job in industry. However, when you’re in Big 4, you work long hours and it is not always doing exciting high level work. Everyone is working towards getting promoted but there are less spots than applicants so there is always some sort of politics at work.

The ultimate goals for most accountants is either to become partner at one of the accounting firms or CFO for a public company. Both goals are extremely hard to reach and require huge amounts of work and personal sacrifice. For those with a more entrepreneurial spirit, opening in your own shop is always an option. Most accountants work in the financial departments for companies.

Another challenge of being an accountant is having to plan your life around tax deadlines, SEC filing timelines, and/or IRS requests can be a hassle especially since most of these deadlines are final meaning that if you don’t do them, the company you work for can literally be shut down.

Do you have any advice for those attending school or pursuing this profession?

All in all, accounting is pretty straightforward and is recommended for people who are analytical and enjoy number crunching. It pays well and is always in demand. Your best bet before plunging into a career in accounting, is to get an internship and see if it really fits your needs. Don’t want to plunk down thousands of dollars into a degree yet? Consider volunteering in the financial committee of any non-profit and you’ll get a small glimpse of some of the things an accountant does.

Sheila May | CPA,

Sheila May | CPA,
CPA for over a year

Why did you decide to get into the accounting profession?

I liked applying my knowledge of tax to the field of law. Maybe I wish I had gotten a law degree as well as my CPA, but tax is a type of law. I like the varying situations and being able to help people.

How did you get into the profession?

Definitely, my Masters in Tax and CPA help. I am working towards a Business Valuation certification and a CFF which requires experience before one can sit for the exams. People really want those credentials.

What do you like best about the accounting profession?

Being able to help. It sounds corny, but I want to be that dependable person when someone needs it. It’s just my personality.

What skills are most important for the profession?

I would say honesty. These people are trusting you with personal information and are believing you will advise them well. I take that seriously.

What is the most challenging thing about being an accountant?

People are in crisis and often it is hard for them to speak (spouse is angry or an employee may be being dishonest so I cannot call them at work) and I have to meet them places instead of calling or emailing.

Do you have any advice for those attending school or pursuing this profession?

Get the knowledge, get the credentials and sell yourself.

Peter Brown | Accountant

Peter Brown | Accountant
4 years in accounting financial services

Why did you decide to get into the profession?

From an early age, my parents had me investing money in the market, which inspired a love for the financial aspects of business. Running a small business taught me the crucial role for financial management to grow and remain healthy. However, what motivates me is helping other people. Seeing the opportunity to use my skills and experience to help businesses make better financial decisions was a no-brainer. Now, I am able to help people and use my background.

How did you get into the profession?

My degree helped me to get a job with an industry leader. From there it has been a huge amount of on-the-job learning. In fact, I would attribute my success to being a life-long learner. If you are committed to excellence, no matter the profession, you will be successful.

What do you like best about the profession?

Helping businesses make better decisions.

What skills are most important for the profession?

Analytical skills are crucial to be able to determine what opportunities exist. But even more importantly, it is critical to keep the big picture in mind. Being able to piece the entire financial story together with the goals of a client is essential to help them achieve their goals, personally and financially.

What is the most challenging thing about being the profession?

The terminology. It is like learning a new language when you begin to dig into the specifics of a balance sheet and how that impacts company performance.

Do you have any advice for those attending school or pursuing this profession?

No matter how competent you are, the need to be able to communicate your findings is of the utmost importance. Make sure you learn your technical skills, but work on the soft skills as well. Take a public speaking class. Read sales books. Master your ability to communicate with all levels of professionals.

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