A degree in or experience with accounting doesn’t mean you have to have “accountant” as your title. The accounting field encompasses a variety of jobs across finance, analytics, business strategy and management. Those with accounting knowledge work in just about every industry, from banking to software to law enforcement.
With so many potential career paths, narrowing down your desired role or professional niche can be a challenge. That’s why it can help to start with the most popular accounting and accounting-related roles. Due to trends like increased tax law complexity, new regulatory requirements and digital transformation, certain positions are seeing an increase in demand. In this post, we’ll highlight five of the most sought-after careers in accounting, their related certifications and Surgent course materials that can help you pursue each career path.
5 accounting careers in demand
Auditors review and examine an organization’s financial statements, policies, procedures and transaction records to ensure they’re accurate, efficient and in full compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. An auditor is meant to be an unbiased, objective party that verifies an institution’s practices and financial documents, assesses potential risks and offers recommendations for process improvements. As the name implies, auditors are also responsible for conducting audits — formal, independent reviews of an organization’s financial records and practices.
Auditors can be external or internal. External auditors typically work for public accounting firms and are hired by other organizations on a short-term basis. Internal auditors, on the other hand, work full time for a specific company, organization or government agency. In general, external auditors need to hold the CPA designation (more on that below) and often have a master’s degree in accounting, while internal auditors aren’t required to hold a degree or CPA license. However, many internal auditors chose to pursue Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) status, and potentially the Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) designation.
The job market for auditors is growing, and is expected to expand by 10% by 2026.
Bookkeepers provide a critical service for any company, namely the recording and organization of financial transactions. You might picture a bookkeeper, trusty calculator at their side, writing careful notes in a well-worn ledger. However, just about all modern bookkeeping is done through sophisticated accounting software. The general tasks performed by a bookkeeper remain the same, though, and include recording debits and credits, checking records for mistakes, reconciling accounts and producing financial statements. Basically, bookkeepers are responsible for recording all transactions that involve a financial component — everything from rent payments and utilities expenses to customer transactions and materials purchases.
Unlike an accountant, a bookkeeper doesn’t need to have a degree in accounting or any professional certifications. Bookkeeping doesn’t really require any formal training; in fact, some small business owners keep their own books. To brush up on your own bookkeeping skills, check out some of our resources on the topic.
A controller is responsible for the day-to-day accounting and financial operations of an organization. Often, they manage a company’s payroll, accounting, audit and budget departments. They’re also tasked with preparing financial documents, such as income statements, balance sheets and cash-flow analyses, as well as required regulatory reports.
Many of a controller’s responsibilities are similar to those of an accountant. However, their duties also include preparing for the financial future of the organization. Controllers analyze market trends, review potential strategies, predict costs and revenues, consider expansion opportunities, make forecasts and identify areas of risk. Many controllers hold CPA licenses, and additional controller certifications include Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) or Certified Management Accountant (CMA).
According to Robert Half, the controller title is one of the most in-demand and lucrative in the finance and accounting space, paying an average annual salary of over $230,000 in the United States.
Financial analysts work with organizations and individuals to create informed investment strategies. Many work for banks, insurance companies, mutual funds, private equity groups, securities firms and venture capital firms. Buy-side financial analysts work for companies with large amounts of money to invest (institutional investors), while sell-side analysts work with financial sales agents to sell securities like stocks and bonds.
Data and analytics are big parts of this role. Financial analysts review past financial data, review current and upcoming economic trends, assess investment risk and determine the potential profitability of specific opportunities. The job requires a great deal of mathematical and statistical acumen, along with excellent research skills. Financial analysts typically hold a bachelor’s degree in accounting, business administration, economics, finance or a related field. Some may pursue the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation as well.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the financial analyst job market will expand by 9% between 2021 and 2031, a faster rate than the average across all tracked occupations.
Forensic accountants examine financial documents and monetary transaction to uncover evidence of fraud, money laundering, identity theft, misappropriation of funds and other crimes. Essentially, forensic accountants act as financial detectives. They may even be called to testify in criminal or civil court cases.
As you might expect, forensic accountants are typically employed by law enforcement and government agencies. However, they may also work in the fraud investigation or compliance departments of private companies, or for law, insurance or financial consulting firms. Most forensic accountants hold a CPA license, and many also obtain the Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) designation. In addition to knowledge of accounting, forensic accountants must also be familiar with the financial aspects of criminal law and have some understanding of the legal and court systems. New methods of committing fraud and other financial crimes arise each year, so forensic accountants also need to be aware of these trends and how to recognize them.
The average company loses 5% of its annual revenue to fraud; as a result, demand for this specialized accounting field is only expected to grow.
Accounting certifications and licensure
Most accounting careers require some kind of professional license or certification. Below is a brief overview of the various designations you may consider pursuing if your goal is to hold one of these in-demand accounting careers.
Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
The CPA license is the gold standard of the accounting profession. To become CPA certified, you’ll need to pass the CPA Exam. Our CPA Exam Review course can help you achieve a passing score as quickly as possible.
Certified Management Accountant (CMA)
While the CPA license focuses heavily on tax-related concepts like financial reporting and tax return preparation, the CMA certification is geared toward corporate accounting responsibilities, including management functions, budget analysis, and business strategy. If you’re considering sitting for the CMA Exam, our CMA Exam Review course is a great test prep option.
Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)
The CIA license, which is awarded by the Institute of Internal Auditors, is the only internationally recognized certification for internal auditors. Unlike the CPA designation, which is only recognized in the United States, the CIA designation is valid worldwide. If you’re considering a career as an internal auditor, get on the path to certification with our CIA Exam Review course.
Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE)
The CFE designation demonstrates expertise in and extensive knowledge of financial fraud detection. It is awarded by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) and eligibility to sit the four-part exam is determined by their point system.
Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
The CFA certification is given by the CFA Institute and designates specific and detailed knowledge of investment tools and analysis, wealth planning, portfolio management, asset valuation and risk management. All CFA candidates must pass a three-part exam and meet certain work experience requirements.
Getting certified with Surgent
In addition to the exam review courses highlighted above, Surgent offers courses geared toward EA (Enrolled Agent), CISA (Certified Information Systems Auditor) and SIE (Security Industry Essentials) certification. All our exam review products include unlimited practice exams and a 100% pass guarantee. You will get full access to all course materials until you pass the exam.
Plus, our exam reviews include the following proprietary features:
- A.S.A.P.® Technology: Study more efficiently with our adaptive learning technology, which assesses your strengths and areas for improvements so you can focus on any weak spots.
- ReadySCORE™: Know when you’re ready to pass! Our ReadySCORE™ feature is an exam-readiness indicator that predicts your likely score if you were to take the test on that day.
- Daily Surge: Daily Surge cards appear every time you log into the course and suggest the topics you should cover during that session.
- MyMCQ™: Our multiple-choice practice questions encourage you to master increasingly challenging concepts with each round, saving you time and helping you assess where you stand.
Take your accounting career to the next level
There are a number of careers for accountants to pursue. No matter your career goals, Surgent can help you reach them. Browse our extensive library of course materials, training programs and continuing education opportunities to find the option that’s right for you.