How to Become an Accountant: 2023 Salary and Career Paths | (2023)

How to Become an Accountant: 2023 Salary and Career Paths | (1) by Imed Bouchrika, Phd
Chief Data Scientist & Head of Content

Accountants play a critical role in helping individuals and organizations manage their finances effectively. Usually, small businesses need just one accountant, mid-sized companies need two to six, while enterprises may hire more than 12 accountants to operate daily (Envoice, 2022). They are often tasked with keeping track of company cash flow, analyzing financial statements, and preparing tax compliance measures.

To fulfill these responsibilities, aspiring accountants typically need to complete a bachelor’s degree. An affordable business degree online, such as one in accounting, can provide a flexible and convenient option. Students can choose to specialize in specific areas like financial or managerial accounting and gain advanced skills in math and financial processes. Furthermore, becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) may lead to more opportunities for those looking to pursue this career path.

In this guide, our team explains the step-by-step process of how to become an accountant. We will also discuss the typical roles of an accountant, minimum qualifications to enter the profession, CPA requirements, salary, and career outlook to provide valuable insights and resources to future accountants.

How to Become an Accountant: 2023 Salary and Career Paths Table of Contents

  1. Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting
  2. Get an Intership or Apply for an Entry-level Job
  3. Consider Enrolling in a Master’s Program
  4. Prepare to Become a CPA
  5. Look into Continuing Education Opportunities

What is an accountant?

Becoming an accountant involves recording, analyzing, and reporting day-to-day financial information to management, investors, and government agencies. Furthermore, aligning with accounting degree opportunities can help future graduates secure a future in this field. Their basic roles include:

  • Reconciling bank statements
  • Providing financial advice to clients
  • Preparing financial records and reports
  • Overseeing payroll and billing processes
  • Analyzing and preventing financial risks or fraud
  • Ensuring compliance with tax laws and regulations

It is also important to note that CPAs may perform other tasks that non-CPAs cannot. These tasks include filing reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), auditing public companies, and acting as fiduciaries. Furthermore, since all businesses handle finances, accountants can work in almost any type of industry. In a 2021 report, 24% of them were employed in accounting-related services, 8% were employed in both finance or insurance services and the government, 7% worked in enterprises, and 4% were self-employed (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2022).

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2022

(Video) What Is The Best CPA Career Path?

Required Skills for Accountants

Becoming an accountant also means being equipped with the right technical and soft skills. Therefore, in this section, we will detail the qualifications prospective accountants must possess to excel in this field.

Essential Skills

  • Math. Being a master of mathematical skills, including statistics or calculus, is important since accountants handle the daily financial operations of their clients. These will come in handy when they are analyzing financial statements, interpreting financial books, and drawing conclusions from numbers.
  • Software and computer literacy. In a study, 91% of accountants think that incorporating technology into their work adds more value to their roles, such as enabling them to have more time for client assistance (Sage, 2020). Therefore, being familiar with accounting software and basic computer processes can help expedite redundant tasks and provide them with more time for other key services.
  • Bookkeeping and auditing. Keeping financial books in order and evaluating the accuracy of these records are essential skills for any aspiring accountant. Beyond these, however, bookkeeping and auditing entail a more meticulous process of reconciling transactions and providing an independent opinion on the financial health of an organization.
  • Taxation laws. Familiarity with federal, state, and local tax regulations, as well as the ability to apply these laws to the financial records of an organization, is a vital skill for accountants. Taxation knowledge enables them to offer advice on tax planning and strategies to minimize tax liability. They may do so by accomplishing tax law and policy courses in online programs for criminal justice.

How to Become an Accountant: 2023 Salary and Career Paths | (2)

General Skills

  • Communication. Accountants often work with clients, management, and regulatory bodies. Therefore, they must use strong communication skills to build and maintain relationships with them. They must be able to properly convey complex financial information and analysis to non-financial stakeholders as well.
  • Organization. Because accountants handle a high volume of financial information, they must manage multiple tasks and prioritize their work effectively to keep records and maintain deadlines daily. They must also have keen attention to detail to spot any inaccuracies in financial statements or flag down any fraudulent activities within the company.
  • Analytical and critical thinking. The ability to think critically and solve problems is crucial in this field, as accountants often face complex financial issues that require creative solutions. They must also interpret financial statements, identify trends, and use that information to provide valuable insights and recommendations to their clients.
  • Collaboration. This skill enables accountants to leverage the diverse expertise of their team members to solve complex financial problems and make strategic decisions for the company. Having strong collaboration skills also comes in handy in any field should accountancy graduates decide to pursue a different field of work.

How to Become an Accountant: A Step-by-Step Guide

In this section, our team dissects the steps on how to become an accountant and provides details on the CPA qualifications to help future professionals advance their career paths.

Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting

In 2020, a total of 101,094 accounting degrees were awarded in the United States (Data USA, n.d.). Pursuing either this or a finance program is a common path for future accountants. These provide a comprehensive understanding of financial management, accounting principles, and business practices. Factoring in finance and accounting degree similarities and differences could also help identify career goals. For instance, a finance degree focuses more on the interpretation of financial data, while an accounting degree concentrates on information systems. Other programs students can consider are economics, business management, or business administration.

Source: Data USA, n.d.

Get an Internship or Apply for an Entry-level Job

Signing up for an undergraduate program’s internship can help accountancy students garner more valuable insights. Alternatively, since the accountant minimum requirements entail only a bachelor’s degree, graduates may already apply for an entry-level position in accounting departments or companies. The objective is to gain hands-on experience in the field, which is crucial in comprehending how accounting processes work in real-life situations. In addition, working in the field can help build networks, credibility, and mastery of the skills needed for career advancement.

(Video) Overview of Certifications for Accountants

Consider Enrolling in a Master’s Program

Most states require CPAs to earn 150 semester hours of accounting coursework (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, n.d.). This may be obtained by enrolling in a master’s program or an undergraduate five-year accounting program worth 150 credit hours. While getting a master’s degree is not required, it helps learners pick their expertise through specializations, which include public, corporate, managerial, or forensic accounting. Furthermore, learners may also choose to enroll in related programs, such as an online master’s in public policy or a graduate degree in business, to further strengthen and widen their knowledge of the discipline.

How to Become an Accountant: 2023 Salary and Career Paths | (3)

Prepare to Become a CPA

Apart from meeting the educational requirements, CPA hopefuls must also complete a minimum of 2,000 hours of experience. In addition, they must also pass the Uniform CPA Exam, which is divided into Auditing and Attestation, Business Environment and Concepts, Financial Accounting and Reporting, and Regulation. Exam takers must complete the four sections within 18 months and garner a minimum score of 75 in each section. Some states also require an additional Ethics examination. It is best to check the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) for the specific state requirements before applying for licensure.

Look into Continuing Education Opportunities

All CPAs must obtain 120 hours of continuing professional education (CPE) every three years to maintain licensure (AICPA, n.d.). To earn credits, certified accountants may take self or group-study courses. In addition to earning CPE credits, accountants may choose to meet the requirements for PhD and enroll in a doctoral program in accounting. While this is usually taken by accountants who wish to pursue a position in higher education or research, gaining new knowledge of the discipline can always unlock and develop skills.

How to Become an Accountant: 2023 Salary and Career Paths | (4)

Accountant Salary and Career Outlook

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2022) show that the annual average accountant salary in 2021 was $77,250. Meanwhile, the 2023 median pay for a CPA ranges from $70,235 to $461,014 (, 2023). However, wages are typically affected by several factors, including location, skills or level of experience, educational attainment, company policies, and whether or not the employee is a CPA.

While accounting is flagged as one of the jobs that are decreasing in demand (World Economic Forum, 2020), the future remains bright for the profession. The overall employment of accountants and auditors will gain a 6% change from 2021 to 2031, providing 136,400 annual openings within the period (BLS, 2022). Digital Transformation and the Fourth Industrial Revolution are influencing how jobs evolve, but this does not mean that accountants will become obsolete. Rather, they must learn how to use technology to their advantage and transform it into tools that could innovate their roles.

In fact, a study by Tsiligiris & Bowyer (2021) called “Exploring the Impact of 4IR on Skills and Personal Qualities for Future Accountants: A Proposed Conceptual Framework for University Accounting Education” suggests a conceptual framework that can help accounting schools and programs train future accountants to adapt to a digitally advanced world.

(Video) Top 10 Career Paths for Chartered Accountants in 2023 : Accountant's Perspective.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2022

They state, “Future accountants need to be able to understand the uses and limitations of digital technologies in the broader business context and not just limited to the accounting function… [F]uture accountants need to possess a balance of skills and a growing importance of soft skills. Soft skills are seen as paramount in helping accountants to be successful in the future of work where higher cognitive skills are valued. Also, in the context of global and local citizenship that becomes central to the society and economy, future accountants need to be introduced to the concepts of inclusivity and sustainability.”

Their work which was published in Accounting Education adds, “More broadly, the analysis of the reports identifies an implied expectation about the transformation of the accounting profession and the role of future accountants in it. The ability of accountants to embrace digital technologies and use soft skills will not only affect their employability but also plays a key role in the transformation of the accounting function from being transaction-based to become value-adding.”

Alternative Career Options for Accountants

Not all accounting degree holders end up as accountants, which is why in this section, we will provide a short list of alternative occupations to help students and graduates excel in related fields.

Fraud Investigation Officers – $64,793

They investigate allegations by gathering evidence, analyzing financial data and other records, and interviewing individuals to determine if fraudulent activities have occurred. Fraud investigation officers must be knowledgeable about financial laws and other state or federal regulations. They also collaborate with law enforcement agencies and legal teams to present findings and provide testimony in court proceedings.

Entrepreneurs – $66,319

Becoming a business owner is another avenue that accounting graduates may venture into. Business owners are in charge of running the daily operations of their stores, as well as interacting with clients, handling employees, and conducting quality or inventory checks. Entrepreneurs must also do a deep dive into the gaps and trends in the market to provide unique products or services.

Financial Journalists – $71,288

They research the latest trends in finance and businesses and write articles for news outlets or magazines. They cover topics such as stocks, bonds, commodities, currencies, and financial markets. Financial journalists may also interview key personalities like economic experts, government officials, and company heads to provide more information to the stories they write.

(Video) Entry Level Accounting Jobs | Titles, Duties & Salary Range

Accounting Professors – $134,201

They are educators who specialize in the field of accounting and typically hold a doctoral degree to teach in higher education. Their primary responsibilities include teaching, contributing research work, and providing academic counseling. Accounting professors may also hold positions in university committees or accounting organizations and offer consulting services to businesses.

Source:, 2023

Making a Positive Impact as an Accountant

In this guide, our team provided the steps on how to become an accountant, as well as details on what an accountant does, required skills and qualifications, salary, and career outlook, to help prospective accountants prepare. A career in this field starts with an on-campus or online business degree program and ends with various pathways and opportunities.

Aspiring accountants can flourish in any industry since their vital role helps run a company’s daily operations. In addition, accountants can use their skills and knowledge and take advantage of technology to help them prosper outside the field of accountancy.

While the path to being an accountant may be challenging, it can also be rewarding. With the right education, skills, and determination, individuals can embark on a successful career in accounting and make a positive impact on businesses and the economy as a whole.



What is the best career path for an accountant? ›

Public accounting roles are the best fit for accountants who: Want to earn their CPA: You need to have a comprehensive plan to meet the requirements for earning a CPA, including passing the difficult CPA exam. A CPA is essential to move to management positions in public accounting firms.

What are your career goals answer for an accountant? ›

Sample Answer: I would like to be a CPA and would like to work my way up to a controller position within the next 5 years. I plan to take the CPA exam in the next year and will continue to learn accounting software and business processes so I can be an asset to any company I work for.

How will you prepare yourself for the future accounting? ›

How to prepare yourself for a career in accounting?
  1. Earn a bachelor's degree in business. ...
  2. Obtain professional accounting qualifications. ...
  3. Secure an internship at accounting firms. ...
  4. Acquire relevant accounting work experience. ...
  5. Build a professional network.

What do you need to be if you want to be an accountant? ›

Complete coursework in accounting, finance, and taxation. Decide on a concentration for your career path and take courses to prepare for certification in your chosen field. Pursue internship opportunities that allow you to gain experience while you learn. Graduate with your bachelor of science in accounting.

How do I know if accounting is for me? ›

Try to honestly assess your attitude toward pressure and heavy workloads. If you don't stress easy or don't mind being a little high-strung, working as an accountant might not bother you. If you know you're easily frazzled, it's possible that an accounting career isn't the ideal choice for you.

How do I develop myself as an accountant? ›

Five (5) Useful Tips To Improve Your Self-Accounting Skills
  1. Educate Yourself. ...
  2. Start Networking. ...
  3. Save & Organize All the Receipts. ...
  4. Use an Accounting Software. ...
  5. Constantly Evaluate Financial Information.

How do I write a career plan for accounting? ›

You can follow these steps to create career goals as an accountant:
  1. Think about your ideal career. ...
  2. Establish long-term goals. ...
  3. Determine which skills you need. ...
  4. Consider additional education or certifications. ...
  5. Build and follow a timeline. ...
  6. Meet with mentors or supervisors regularly.
Nov 16, 2022

How can I grow my accounting career? ›

Table of Contents
  1. Become A CPA.
  2. Find A CPA Mentor.
  3. Improve Your Networking Skills.
  4. Keep Up With New Technological Developments.
  5. Gain Expertise In Different Areas Of Work.
  6. Focus On Your Soft Skills.
  7. Ask For A Promotion.
  8. The Bottom Line.

What skills do future accountants need? ›

Top Technical Skills for an Accountant
  • Using Accounting Software. ...
  • Preparing and Reporting on Financial Statements. ...
  • Knowledge of Spreadsheet Software. ...
  • Communication. ...
  • Time Management and Organization. ...
  • Critical Thinking. ...
  • Problem-Solving. ...
  • Strong Attention to Detail.
Aug 31, 2022

What knowledge should an accountant have? ›

Regardless of their specific profession, all accountants must examine and interpret complex financial data and clearly communicate their findings to clients. The role also requires strong interpersonal skills — many accountants work in teams and regularly meet with clients.

What are the 3 C's of accounting? ›

The three C's of credit are character, capacity, and capital.

What are golden rules of accounting? ›

The golden rules of accounting also revolve around debits and credits. Take a look at the three main rules of accounting: Debit the receiver and credit the giver. Debit what comes in and credit what goes out. Debit expenses and losses, credit income and gains.

What are 4 types of accounting? ›

These four branches include corporate, public, government, and forensic accounting. An undergraduate degree is most often required for any accounting career, while previous master's work, especially in the accounting field, is often strongly preferred.

What is the best personality type for an accountant? ›

Introverted sensors, ISTJs are known as the best personality type for accounting jobs, CFO positions, or careers as auditors. This type is loyal, hardworking, and understands the importance of their roles; but the real predictor of success here is their analytical nature that enables them to work quickly and precisely.

Is bachelor of accounting hard? ›

Earning an accounting degree isn't more challenging than earning a degree in any other possible subject. Accounting has some challenging parts like any other software, but you can also find portions comparatively simple or even straightforward.

Why would I choose accounting? ›

It's highly flexible

Whether you want to work in fashion, politics, sport or business – accountancy could be your route in. The skills you gain when you study accountancy turn you into a highly sought-after finance professional who can work across teams and in strategic, diverse roles – all the way up to the boardroom.

What are the 5 steps career plan? ›

Five-Step Career Decision Making Process
Dec 11, 2022

What is my personal career plan? ›

A career plan lists short- and long-term career goals and the actions you can take to achieve them. Career plans can help you make decisions about what classes to take, and identify the extracurricular activities, research, and internships that will make you a strong job candidate.

What are your top 3 career goals? ›

6 Common Career Goals + Examples
  • Advancing to a leadership position.
  • Becoming a thought leader.
  • Working toward professional development.
  • Shifting into a new career path.
  • Experiencing career stability.
  • Creating a career goal.
Feb 16, 2023

How can I get promoted fast in accounting? ›

How to Get a Job Promotion in Finance and Accounting
  1. Map out your pathway to a job promotion. Take a good look at your department and examine what the pathways are. ...
  2. Get more education. ...
  3. Polish all those skills. ...
  4. Be happy and professional. ...
  5. Do internal networking. ...
  6. Be open with your boss.
Jan 29, 2019

What hard skills should an accountant have? ›

Having the ability to manage multiple projects, timelines, business needs, reporting deadlines, filing deadlines and personalities - that's a hard skill to master.

What do accountants do everyday? ›

Tax Accountants examine, analyze, and interpret accounting records to prepare financial statements, give advice, or audit and evaluate statements prepared by others. Install or advise on systems of recording costs or other financial and budgetary data.

What are the top 3 skills of being an accountant? ›

Strong written and oral communication. Organization and attention to detail. Analytical and problem solving skills. Time management.

What 7 things do accountants do everyday? ›

7 common accounting tasks and duties
  • Document financial transactions. ...
  • Resolve discrepancies. ...
  • Monitor the efficiency of accounting procedures and programs. ...
  • Advise companies regarding financial problems. ...
  • Prepare and review invoices. ...
  • Prepare a company's year-end financial statement. ...
  • Submit a company's annual tax return.
Dec 12, 2022

What jobs do accountants switch to? ›

Five Alternative Careers for Accountants
  • Entrepreneur. Your time as an accountant will expose you to many different clients and business needs. ...
  • Business Analyst. ...
  • Non-profit Accounting. ...
  • Communications Strategist. ...
  • Accounting Information Technology.
Apr 26, 2023

What type of accountant are in most demand? ›

Information Technology Accountants

Technology accountants are most in demand for helping companies by providing them with IT solutions such as which software to use, which tools are suitable for the company, and bringing them to automation.

What position has the highest accounting salary? ›

What Are Some of The Best Paying Accounting Jobs?
  • Accounting Professor. Average Income: $77,400. ...
  • Director of Finance & Administration. Average Income: $88,900. ...
  • Corporate Controller. ...
  • Internal Auditing Manager. ...
  • Investment Banker. ...
  • Financial Planning & Analysis Manager. ...
  • Finance Director. ...
  • Director of Risk Management/Risk Control.

Is accounting a good career path? ›

Accounting is a good career choice for individuals who are interested in using their mathematical skills and technical training to help companies maintain and track their financial positions. It's also generally a popular and well-paying job.

What are 3 types of accounting career paths? ›

Here are just a few of the career fields in accounting that might be available to you.
  • Public Accountant. ...
  • Tax Accountant. ...
  • Forensic Accountant. ...
  • Financial Accountant. ...
  • Managerial Accountant. ...
  • Financial Planner. ...
  • Internal Auditor. ...
  • Government Accountant.

Why do accountants quit? ›

One of the most common reasons is that they find the work repetitive and boring. Many accountants also find that they are not challenged enough in their work. They may also feel that they are not paid enough or that their career is not progressing as they would like it to.

Do accountants have a good future? ›

Employment of accountants and auditors is projected to grow 6 percent from 2021 to 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations. About 136,400 openings for accountants and auditors are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

What is the lowest paid accountant? ›

How Much Does an Accountant Make? Accountants made a median salary of $77,250 in 2021. The best-paid 25% made $99,800 that year, while the lowest-paid 25% made $60,760.

What is the lowest accountant position? ›

The accounting pyramid organizes accounting-related job titles into a hierarchy that ranks them by responsibilities and deliverables, with bookkeepers at the bottom, accountants in the middle, and the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) at the top.

What is the most common accounting job? ›

Tax Accountant

This is the most common route for accounting graduates. A tax accountant's job is to look into financial records and taxes for an individual, private companies, corporations, or organizations. You'll need to assess if the company is running efficiently and profitably.

How many hours do accountants work? ›

Typically, accountants work traditional 40-hour workweeks. However, these hours can vary depending on several factors. The specialty an accountant works in can be more demanding than another, which can require longer working hours.

How can I get good at accounting? ›

8 Ways to Maximize Your Success in Accounting Classes
  1. Organization. Students have heard this time and time again, but they must apply it. ...
  2. Learn the Field. ...
  3. Consider Career Paths and Set Goals. ...
  4. Practice Simple Math Skills. ...
  5. Manage Time Well. ...
  6. Network. ...
  7. Seriously, Study. ...
  8. Know the Steps Toward Your Career.
Jul 23, 2019

Can an accountant make 7 figures? ›

Experienced CPAs can earn in the mid- to high six figures, especially if they end up in a management or leadership position.

How long does it take to be an accountant? ›

It typically takes four years to start a career as an accountant because the primary qualification for entry-level accountant roles is a bachelor's degree.

Can I make six figures as an accountant? ›

In 2021, the median pay for accountants and auditors was $77,250 annually. But the highest 10% of accountants earn over $128,970. And if you're like most hard-working accounting professionals, you may wonder how to make more money as an accountant.


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