As an accountant, your career trajectory will depend on your accounting qualification and the area of accountancy you choose to pursue. It’s important to be aware of your options, whether you are a recent graduate entering the workforce or you’re considering a career change.
CPA and EA accounting certifications have some crucial differences. An Enrolled Agent specializes in tax issues whereas CPAs have many different job opportunities. The ultimate decision between the two will depend on your career aspirations.
If you like accounting with a microfocus, becoming an EA may be the right path for you. However, there’s a greater demand for CPAs and they can work in private practice, industry and commerce or the public sector.
Most qualified accountants work in private practice firms that provide financial services to clients. The largest companies may have many partners and a range of specialist departments. In smaller firms, accountants tend to use a wide range of professional skills.
When the turnover of a limited company exceeds a certain level, the accounts have to be examined by a qualified accountant. Auditors examine the financial accounts prepared by bookkeepers. Auditing fees usually form a substantial portion of earnings of accountancy firms.
Accountants specializing in the area of taxation have to continually study to keep up with budget changes. If you are able to analyze and problem solve, have good numeracy skills, and communicate well, the field of tax could suit you.
Accountants in management consultancy have to gain an overall picture of the financial operations of their clients. They may give advice on overall management and organization and suggest new ways of doing things for a firm to become more profitable.
Good decision-making skills, business acumen, a high level of numeracy and the ability to present complex financial information to others in an easy-to-understand way could mean management accounting is a good fit for you.
This might include dealing with insolvencies, executorships, receiverships, company registration and trusteeships.
Industry and commerce
Accountants in industry and commerce are crucial members of management teams. The success of a concern relies on good financial management of accounting systems, budgeting, cost control and cash flow.
Financial accounting is the keeping of records of all financial transactions, including wages, salaries, invoicing, expenditure and taxation.
It includes setting up and supervising an internal audit, preparing reports for directors, protecting a firm’s assets and investments and more. It could suit you if you have an analytical mind, good communication skills and a desire to improve the way an organization operates.
Management and cost accounting
The main tasks are to control the budget, monitor expenses and forecast needs. Tasks may include preparing management reports and explaining financial information to other managers.
Tax and pension fund management is one of the specializations in this area. Forensic accounting is another specialization and involves resolving financial problems such as suspected misconduct, disputes and fraud.
Accountants in the public sector play an important role in determining how national and local taxes are used in the running of public services. Central and local government organizations and health authorities employ many accountants. Organizations, such as public utilities and health authorities, run in a similar way to large commercial concerns and need accountants to perform the same kind of tasks.
You will need to have some self-awareness, understand what’s important to you, have a plan and then match your needs with the right sector. Taking proactive steps and continuing to build on your knowledge and skills will improve your overall marketability, no matter which sector you choose.