written by: ciel s cantoria•edited by: Linda Richter•updated: 9/8/2011
A career in accounting is broad as it entails different types of accountancy tasks; hence accounting qualifications for aspiring applicants require years of well-rounded experience in the different aspects of the profession. Start enhancing your accounting qualifications as early as possible.
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The Basic Qualifications Needed for a Career in Accounting
Job opportunities in the accounting field are quite diverse and wide ranging, inasmuch as the accountancy profession exists in every type of business industry. However, the extent to which your career as an accountant will prosper depends on the accounting qualifications you possess.
To qualify for a good-paying job as an office accountant, a Bachelor’s degree in accounting and at least three years of well-rounded work experience are the most basic and common requirements by employers. The description “well-rounded" refers to your skills and aptitude for applying your knowledge of accounting concepts, principles, procedures, and federal regulations to the different facets of an accountancy job – bookkeeping, financing, banking, analysis, costing, and auditing.
How to Acquire the Basic Qualifications Needed for an Accountancy Profession
Even at the onset of building an accounting career, get used to the idea of devoting time and attention to master the accountancy profession by combining academic work with practical experience. Job internships as part of your academic curriculum may not be counted as actual work experience acquired, since an internship job exposure could be limited to clerical office work.
Start improving your accounting qualifications early, by finding work in entry-level accounting jobs where your BS accounting undergraduate studies could qualify you. You may also consider the option of finishing a two-year Associate’s degree in accounting, and then land a job related to office accounting work. At the same time, continue with your college education to pursue a BS or BA accounting degree.
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Consider Small- to Medium-Sized Accounting Firms to Gain Wider Exposure
As someone with an undergraduate accounting degree, it will be to your advantage if you can find work as a staff accountant in a small- to medium-sized public accounting firm or in the financial services sector. By becoming part of an accounting team, you will have the opportunity to get acquainted with how small businesses operate and also acquire practical knowledge about administrative accounting procedures and federal and statutory requirements.
Pursue your BS or BA accounting degree course and, simultaneously, gain as much work experience as you can as a support staff of an accounting firm or an accounting department. That way, you already will have gained two out of the three years of work experience required as part of accounting qualifications.
Aim to Qualify as a Well-Rounded Candidate for Accountancy Jobs
As a college graduate, your accounting qualifications have increased several notches higher. However, do not rest on your laurels if what you intend to achieve is a top-paying and high-level accounting position. Examine the types of skills and work exposure you have already acquired and identify what you still need in order to be considered a well-rounded accountant.
Let’s say you have had very little or no experience in cost accounting during your two years of actual work. Your next course of action, therefore, is to land an accounting job where you can gain in-depth exposure to different costing methodologies, inventory valuations, and achievement of targeted projections. The practical knowledge you will acquire here would serve as a sound foundation for other accounting aspects like financial analysis and budgeting.
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Prepare to Move Up the Corporate Ladder by Passing the Uniform CPA Exam
Once you have developed into a well-rounded accounting professional, your next important step, as you aim to move up the corporate ladder, is to become a licensed Certified Public Accountant.
Currently, there are new requirements imposed by some states before one can take the CPA licensure exam. Before, a four-year college accounting degree or its equivalent sufficed; the present educational requisite is at least five years of college-acquired accounting education. This denotes that another year of continuing advanced studies in an accounting discipline, including courses on ethics, has to be added to the four-year baccalaureate degree in order to sit for the four-part CPA licensure exam.
In addition, some US states like Oregon require the exam-taker to have at least two years' work experience, while the state of Texas requires sufficient work familiarity specifically in the field of financial statements reporting, financial consultancy services, and forensic accounting, as well as internal auditing services, before an applicant is allowed to take the CPA board exams. Some others require a graduate degree like an MBA to gain mastery of the different facets of accounting mentioned in the earlier sections of this article. Read about the different accounting specializations in this related article about the Different Careers in Business Accounting.
At this early stage, it would be best to check out your state’s requirement when applying for a CPA licensure exam at this state-by-state reference guide. The publisher of the directory, however, recommends direct communication with the state board's authorized representative to learn more information about your state's accountancy board requirements.
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Wider Career Advancement Opportunities as a CPA
As you reap the rewards of your hard work, you will find all the time and effort you devoted in building and developing your accounting qualifications are finally paying-off. After graduation and still fresh with your academic knowledge, feel confident to take the Uniform CPA Examination (UCPAE), in case you already qualify with your state's requirement for the number of years of actual work exposure.
Some individuals tend to feel inexperienced and may take a longer time before they can muster the courage to sit in the board exam. In most cases, they lose interest in whatever earlier plans they had to pursue a CPA board accreditation .
Passing the board will open up wider career paths and employment opportunities in different industries, by holding key positions like accounting manager with an average annual salary range of $45,561 to $74,303, and as a Financial Controller, who earns average annual salaries that range from $60,382 to $100,224.