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Accountant

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Overall Score
(6.6 out of 10)

Number of Jobs

166,700

Median Salary

$63,550

Unemployment Rate

4.2 percent

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This Job is Ranked in
Best Business Jobs #3
The 100 Best Jobs #39

When you're in search of an accountant, Doug Wilson of Showtime's series "Weeds" is everything you're not looking for. Contrary to the stereotype of the boring and antisocial accountant, Wilson is a money-laundering stoner. The accountant you want preparing your financial records and handling your taxes has a passion for numbers, is organized and detail-oriented and possesses a high degree of integrity. Aside from tax preparation for individuals, public accountants also perform auditing, prepare taxes and provide consulting for corporations, nonprofits and governments. Internal accountants create processes to find and eliminate waste and fraud. Management accountants record and analyze financial information. Government accountants – at the federal, state or local level – maintain records of government agencies and audit private businesses or individuals whose activities fall under government regulation or taxation. "The advance of technology has taken a lot of the executing of tasks ... out of the hands of accountants and into the hands of machines. That has made accountants fit more into the role of trusted business advisors," says Chris Ekimoff, manager of investigations and forensics for the internal audit department at Hilton Worldwide.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 13.1 percent growth for accountants between 2012 and 2022, about as fast as average for all professions. An additional 166,700 accounting and auditing jobs will need to be filled during that time period. This position ranks high at No. 3 on our Best Business Jobs list.

Salary

According to the BLS, the median annual salary for an accountant was $63,550 in 2012, or $30.55 per hour. The best-paid 10 percent earned roughly $111,510, while the lowest-paid made approximately $39,930. The best-compensated in the field work within the federal executive branch and for securities and commodity exchanges, and the highest-paid accountants work in the metropolitan areas of New York City, Ocean City, N.J., and Newark, N.J.

Salary Range

75th Percentile $84,220
Median $63,550
25th Percentile $49,540

Training

Accountants need at least a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field, and may choose to obtain certification, like Certified Public Accountant. "The main focus after graduating from college is getting your Certified Public Accountant license. Those three letters [CPA] really make your career," Ekimoff says. "They will identify you in the marketplace, in the business world and in your career path as a professional willing to hold yourself to a higher standard and operate under a set of guidelines and principles that really set you apart." To get the certification, you'll have to take a uniform exam set by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. The Institute of Management Accountants also offers a certification, Certified Management Accountant, which requires a bachelor's degree, two years of work in management accounting and passing an exam. Some employers prefer candidates with a master's degree in accounting or business administration.

Reviews & Advice

Accounting firms, businesses and industry groups often filter job applicants by evaluating their résumés, according to Ekimoff. "Firms will rank résumés based on [grade point average], leadership positions and personal initiative. After selecting their favorite candidates, the first interview is usually focused on technical ability [and] what kind of ways you frame your thinking and business focus," Ekimoff says. If you get called in for an interview, Ekimoff recommends showcasing a positive attitude and your long-term career goals. "Each firm wants to hire candidates that have a long-term focus on working for their firm and developing into managers and partners in the accounting profession down the road," he says. He adds that entry-level hires may struggle with the requirements of the job, but attitude is everything. "One of the most important things to bring to the table as a first year and young CPA is a positive attitude. The technical knowledge, the specialization, the industry focus – all of those buzzwords really play second fiddle to being able to walk into a meeting, into a room and on to a new project team, and be ready to help in any way possible," Ekimoff says.

Job Satisfaction

Upward Mobility good High
Stress Level fair Average
Flexibility good Above Average
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Last updated by Evan Taylor.


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