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Accounting: Myth vs. Reality

Accounting: Myth vs. Reality

Dona DeZube, Monster Finance Careers Expert

Think accounting would make a boring career? Then you haven’t given the industry a close look, says Clar Rosso, director of communications for the California Society of Certified Public Accountants. Do any of the following careers pique your interest?

  • A Federal Bureau of Investigation agent who tracks down drug smugglers.

    * A financial advisor to movie stars and sports legends.

    * A software expert who ensures that a company’s cybersecurity is reliable.

    * An environmental consultant who helps businesses comply with governmental regulations.

    * An expert witness who’s paid to testify in complex trials involving major businesses.

    * A coordinator of care-giving services for people who can no longer live independently.

    * A world traveler who helps global companies comply with international trade laws and regulations.

    * A financial officer for an influential labor union.

    * A member of Congress.

    * A university professor who helps establish global accounting standards.

    * A chief financial officer who manages a Fortune 500 firm’s investments.

    * An entrepreneur who starts a business that’s eventually worth millions.

All those careers are filled by certified public accountants (CPAs). “There’s so much diversity in what people who are CPAs ultimately do,” Rosso says. “The myth is you’re going to punch numbers into a calculator and do taxes all day.” The reality is, many fields relate to documenting and guiding finances and operations for companies and individuals.

Accountants with Ammo

Who finally brought down Al Capone? FBI auditors armed with pencils — and guns. About 5 percent of FBI special agents are CPAs, says Rosso. The agency even has its own accounting test for those who haven’t passed the CPA exam.

Former FBI agents easily jump into the private sector, where they can expect a 30 percent to 100 percent pay raise from the $50,000 to $90,000 they earned working for Uncle Sam. “If they’re very technically adept, they can easily get into the $120s and $140s, and if they’re in senior management, the sky’s the limit depending on the organization’s size,” says Dave Owen, vice president of iDEFENSE, a Reston, Virginia, intelligence firm.