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5-Step Guide to Becoming an Accountant

Steve Berman, LedgerLink

Step 2: Hit the Books


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There are several ways to break into the field of accountancy, but every path requires some post-secondary education. How much education depends on a couple questions everyone interested in accounting must ask:

Do you simply want to break into the industry, become a mid-level accountant or strive for an executive position?

Are you interested in becoming a CPA or earning the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) designation?

An accounting certificate or associate’s degree can open the door

Earning an accounting certificate or an associate’s degree in accounting is a great start for those looking to break into the industry at a reasonable cost, as it provides the skills necessary to prepare one for an entry-level accounting job. Students learn the fundamentals of accounting and are immersed in accounting technology, which can be quite helpful as accounting software becomes more complex and sophisticated. Accounting certificates can be obtained from a community college, technical school or a four-year university.

BA in accounting: one of the most useful degrees out there

It’s tough to find a Bachelor’s degree that serves as a better pipeline to a specific career path than a BA in Accounting. Along with the standard general education requirements required of any major, a BA in accounting provides a deeper understanding of intermediate and advanced accounting procedures. A Bachelor’s in accounting will also allow one to enter the workforce in a variety of entry or mid-level accounting positions, as well as prepare one for a graduate degree in accounting. Just keep in mind that most states now require 150 semester hours of education to become a CPA, while most Bachelor’s degrees usually require only 120 hours.

Two options for a Master’s Degree

Those pursuing a graduate degree in accounting have a choice to make, whether to go for an MBA with a focus in accounting or a Master’s in Accounting (MAcc).

An MBA provides a broader understanding of business strategy and management tools and how they relate to accounting principles and concepts, while a MAcc is mostly geared towards preparing students for the CPA and CMA exams. While some graduate programs are looking for applicants who earned their BA in accounting, other programs are targeted toward students who are new to the field.

Whatever path you choose, from getting an associate’s degree to an MBA, depends on your goals, education and work experience. One nice thing is you can follow any of these paths either in a traditional classroom setting or an online educational program. (link here to flywheel)