Accountants are in higher demand than ever, thanks to a strong economy and changes in tax and business law (those changes are due to a spat of recent corporate scandals), so there are lots of great accounting jobs available today. Good news–according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the growth and demand for accountants will only increase in the next decade—with some specialized areas of accounting growing as fast as 25%! Accounting is one of the top careers available. So what are these five top accounting careers?
1. Internal Auditor
This top accounting job is Internal Auditor (particularly those who possess the certified internal auditor designation), and helps improve internal controls and meet the compliance mandates of the new regulations recently passed by the government after the latest corporate scandals. The scope of internal auditing within an organization is broad and may involve internal control topics such as the efficacy of operations, the reliability of financial reporting, deterring and investigating fraud, safeguarding assets, and compliance with laws and regulations. Internal auditors are not responsible for the execution of company activities. Instead, they advise management and the Board of Directors (or similar oversight body) regarding how to better execute their responsibilities.
Those interested in becoming an internal auditor need to attain certification. The Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) designation is the only globally accepted certification for internal auditors, and is the standard by which individuals demonstrate their competency and professionalism in the internal auditing field. In order to qualify, candidates must have at least a Bachelors degree and two years of relevant experience in the field.
Compensation for this top accounting career is on the rise! National average starting salaries for internal audit managers at large companies (more than $250 million in sales), for example, are expected to climb 6% this year, to a range of $77,500 to $101,500.
2. Compliance Executive
Compliance is either a state of being in accordance with established guidelines, specifications, or legislation, or the process of becoming so. This top accounting job is all about bringing corporations in line with the new laws and regulations; in other words, complying. Software, for example, may be developed in compliance with specifications created by some standards body (set by industry or government) and may be distributed in compliance with the vendor’s licensing agreement. In the legal system, compliance usually refers to behavior in accordance with legislation. In the financial sector, legislation was enacted in response to the high profile Enron and WorldCom financial scandals to protect shareholders and the general public from accounting errors and fraudulent practices in the enterprise. In the healthcare sector, additional new regulation includes an administrative simplification section, which mandates standardization of healthcare-related information systems.
Companies are hiring compliance executives with U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission reporting experience (and often giving them a new title, Chief Compliance Officer) to help them meet ongoing corporate governance requirements. Because of the high demand, starting salaries for chief compliance officers at large companies are predicted to rise 14.4 % increase from 2006 levels, making this one of the top accounting careers.
3. Financial Analyst
As companies grow, financial analyst accountants are needed to assist with budgeting and forecasting initiatives and to increase profitability. These top accounting jobs are also called securities analysts and investment analysts. Financial analysts work for banks, insurance companies, mutual and pension funds, securities firms, and other businesses, and are one of the top accounting careers available today. Financial analysts read company financial statements and analyze commodity prices, sales, costs, expenses, and tax rates in order to determine a company’s value and to project its future earnings. They often meet with company officials to gain a better insight into the firm’s prospects and to determine its managerial effectiveness. Usually, financial analysts study an entire industry, assessing current trends in business practices, products, and industry competition. They must keep abreast of new regulations or policies that may affect the industry, as well as monitor the economy to determine its effect on earnings.
Demand for these professionals is especially acute at the management and senior levels, and base pay is expected to jump 5 % for managers with small to nearly 6 % for senior financial analysts at large companies.
4. Staff Accountant
Because it’s been around so long, staff accountant may not seem like a top accounting job, but a staff accountant is a foundation employee of a company, and applies the principles of accounting within an assigned area of accounting or group of funds. This position has been a long-standing top accounting career, and is frankly one of the critical accounting jobs available. The staff accountant compiles financial information, processes journal entries into various accounts, and reconciles reports and financial data. Staff accountants must have some familiarity with, and an awareness of, the laws and regulations that apply to an accounting function are required to ensure compliance. They often compile financial information and assists in the preparation of reports, as well as record, classify, and summarize financial transactions and events in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles. A staff account also applies a working knowledge of applicable laws and regulations, and verifies documents for completeness and compliance with government and private agencies.
Accountants with at least three years of experience, including in public accounting, are sought for these accounting jobs. The greatest gains in initial compensation for staff accountants are expected to take place at large companies, with starting salaries rising 5 %.
5. External Auditors
This top accounting job is just what it sounds like—someone from outside a company or organization that is brought in to review records and makes recommendations. The primary role of the external auditors is to express an opinion on whether an entity’s financial statements are free of material misstatements and fraud. Normally, external auditors review the entity’s information technology control procedures when assessing its overall internal controls. They must also investigate any material issues raised by inquiries from professional or regulatory authorities, such as the local taxing authority. Many accountants value the work of external auditing, making it one of the top accounting careers available.
The independence of external auditors is crucial to a correct and thorough appraisal of an entity’s financial controls and statements. Any relationship between the external auditors and the entity, other than retention for the audit itself, must be disclosed in the external auditor’s reports.
Rising demand for audit services means accountants who possess three to seven years of experience and the certified public accountant designation are particularly valued for these accounting jobs. Senior external auditors with small firms will see starting salaries increase 5.2%.
If you are considering becoming an accounting, these are just a few of the top accounting careers currently available to those working in the field. With growth expected to exceed that of almost every other field, you are guaranteed a fascinating and stable career if you choose a job in accounting.