How to Become an Accountant: The Best Way to Get Your Career Started

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Published
Aug 20, 2018

Aug 20, 2018 • by Rebecca Smith

Not everyone understands the importance of managing their personal finances well. Some people spend money as soon as it comes into their possession and others have a tendency to spend more than they actually have. If you have a good handle on your money making and spending habits, though, there may be a future in accountancy for you.

Accounts aren't just good with numbers. They have a passion for helping businesses and individuals make sense of the financial opportunities they have. This profession is crucial to the success of large companies as well as the peace of mind of everyday people.

Keep reading if you want to learn more about how to become an accountant.

1. Go to School

Before you can start crunching numbers and creating financial solutions for a living, you have to go to school. If you've just graduated high school, find a university that offers a major in accountancy. If you happen to come across one with a well-known accountancy program, even better.

If you've already gotten your Bachelor's degree or you entered the professional field straight out of high school, you can still get the education you need. Look for certification courses you can take at night or online. This way, you can work toward your goal of becoming an accountant without disrupting how you make ends meet right now.

Whatever learning path you take, though, keep in mind you'll have to complete an exam before you're considered a professional accountant. This is the CPA exam, a comprehensive overview of four areas of accountancy. Passing the exam should be your main focus after getting your degree, and you want to make sure you're eligible to take it before you register!

2. Join Accountancy Societies and Organizations

As intense as the accountancy curriculum can be, part of going to school is also about being social. Why not combine your social circle with your schooling, though? That's what accountancy societies and organizations can offer you.

These are professional student groups that help prepare you for the life of an accountant. They connect you with other students to study with and learn from, and they also host events with possible employers.

Such connections give you a group of friends you can count on and the chance to get your foot in the door in the professional world, too. It's a no-brainer to make room in your schedule for one of these organizations.

3. Get an Internship

Keep in mind that you don't have to wait until after you're a CPA to get professional experience. That's what internships are for!

Try to get a few accountancy-related internships under your belt before you graduate. These can be with big firms or small companies. It doesn't really matter so long as you get the skills necessary to pass the exam and present yourself well on your resume and in interviews.

This comes with practice. The more experience you get in real life, the better your chances of doing well as a certified accountant will be. Start learning the ropes now so you have a good handle on things when you get your first official position as an accountant.

4. Go Back to School

There's plenty of time over the course of your undergraduate education to get internships and earn accountancy experience. This sets you up well for success as an accountant. But, if you want to give yourself a competitive edge in the job market, get a Masters in Accountancy.

This is one of the best things you can do for your career. Whether you're going back to school at 35 or just finished 4 years of college at 23, a Master's degree really helps you climb the corporate ladder. This can make the difference between being offered an entry-level position versus becoming the leader of a team or working closely with department heads.

Think about this as your undergraduate graduation approaches. One or two more years in school can do wonders for the entire span of your accountant career.

5. Find the Perfect Position for You

When you're done with school and ready to enter the professional world of accountancy, think about what you'd really like to do with your newfound knowledge.

Some people aim straight for Big 4 firms, while others like the thought of making a difference in smaller companies. More so, you have to consider the kind of accountancy you'd like to do.

Are you interested in being a forensic accountant or helping regular people do their taxes? Do you want to become a project accountant for a construction or consulting firm? Or, do you see yourself doing audits every day and helping companies make better sense of their bottom line?

These fields of accountancy are as different as night and day. As such, it's best to understand what you're getting yourself into before you choose your professional path.

This is another perfect example of why internships matter so much. It's good to try your hand at different temporary positions while you're in school so you have a clear idea of what you'd like to do with your degree once finished.

How to Become an Accountant in the Big 4

Every accountant knows what the Big 4 are, even if they have no desire to be a part of one of these organizations. The Big 4 are the largest accounting firms in the world. They are Deloitte, PWC, Ernst & Young, and KPMG.

Working for one of these companies is a huge thrill and a big honor. If this is what your sights are set on, it's not enough to just know how to become an accountant. You have to work hard to become the best accountant you can possibly be.

For tips and tricks on how to best present yourself when the time comes to apply to these companies, click here.