How to Become an Accountant in 5 Actionable Steps

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Apr 11, 2019

Apr 11, 2019 • by Rebecca Smith

Are you looking for an exciting new career? Are you good with numbers and computers?

A job in finance may be perfect for you! Accountant jobs are on the rise, with a 10% increase expected by 2026.

And with virtually limitless earning potential, you can earn a comfortable living whether you want to work with the public or in the private sector.

Ready to find out more? Here are our tips on how to become an accountant.

1. Fulfill the Educational Requirements

There are no set educational requirements to become an accountant. As long as you have at least a high school diploma or an equivalent, it's possible to find a finance-related job even if you don't have a bachelor's degree.

However, most companies require employees to have, at the bare minimum, a bachelor's degree in finances or accounting. Therefore, we recommend obtaining a degree.

To go above and beyond, consider obtaining a master's degree, as well. Aside from improving your resume, accountant schooling will teach you additional skills you'll need, such as tax preparation or how to compare IRAs.

Should you choose to earn your master's, note that you may need to take a CPA exam -- even if your area of interest lies elsewhere.

2. Choose an Area of Interest

Becoming an accountant allows a fair amount of flexibility. Within the field, you'll have your choice between four main areas of interest:

  • Public accounting: work as a CPA, tax prep specialist, financial records expert.
  • Private accounting: work in the financial departments of major corporations.
  • Auditing: work in either the private or public sector to ensure quality, accuracy, and adherence to financial reporting standards.
  • Government: work within larger government bodies such as the FBI or IRS.

Each field comes with its own advantages, so carefully weigh the pros and cons before choosing a specialty.

3. Obtain a Certification

Though you have some freedom to choose whether or not to pursue higher education, each field requires special certifications.

Just as each field is quite different, every certification exam is distinct.

For instance, the CPA exam contains four main components:

  • Audit and Attestation.
  • Business Environments and Concepts.
  • Financial Accounting and Reporting.
  • Regulation.

Each section features both multiple choice and short-answer questions. In most instances, the Business Environments and Concepts section features an essay portion, as well.

4. Gain Experience

With your area of expertise chosen and your certification complete, you'll want to find an entry-level position within your field.

CPAs often work as tax prep specialists at public-facing companies like H&R Block or Liberty Tax Services. Private and government positions will likely start on a trial basis, so expect to complete at least one internship.

5. Work Your Way Up

An internship is a great way to get your feet wet. Over time, you'll have the chance to form connections and prove your abilities.

Soon, you'll be able to work your way up into your desired position.

Though it takes time, it's a rewarding experience.

How to Become an Accountant

Working as an accountant is a great choice for anyone looking for a fulfilling, stable job. As long as you have the drive and basic mathematical skills, you have what it takes to have a successful accountant in any sector.

Now that you know how to become an accountant, it's time to brush up on your interviewing skills. Check out our guide for four easy steps you can use to master interviews.