If you have a career in the accounting field, you might be interested in improving it—such as by making more money, securing a new job title, or even starting your own firm.
If you’re in the accounting field already, that probably means you have a degree in accounting, or at least a few years of experience in an accounting-related position. Learn here How to Boost Your Accounting Career.
So what steps can you take from here to grow your career?
Become a CPA
First, if you haven’t yet, become a certified CPA.
There are many benefits to becoming a CPA, rather than being a non-certified accountant, such as:
- More employment opportunities. Some positions require CPA certification, so becoming a CPA can instantly open up new opportunities for you.
- Higher salary. Certified CPAs tend to earn more money than their non-certified counterparts, so you can expect a salary bump almost immediately.
- Greater prestige. People are more willing to work with a CPA than a non-certified accountant, which is important if you plan on starting your own business or working with freelance clients.
So how can you become a CPA?
- Education. First, you’ll need to meet certain education requirements. These vary by state, but you can generally count on needing a minimum number of credit hours in accounting-related study. If you already have a bachelor’s degree in accounting, this will probably be sufficient. Otherwise, you may need to go back to school.
- Experience. Before you can become a certified CPA, you’ll also need to have some experience under your belt. In some states, you’ll only need six months of experience in an accounting or accounting-adjacent position. In other states, you’ll need as much as two years.
- Exam. You’ll also need to pass a CPA exam, which covers four main areas of study. This will test you on the basics of auditing and attestation (AUD), business environment and concepts (BEC), financial accounting and reporting (FAR), and regulation (REG). It’s a rigorous test, as only half of participants pass their first time.
- Other requirements. Some states have additional requirements; for example, you may be required to pass an ethics exam.
Find a Mentor
Next, consider finding a mentor who can help you develop your career path as an accountant.
A mentor will have significant experience that can help you plan and manage your career decisions.
They’ll be around to answer your questions, point out areas in which you can improve, and provide direction when you have none.
They may also be well-connected, putting you in touch with other contacts or resources that you can use to continue advancing.
No matter what your goals are, you should be networking regularly.
Meet new people and expand your professional circles.
Every person you meet could be a future client, a future employer, or a future partner.
Even if they aren’t, you can probably learn something valuable from them.
Work on Your Soft Skills
Becoming a CPA and sharpening your accounting skills is important, but so is improving your soft skills.
These are just some of the most valuable:
- Communication. Learn how to express your thoughts better and proactively communicate important ideas.
- Emotional intelligence. Learn how to better recognize and respond to the emotions of other people, and figure out how to recognize and control your own.
- Adaptability. Strive to remain as adaptable as possible, changing your workstyle and approach as the situation demands.
- Creative thinking. Use critical thinking and problem solving exercises to become a better creative thinker.
- Conflict resolution. Hone your conflict resolution skills so you can be a better manager—or better manage your relationships with your clients.
Plan a Course for Advancement
Finally, create a solid plan for how you’re going to advance your career.
What are you hoping to achieve?
- Raises and responsibilities. For some people, career advancement is all about getting more responsibilities and making more money. What’s your plan to achieve this?
- Promotions. For others, career advancement is more about getting a more prestigious job title or climbing the corporate ladder. Can you do that in your current workplace, or are you looking to work somewhere else?
- Business ownership and autonomy. For still others, the only way to advance sufficiently is to start an independent business and have more autonomy, choosing your own clients and enjoying the benefits of unlimited income potential.
To aid in this, set both long-term and short-term goals.
Where do you want to be in five years?
What can you do in the next several months to get there?
What can you do in the next several weeks?
The next several days?
The more specific your goals are, the better—and make sure you write them down, so you have a higher likelihood of achieving the skills to learn How to Boost Your Accounting Career.