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How extendable is the practice of Accounting in the real world, aside from bookkeeping?

Where else, aside from the big four or an accounting department can I work with a degree in Accounting #accountant #banker #cpa #business

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Naimah’s Answer

Hi Valerie,

I am a qualified Chartered Accountant from South Africa and a CPA licensed in New York. I have worked as an auditor and recently moved into Project Management Advisory within the Deals space.

I think the the knowledge and skill set gained by studying accounting is highly transferable into many businesses and industries based on the experience you gain in public accounting for example. You gain technical and soft skills that prepare you for a vast range of scenarios and situations. As someone who studies accounting and builds your foundation as a public accountant you learn to be adaptable, problem solve, manage yourself, time and others, analytical and so many more skills.

I have many friends who have stayed in the auditing space, many who have moved into various consulting roles and many who are in business ranging from asset managers to CFOs, even some in marketing.

A background in public accounting is highly valued and appreciated.

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Min’s Answer

With a degree in accounting, I worked as an auditor at one of the Big 4 companies and transitioned into financial services working in their investment operations function. Accounting gives you a good foundation of being able to analyze financial statements, and you can venture into various areas including corporate finance and financial reporting.

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Yunqing (Meredith)’s Answer

Just to add on.
First, it is better if you figure out what kind of Accountant you want to be. There are several different types.

I am in public accounting so my title will be "auditor" after I turned full time. The reason for "public" is that auditors are supposed to work on behalf of the public interest. We will go into different companies to perform audit on their financial statements. We only test if our clients' financial statement complies with the regulations on financial statements, but we do not make any changes to their financial statements. We need to make sure the audited financial statements are relevant, useful and accurate. In short, we are helping regulate the financial markets so the investors, creditors, and other stakeholders can trust and confidently use the financial statements from the companies to make decisions.

There are tax accountants. PwC and many CPA firms or financial services firms all have tax service line. Tax accountants are helping the companies and individuals to perform their tax forms. Mainly tax accountants are going to stay in tax.

Corporate accountants are the companies own accountants, They are doing daily accounting jobs for the companies. They basically are the ones keeping the companies operating. There are different types of corporate accountant depending on what industry of the employers. For example, if you are going to a mutual fund then they will have a lot of fund accountants. Factories are demanding cost accountant. There are accountants specialize in Account Payables, Account Receivables, and Finance and etc.

The differences among these types are as following:
1. Auditors always travel because we are always going to our clients' site and we keep have new engagements. Tax and Corporate accountants are more stable since they are mainly in the office.
2. Auditors will audit different companies in different industries. Tax accountants will also work for different companies but only looking at these companies' tax. Corporate accountants only work on behalf their employers.
3. Typically, people switch between auditor and corporate accountant. Tax accountants will always be tax accountants, but sometimes they will be tax lawyers.

In conclusion, accountants are not just bookkeeping. We need to understand the government regulations, talk to customers, perform data analysis, go through meeting, give advices, and etc. Around 50% of CFOs are accountants. It is important to have accounting knowledge if you work in a business.
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Jennifer’s Answer

The options are endless! Accounting is the language of business so you will find that it is much easier for an Accountant to find opportunities in multiple business openings rather that the other way around. I myself wondered if I should major in business management or accounting in college. Accounting gives you the knowledge required to understand the BIG picture when talking to marketing, sales, project coordinators, etc.


I myself am a CPA at a big 4 accounting firm. While I know I followed the typical path of an accountant, I know colleagues who went to work at consulting firms, small businesses, charitable organizations. Everyone needs an accountant.




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John’s Answer

An accounting degree and really most degrees are just a tool. I'm not sure what the current statistics are, but a large percentage of people do not work in the field where they got their degree. Most jobs do not require specific training in college, the degree is moreso to get you in the door, you will be learning on the job, so the ability to learn quickly and apply that learning day-to-day is really all you need. Then you can adapt these transferable skills to whatever job you want to pursue.
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Mahmoud’s Answer

Well aside from the mentioned professions, Accounting can get you a job in Finance, internal audit, banking and many fields.
I'd recommend joining a big four to develop your accounting and analytical skills which will subsequently opens up more career opportunities
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noura’s Answer

Hello there. I am a Chartered accountant and I did bookkeeping, worked as an external Auditor; worked on valuation projects and Financial due diligence; worked as part of the risk management team; and I am currently working as part of the Technology risk team (approving digital tools before they are released). There are many other things that you can do with your accounting degree like for example working in advisory (wihtin the Finance consulting to help client with their Finance policies and procedures). Your degree is only the starting point, then it is up to you to read more, keep yourself up-to-date, learn new skills, get new certifications,...

Good luck to you!
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Laurie’s Answer

An accounting degree will open many doors for you. Many people working in other business areas (sales, marketing, etc.) have a degree and started their careers in accounting. Accounting is a great background to have for any area of business. With an accounting degree you will be able to do many jobs. Once you have worked a few years in accounting you will gain overall knowledge of the business you are working for. Public accounting is the best way to start your career as it gives you exposure to many different business and gives you time to decide what you want to do and where you want to do it. I would highly recommend getting an accounting degree.
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Sara’s Answer

You can never go wrong with studying Accounting. The skill sets and pragmatic approach to working you'll acquire will serve you well in any field, even if you choose to change jobs in the future to something outside of Accounting. If you ever want to own your own business, the basics of Accounting will set you up to understand how to operate your business to drive the results you want.

You may never even want to leave a career in Accounting though, depending on your interests, because the career path is very clear with many options, and there is always a lot of stable market demand for accountants. Some companies focus on providing Accounting services, but every company needs an Accountant to help them run the business. You could work for any company you wanted. Several Accounting specific career paths include:
- Big 4
- Bookkeeper
- Staff Accountant
- Management Accounting
- Auditor
- Tax Accountant
- Treasurer
- Forensic Accountant
- Not for Profit Accountant
- Actuary
- Credit Controller
- Accounts Payable
- Payroll Clerk
- Shared Services Manager
- Risk Assessment
- Internal Controls
- Business Analyst
- Financial Consultant
- Budget or Financial Planning Analyst
- Cost Accountant
- International Accounting Specialist
- Finance Manager
- Director of Finance and Accounting
- Corporate Controller
- Chief Accounting Officer (CAO)
- Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

Accounting teaches you: foundational elements of business, money management, financial reporting, financial recording/ bookkeeping, financial statement analysis, general quantitative skills, GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles), good stewardship, management decision-making

Sometimes people try to choose between Accounting and Finance to study. Both would be great, but if you have to pick one, then Accounting lays better foundational blocks to build upon in the future with Finance knowledge. Think of it as Accounting being the day-to-day management and assessment of the financials, while Finance is the long-term strategy. If you don't know how things work today and what is going well, it's pretty hard to successfully implement a strategy for tomorrow because you may not understand how it will actually work.
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Jonathan’s Answer

Hi Valerie!

Accounting can lead to multiple path ways in the real work. You can do public accounting as an auditors, work as an accountant in a private firm, or work in the budgeting or forecasting process. I used to say that accounting was the language of business. If you can understand how the numbers work in the background, you can understand how the business is performing and what it's needs are. Accounting is critical and necessary at any organization. If you are thinking about getting into the profession, take a few classes and see if it's something you will like. The reality is that a lot of individuals end up in jobs outside of their degrees in college. Stay focused and motivated. Best of luck!

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Paul’s Answer

Hi -

An accounting degree will open many doors for you...
While some people who study accounting do go directly into "Public Accounting," (think "Big 4" audit for example) many others start in government, non-profits, business/corporations or smaller/local Public Accounting firms. The "right fit" for each person is different and will depend on individual circumstances.

Accounting is the language of business. The management of any organization relies on numbers/data to make business decisions. In most instances, those inputs are entered/reviewed/verified by accountants. If management has inaccurate data/information then they are bound to make incorrect decisions, which can have devastating impacts. Having a background in accounting is a foundation which will serve you well in any organization.

Starting with an audit position whether in public accounting (e.g. "Big 4" or more local/regional) is a great way to gain insight/exposure into various businesses/industries. From there, you'll be able to draw on your knowledge and experience to determine your career path. It's possible you stay in public accounting or you may determine your best course of action is to work in industry, government or even for a non-profit. Maybe, you'll decide to further your studies by obtaining a Masters degree in Accounting (Taxation, Audit, etc...).

One other item...While studying accounting is a great resource, the addition of technical skills (if you have an interest in this area as well) can really help you as well. Every organization has an accounting system which they're accountants use. But, someone has to install/maintain/update thesecomputer systems. Having both an accounting as well as an Information Systems background is definitely a plus! If this interests you, check out CISA designation as well as various Accounting Information Systems programs at colleges/universities.
(Personal note: I started in governmental audit, moved to the Big 4, went into one industry and then transitioned into another industry as well as Information Systems...CPA, CIA, CISA designations have all served me well. Being able to "understand" both the "business/accounting side" as well as the "technology/development" side helps tremendously).

Everyone thinks accounting is just audit or tax. Accounting helps you understand business, at it's core. While some industries are very specific (e.g., Rockets vs Oil/Gas vs Ranching), they all have/need accountants. So, while you may not have a certain industry specific knowledge, you will be able to bring the fundamental accounting knowledge to any of these (or other) industries. It would be very hard to be an engineer or even salesperson with a good foundation across the three industries I gave as an example. However, an accounting background can help you transition from one industry to another and avail you to many opportunities. I highly recommend pursuing accounting for the flexibility and diversity it can provide!

Hope this helps!
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Karma’s Answer

I am currently an active CPA, working in the tax field at one of the largest regional firms in CA. Aside from bookkeeping, tax is also one of the areas of accounting that is very extendable to the real world and real life. As you know, knowing tax preparation will help you not only file your own taxes but your families and friends as well and you can help your friends and families by giving advice on how they can save on taxes. I have helped many of my families and friends and given advice on a daily basis to save on taxes. They find me a very valuable person and I find it very helpful being in this profession. I am in the public accounting field so I can always switch to private accounting and find the job I like since companies always need a good accountant who is a CPA and has good public accounting experience. I hope this helps you answer your question and help you in some way as you are on your way to making your career.
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Megan’s Answer

I personally feel accounting has endless possibilities. I'm currently employed at a big4, but I've started learning digital solutions and how to design digital solutions and have interest in moving to a data analyst role or product manager. Once you learn how accounting systems work and what the users of the systems need and want, you will be able to innovate accounting.
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Emilio’s Answer

Accounting can lead to so many opportunities. You can go into public accounting (audit, tax, advisory) or private industry. I've seen people work in roles as financial analyst, controllers, all the way up to being the CFO of a company.

Emilio recommends the following next steps:

Look into the different careers that accounting offers
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Adam’s Answer

Having accounting knowledge and practice is an invaluable skill in the real world as there are many different ways you can apply it. For example balancing your checkbook or tracking your spending in a month can come from basic accounting concepts. Additionally, you can take some of the more intricate accounting practices for things such as investing to help increase your income.

Hope this helps!

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