How To Start and Advance Your Career in Accounting
You may have heard of a recent decrease in accounting graduates and accounting school enrollment. Fortunately, if you’re interested in joining the industry, there are plenty of opportunities and decreasing competition for key roles if you prepare yourself well. Here are four key steps for starting and advancing your career in accounting.
Hit the Books
Education and credentials are a big part of getting started in your accounting career. After all, accounting isn’t exactly something you can play by ear. The methods and principles accountants need to use on a daily basis are fairly objective and set in stone, so those hiring accountants want to know that you have a firm foundation of accounting theory.
Most accounting roles require a bachelor’s degree to get started, although the path to higher roles can be fairly diverse. With a solid foundation in accounting, you can climb to management, controller, and even CFO roles through experience and advanced accounting degrees, but many are also entering those positions with degrees in business management, finance, or even something more targeted to the specific industry of their company.
Get a Foot in the Door
One of the best things about a career in accounting is that it has the perfect balance of career growth opportunities and flexibility. You can move up the chain from being a bookkeeper or account clerk to junior accountant, senior accountant, management, and even to controller or CFO if you have the ambition. But you don’t have to follow this exact path, and can come into these roles from another industry or department if you have the right credentials.
This linear path remains the simplest and surest way to climb the career ladder as an accountant. If you have little to no experience or are in the process of obtaining an accounting degree or certification, consider getting a foot in the door by taking an entry-level position as a bookkeeper or an AP/AR clerk. These roles typically don’t require an accounting degree or much experience and can be a great starting point.
An entry-level job in the accounting department gives you a chance to learn about the company, familiarize yourself with the chart of accounts, and build relationships with the people who can help you climb to higher levels. It also allows you to accumulate those much-needed years of experience for future positions.
Build Your “Soft Skills”
More and more of the daily tasks of accountants are being automated by software. That leaves accountants with more time and energy than ever before to play a strategic role in the company and actually apply the numbers rather than simply crunching them. With accountants becoming more integral to the process, you’ll need to have a strong set of soft skills to succeed.
Gone are the days when accountants can hide behind their calculators in the annex. Translating accounting knowledge to your non-accounting teammates takes strong communication skills. As more of the basic number crunching is managed by software, this communications piece is becoming an increasingly important part of the role of accountant.
To advance your career in accounting, take the time to build your interpersonal skills, as well as presentation skills, and demonstrate your commitment to communication and collaboration with other departments on the job.
Get Comfortable With Tech
This should go without saying, but tech skills are crucial to building a solid accounting career. The nature of technology is acceleration. In other words, there’s a snowball effect, so the more tech we have, the faster we develop new tech. Where accountants had done things in more or less the same way for decades, new tools and technology are now reshaping the landscape every few years. To thrive in this environment, you need to be comfortable with technology and willing to learn new software on a regular basis.
While lagging behind on tech savvy can be a liability, growing your tech comfort level is a huge asset to your accounting career. The more quickly you can learn new software tools, the more in-demand you’ll be for accounting roles that utilize those tools.
Along with accounting technology, the workplace as a whole is more and more dependent on tech. With many companies still working on a remote or hybrid basis, the communication and collaboration skills mentioned earlier are heavily reliant on tech. The more fluent you are in using these tools to interact and communicate effectively with your team, the bigger advantage you’ll have for getting a new accounting job or rising up the ranks in your existing company.
If you’re ready to seek your first accounting role or looking to step up to a more challenging and more rewarding role as you further your accounting career, these four steps will help you get there. With the need for a well-rounded, balanced skillset, the future of accounting looks promising and a lot more interesting.