Choosing an accounting field to work in can be difficult – or not – depending on what is important to you. If could be that there is a field that you are passionate about, but there is very little opportunity or room for growth. Or you could attempt to climb up the ranks of a Big Four corporation or similar to really hit the big time. Either way, the big benefit of being a CPA is the job stability and flexibility that it gives you. Hypothetically, once you have achieved your CPA license, you should be able to use it to apply for practice privilege or interstate license reciprocity. Private accountants will not even need to take this step. However, in order to have the freedom to try things out, you also need to have an idea of what there is available. Below, we have provided some examples of what options are out there, and what to consider when deciding on a field to pursue.
What are the top CPA employment fields?
This depends on your criteria. For many, their first thought is of income. For others, it is a mixture of considerations, such as income, happiness and cost-of-living. We dealt with these considerations on a state-by-state basis in this article. Here, we will be focusing more on the accountancy positions themselves.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in May 2020 the median annual wage for accountants was $73,560 with the lowest 10% earning less than $45,220 and the highest 10% earning more than $128,680. In contrast, the median wage for all jobs in the US $48,000. That makes the median wage of an accountant 35% higher than average.
According to the Bureau, the top paying accounting industries according to their median pay for that period were:
- Finance and Insurance – $78,600
- Management of companies and enterprises – $76,230
- Accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll services – $73,180
- Government – $72,260
There are many sub-categories to this, and some of these salaries are attributable to high-ranking positions such as being the CFO, CEO Director, Vise President, or Senior Consultant of a company.
The largest employees of accountants and auditors
According to the BLS, these are the sectors that hire the most accountants:
• Accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll services – 25%
The differences between a CPA, an accountant and a bookkeeper and the wage variances have been described here. Taxation and tax-consulting are high-demand positions that are generally quite lucrative,
• Finance and insurance – 9%
Finance accountants are involved in tracking and recording the day-to-day transactions of company and then summarizing and reporting them. On the other hand, insurance accountants are usually responsible for managing the accounts for insurance brokers. This entails a variety of tasks such as payroll, claims, accounts receivable, claims and other tasks.
• Government accounting – 8%
May people prefer to go the government or public sector route rather than the Big Four so as to have more consistent hours and more variety in their work. As it sounds, this entails the organization of financial transactions incurred by the government. They usually use different systems than to public and private accountancy fields. This entails keeping track of their income and expenditures. These variances are usually related to state or federal legislations. However, as with any organization, there are many different departments and specialty areas.
In November 2021, Indeed.com showed 2,750 positions available. Some of these positions also have a Bachelor’s in Accountancy or Master’s in Accountancy as a minimum requirement. Some of these jobs are even remote.
• Management of companies and enterprises – 7%
This is the goal of many CPAs; to eventually work their way up to managerial position. Of course, managerial positions develop into more of consultation, advisory and management than to actual accountancy. This will also take a lot of hard work, positive people skills and consistency.
• Self-employed workers – 5%
Self-employed CPAs have a lot more flexibility because they can provide services to a variety of different clients with very different needs. Although their pay is less stable, once established they will be in control of their own hours and time off.
More diverse accounting jobs
Many fields do not receive the same level of attention as the more prominent fields such as auditing and taxation, so we have provided a list of some other fields that may pique your interest. Of course, there are many more fields and sub-categories than those that are listed here, but it is a start.
• Personal Financial Advisor
These are financial advisors who provide their services to individuals rather than corporations. They help to assess their clients’ finances and financial needs and to provide them with advice on anything from how to invest their money or on how to manage their expenses. Of course, you do not need to be a CPA to become a financial advisor. You will, however, usually need to acquire various securities licenses to allow you to invest capital on behalf of your clients.
• Forensic Auditing
This entails working in financial investigations and developing financial profiles. They usually monitor the activity of white-collar criminals. They can work for financial institutions, intelligence agencies, the police and similar. They help to detect crimes such as money-laundering, securities fraud, tax evasion and similar.
FBI Accounting is a subcategory of this. But they need to take a six-week training course that focuses on Bureau programs and systems, available investigative resources, financial investigative topics and techniques, legal training, and expert witness testifying techniques. These tend to have diverse tasks, although there can be monotony as with any job. The bright side is that you are also helping to catch criminals and hopefully returning wrongfully gained money back to their rightful owners or at least preventing them from causing further harm.
• Financial Analyst
Also known as investment analysts or securities analysts, they work for businesses such as banks, government regulatory firms, hedge or pension funds, insurance companies and similar. Their job is to examine financial data and to compile their findings in order to help their client make sound financial and investment decisions. This role is very broad, and they often provide different functions depending on the type of business that they are in. Some of the tasks that they perform include tracking variances, tracking losses and gains, making models sales and purchases and submitting finding to management to assist with decision making.
• Medical Accountancy
Medical ad healthcare accountants are responsible for handling the financial statements of healthcare organizations such as hospitals, clinics, and insurance companies. As with other accountancy positions, they are responsible for compiling balance sheets, financial reports, cash flow analyses and other documentation that are pertinent to both the long-term and short-term running of the business. They can also work as healthcare clerks.
Auditing could be for you if you enjoy working with people, as you will need to work alongside other accountants and make a lot of phone-calls. It is also one of the most in-demand jobs on the market. They are in charge of assessing financial statements to verify that that they are accurate and comply with state laws. They can also advise the company on how to avoid Another plus side is that an entry-level auditing position has a minimum requirement of a Bachelor’s degree, so it is a good consideration when planning how to meet your work experience requirements.
Unusual Accounting Jobs
Here are a few jobs that are a bit more unique:
• Sports Accounting
This is quite diverse itself. This could entail keeping track of the finances for a sport team but could also relate to being a Spectator Sports Accountant.
• Entertainment Accounting
This includes a wide range of industries, including TV production, Assistant Production, Staff Travel and Theater, among others. However, the big one is Corporate Entertainment Accounting where you would be working for production companies, movie studios and similar.
• Finance Business Partner
These are senior management accountants who are tasked with acting as the liaison between the business and the finance department. Their work largely entails financial planning and analysis, forecasting, budgeting, presenting their findings and other tasks. It involves a lot more social interactions than the typical accounting position, as well as requiring attention to business and market trends.
• Accounting Software Development
Although his career path does not require a CPA or even an accounting degree, there are some accountants who are drawn into it after discovering their love of programming while working as accountants. This s because many of them learn programming while working as accountants and trying to develop faster methods of processing and analyzing financial data.
• Captive Management
They are involved in captive insurance and risk management. They are contracted by managers to assist with feasibility, formation, and management. They accomplish this by assessing the risks attached to the business’s activities while the business attempts to meet their objectives. They then identify the risks and assess whether they are reasonable in terms of the business’s financial standing and stated acceptable risk parameters. In this way they serve to align the risk management with the business’s risk strategy and to implement them into the business’s operations.
• Environmental Accounting
This is a type of accounting that tries to incorporate economic and environmental information into the corporate workspace. Instead of just focusing on the financial side of the equation, these accountants also calculate resource use, as well as the ecological impact of the business on the environment. While this can sometimes be sourced from pure motivations of trying to be environmentally conscious, it could also just necessitates ensuring that the business meet the state’s requirements, that the business takes responsibility for sites that it may have contaminated, avoiding or paying environmental fines, taxes and penalties, waste managements, and other tasks.
The 9 least enjoyable accountancy fields
According to CareerExplorer, these are the accounting areas where employees gave a work satisfaction rating of under 2.8/5:
- Financial clerk
- Loan officer
- Credit analyst
- Credit Counselor
- Tax preparer
- Revenue agent
- The Big Four and other major corporations are infamous for grueling work weeks. Employees are known to work 60 to 80-hour weeks and sometimes on weekend. So, while it is lucrative and prestigious, it is not necessarily the best choice for maintain a social life and avoiding burnout. This is one examples of where working for smaller companies and firms can be better than big corporations; you are less likely to be working crazy hours, or if you do it will mostly be seasonal. But it might also be worth it when you are starting out, as it will look good on your CV when you decide to move on.
- Public accounting generally means working long hours, especially during tax season.
- Industry positions, meaning working for firms, usually have 40-hour work weeks with longer hours during tax season. This will also depend on the company size and location.
- Private practice will put you in charge of your own hours, which can be a good and bad thing, depending. It also means that you will be responsible for generating your own income and for dealing with your clients yourself.
What are the keys to enjoying your CPA job?
Some accountancy tasks can be very repetitive. If you struggle with this, it is a good idea to look at fields that offer some variety. Or even allocating certain tasks to certain days instead of doing them all continuously. For instance, you could dedicate one day to scanning confirmations and the next to providing tax support.
However, it is also important to realize that when you are just starting out, you are likely to be given all the boring, monotonous tasks that are simpler and can be left with a newcomer. The variety will only come as you grow in experience and move to higher level positions. There is very rarely a quick way to anything; sometimes you will just need to grind.
This is one of the benefits to working for smaller companies, as small-to-medium companies usually have a smaller staff. This means that they will be more likely to the diversify tasks given to each of their accountants.
• Work/life balance
Although it is tempting to work all the hours you can for extra billable or to be noticed by your superiors, this can lead to burnout. It is important to keep in touch with your friends, family and outside interests.
• Find out what interests you
It is relatively simple to find what most people dislike doing, but that does not mean that this will be true of you as well. After all, you might find yourself to be one of the exceptions to these rules, like those who thoroughly enjoy tax season. So, pay attention while you are reviewing your coursework and pounding your MCQs in preparation for your exams to see which parts stress you out more or less, and which you enjoy more than others.
- Work on your interviewing skills before applying for jobs. First impressions usually have a greater impact than an impressive CV does.
- Specialization usually comes with experience. Most accountancy courses are generalized, so it might take time to figure out which field really interests you. Try to pay attention to which sections of the CPA course load you find more interesting and which you really dislike. That may help give you an idea of a starting point.
- You may not get your dream internship when you start out. It may take a couple of years to work your way from small firm intern to a comfortable or high-paying position. That’s ok, even though it may seem frustrating. Grinding out experience will help your resume to look more attractive and give you useful skills for when you do move on to bigger things.
- A CPA affords you a portable skill set. If you find that you are not enjoying the current field that you are in, you can still move onto another that you might find more enjoyable or challenging.