This podcast is our first in a series of discussions regarding careers in accounting. We’ve chosen this topic above all others at the moment because the timing of the recording coincides with the beginning of the fall semester and Bell & Company participates in student activities with several Schools of Business and Accounting Departments at Universities in Arkansas. Our motivation is to continue an ongoing process to assist students who may be interested in accounting as a career and identify possible candidates who may be interested in starting their professional career in public accounting.
Here is a quick overview of some common career fields available to a professional accountant…
Public Accountant: A job in public accounting will give you experience in many different facets of accounting work, including the preparation and review of financial statements, analyzing budgets, tax work, consulting, and business advisory services on a range of financial issues
Tax Accountant: A tax accountant focuses on tax related accounting work, preparing quarterly and annual tax (federal, state, and local) returns for individuals and companies.
Forensic Accountant: Examines a companies’ financial statements and provides analysis for legal cases.
Financial Accountant: Prepares reports that assess fiscal performance for stockholders, creditors, and tax agencies. Target audience is external
Managerial Accountant: same as a financial accountant but target audience in internal.
Financial Planner: These accountants focus more on assisting individuals manage finances (budgeting, taxes, investing).
Internal Auditor: These accounting professionals ensure resources are being used effectively and that the company is in compliance with all state and federal requirements and there is no mismanagement of funds.
Government Accountant: These professionals work managing information for all levels of government. Their focus is often the management of funds, whether it is being collected and spent according to the appropriate laws.
What Coursework is Common for an Accounting Degree?
Overview The most common coursework for an accounting degree focuses on those elements that entry-level accountants are expected to know: GAAP(generally accepted accounting), tax policy, cost accounting (collecting information about the costs incurred by a company's activities, assigning selected costs to products and services, and evaluating the efficiency of cost usage.) and auditing ( examination of an individual or organizations financial records and control systems), forensics(external auditing), and basic business skills. Accountants who graduate from such a program generally work as personal accountants, tax professionals, corporate accountants, accounting managers, among other positions.
Financial Reporting Classes: Basic insight into what the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) are and how they impact everyday accounting work. They teach students about the fundamentals of ledgers, balance sheets, cost accounting, inventory methods, and other concepts that will be repeatedly discussed in higher-level courses.
Internal Auditing or Forensic Accounting Students learn how to uncover irregularities and report them as needed. This class will give students more advanced insight into the accounting profession and advanced guidelines for ethical work.
Principles of Taxation A large number of accountants work in tax-related industries, and almost all accounting programs require at least three credits in tax policy. Coursework will introduce the structure of the federal tax system and how accountants can help with deductions, exemptions, credits, appeals, and will also teach the fundamentals of state tax policy.
Fundamental Business and Management Classes Most accounting programs are based in a university’s business school; so, students will be required to take a broad core of classes that teach economics, finance, management, communication, and quantitative analysis. These skills will give accountants the framework they need to advance into managerial roles or to pursue the MBA or Masters in Accounting.
Practical Skills Taught Through Engaging College Coursework The accounting profession requires a great deal of ethical and legal consideration, as well as a very in-depth, working understanding of how to properly report expenses, account for costs, and state corporate earnings.
Accounting Interns have the opportunity to learn and gain first-hand experience in a real accounting department or an accounting firm. They help perform research, prepare financial reports, and assist with reconciling accounts and other duties, as needed. Typically, you would work at a firm during one or two 13 week semesters while attending classes. Most firms focus their attention to students in the last year or two of completing their undergraduate work.
Bell and Company staff accountant, Shelby Eddy, shares her experiences while pursuing her degree in accounting, and some of the challenges and rewards of going through the process.
Some questions we addressed in our discussion are…
1) What made you choose accounting as a course of study?
2) What challenged you most in the beginning?
3) Were you part of an accounting society in college? (if applicable)
4) Tell us about internships/accounting jobs during college.
5) How did your internship experience prepare you for employment as you considered your options upon graduation?
6) Tell us about what you are doing now and what are some of your goals over the next three to five years?
To finalize which type of accounting career you want to pursue, be willing to honestly assess yourself, your goals, and your willingness to put in the considerable time and effort needed to become a CPA. All states require CPA candidates to pass all four parts of the CPA exam: Audit and Attestation; Financial Accounting and Reporting; Regulation; and Business Environment and Concepts.
Also, before you graduate, try to get an accounting internship or find another way to get some experience. Use career-focused social media sites like LinkedIn and always stay attuned to your school’s job listings.
In our next couple of episodes, we’ll look more closely at setting career goals and strategic development; and, choosing what kind of firm or business opportunity may be right for you.
I also shared some information from an article entitled Our Top 10 reasons for Giving Back available at
The article shares 10 important reasons individuals volunteer in their communities. As you listen, see which reasons apply to you and remember to take the skills and abilities you’ve been given see how you can share them to be of benefit to others.