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How to Become an Accountant or Auditor

How to Become an Accountant or Auditor
Bachelor's degree

Education & Training

The majority of auditors and accountants require a bachelor's degree in accounting or a similar field. Certain employers prefer to hire individuals with a master's degree in business administration with a concentration in accounting or in accounting.

Certain colleges and universities provide special programs such as a bachelor's degree in internal auditing. Individuals with associate's degrees, accounting clerks and bookkeepers who meet the experience and education requirements outlined by their workplace may receive junior accounting positions. They have the ability to advance to accountant positions by showcasing their aptitude on the job.

Students may have the option to gain practical experience through part-time or summer internships with public business or accounting firms.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Any accountant filing a report with the SEC or Securities and Exchange Commission is required to be a CPA or Certified Public Accountant by law. It is possible for other accountants to enhance their job prospects and become a CPA in order to secure more clients. Commonly, employers will pay the costs associated with taking the CPA exam.

The Board of Accountancy is responsible for licensing CPAs. In order to qualify, being a CPA means passing a national exam along with fulfilling other requirements. Many cities require CPA candidates to complete 150 semester hours of coursework in order to become certified. This requirement is 30 hours more than the regular 4-year bachelor's degree. There are a variety of schools that offer a 5 year combined master's and bachelor's degree in order to maintain the 150 hour requirement; however, a master's degree is not necessary.

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, also known as AICPA uses the 4-part Uniform CPA Examination. Individuals are not required to pass all 4 parts at once; however, most cities require that all four parts of the test are completed approximately a year and a half after passing the initial section.

Becoming certified provides a competitive advantage by showing professional competence in the highly specialized field of auditing and accounting. Auditors and accountants seek a variety of certifications from numerous professional societies. Continuing education is often a requirement in order to keep a valid license.

The Institute of Management Accountants is a society who offers CMA or the Certified Management Accountant to applicants who complete their bachelor's degree. A minimum of 2 years working in management accounting is required. Applicants must additionally pass continuing education requirements and pass a 2-part exam and agree to comply with professional conduct standards. Exam topics include: risk management, capital structure, financial statement analysis, valuation issues and working-capital policy.

The IIA or Institute of Internal Auditors provides the CIA or the Certified Internal Auditor status to graduates from accredited universities and colleges who have passed a 4 part exam and worked as internal auditors for 2 years. The CCSA or the Certified in Control Self-Assessment is additionally offered by the IIA. As well the CFSA or Certified Financial Services Auditor and the CGAP or Certified Government Auditing Professional designations can also be attained by individuals who met the experience and educational requirements while passing the exams.

The ISACA is another organization that offers the CISA or Certified Information Systems Auditor to individuals who have 5 years of experience auditing information systems and successfully pass an exam. Certain places will accept related college credit hours, information systems experience, operation or financial auditing experience which may be substituted for up to 2 years of experience regarding security, control or information systems auditing.

The AICPA offers accountants with a CPA the option to receive ABV or the Accredited in Business Valuation. CITP or Certified Information Technology Professional designation or PFS or Personal Financial Specialist certifications may be obtained. The CITP requires 75 hours of continuing education and 1000 hours of business technology experience. The ABV requires a minimum of 6 business valuation projects that showcase a candidate's competence and experience. Those pursuing the PFS are also required to complete specific education and work standards in order to pass a written exam.

Skills and Qualities that will Help

Math Skills: Auditors and accountants need to be capable of comparing, analyzing and interpreting figures and facts; however, complex math skills are not required.

Detail Oriented: Auditors and accountants must pay close attention when examining and compiling documents.

Analytical Skills: Auditors and accountants need to be able to identify problems in documents and offer solutions. Public accountants for example, rely on their analytical skills in their work to minimize tax liability. Internal auditors may use these skills when determining fraudulent funds.

Organizational Skills: Strong organizational skills are vital for auditors and accountants who commonly work with a substantial amount of financial documents for numerous clients.

Communication Skills: Auditors and accountants need to be able to listen to concerns and discuss facts with managers, clients and a variety of others.

How To Advance

Certain financial managers and top executives have a background in finance, internal auditing or accounting. Individuals starting out as public accountants may advance to positions within 1 to 2 years that offer more responsibility. Senior positions can become reality after 5 years. Some may choose to work as managers, supervisors or partners. Others may wish to choose to open their own public accounting firm or take an executive position within a private firm.

Management accountants may start out as junior internal auditors, cost accountants or trainees. It is possible to rise through the ranks and advance to chief cost accountant, accounting manager, manager of internal auditing or budget director. Others may become chief financial officers, controllers, corporation presidents, financial vice presidents or treasurers.

It is possible for internal auditors, management accountants and public accountants to move from one area of accounting to another. Public accountants may move into internal auditing or management accounting. Management accountants may transition to become internal auditors and vice versa.