Accounting is an integral part of every business and industry around the world and the work is creative, diverse, and exciting. Preparation for a successful accounting career begins in high school; however, the learning should never end. Becoming associated with a professional organization is the best way to maintain a competitive edge in this ever changing marketplace.
Five important areas accountants work in are:
Management accountant are found in both large and small corporations. Hospitals, law firms, school systems, manufacturing companies, television and radio stations, banks, investment firms, public utilities, and professional sports franchisees are just a few industries where you will find these accounting finance professionals. Management accountants work as part of their company’s management team acting in a decision-making capacity.
When you work for a company, you might start with general accounting projects, and then begin preparing more specific reports for management such as analyzing financial and operating data. At the managerial level, you may be involved in reporting how to increase profits and determining a company’s financial needs for the future. As controller, you will be the person responsible for your company’s financial operations. A management accountant’s career eventually can lead to becoming an organization’s chief financial officer (CFO).
Working for a public accounting firm offers you the opportunity to work with clients in many different industries. Public accountants provide many services including auditing, tax advice, and management consulting. You’ll be involved in examining the inventory of one client, analyzing another client’s financial records, and even helping set up a client’s computer system or a new payroll plan.
As an internal auditor, you will be involved in examining and evaluating your company’s financial and information systems, management procedures, and internal controls to ensure that records are accurate, and controls are adequate to protect against fraud and unnecessary waste.
Internal auditors play an important role in a company, reviewing company operations, making sure they are efficient, effective, and in compliance with company polices, state laws, and government regulations.
Accountants and financial experts work throughout the municipal, county, state, and federal levels of the government, and the specialized bureaus within them. Government accounting is unique in that the source of revenue and authorization of expenditures are established by legislative action rather than by a management policy. For most government positions you are required to take a civil service examination, but many are filled through election or appointment. In this area, you could be involved in speaking out on the expected effects of proposed tax legislation, and how it might impact today’s business and economy.
If you are interested, you can use your accounting experience to educate others. While working, you can teach as an adjunct professor or devote your career to teaching and earn your Ph.D. As accounting and financial management practices become more complex, accounting students will require a sound education to prepare for their careers.
Preparation for an Accounting Career
An accountant must bring a broad perspective, and specific accounting knowledge to the job. While courses in accounting and other business areas are most directly related to your future career, the humanities, and social and physical sciences must be a significant part of your educational preparation. During the early stages of your career you need to develop your computer skills, along with your ability to communicate well, both orally and in writing.
Recently, the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) and the Financial Executives titled “What Corporate America Wants in Entry-Level Accountants.” According to the survey results, about 20 percent of the corporate executives prefer to hire entry-level accountants who have a bachelor’s degree that includes an internship program. Areas rated most important by corporate executives that students should be prepared in were budgeting, product costing, and asset management.
An accounting certification provides professional recognition, demonstrates academic achievement, and signifies you are an expert in accounting and financial management.
To advance in your career consider becoming a Certified Management Accountant (CMA). The CMA is the only professional certification designed specifically for management accountants and financial managers. Established by the institute of Management Accountants (IMA), the CMA Program requires candidates to pass a four-part examination. To qualify to take the examination, which is developed by IMA’s Institute of Certified Management Accountants, candidates must meet specific educational standards. The examination is offered twice a year, in June and December, throughout the United States and abroad, over a two-day period.
To earn the CMA, you must successfully pass all parts of the examination, though to necessarily at one time. Final certification requires a minimum of two years of professional experience in management accounting or financial management; however, this experience may be earned after completing the examination. For more information on the CMA Program, call 1-800-638-4427, press 2.
To practice as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), you must pass a four-part examination prepared by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. The examination is offered the first two months of each quarter. Certificates are issued by the State Board of Accountancy, and each state has formulated education and experience requirements that the prospective CPA in that state must fulfill.
The Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) designation is offered by the Institute of Internal Auditors, Inc. to graduates of accredited colleges and universities who have completed two years of experience in internal auditing and have passed a four-part examination.
For Further Information
To learn more about a career in accounting, talk to the career guidance counselors at your school or visit your public library. Be sure to inquire about scholarships, and internships programs for college students.
For a list of accredited accounting programs, contact the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business, 600 Emerson Rd., Suite 300, St. Louis, MO 63141-7077.
As additional source of information is the Institute of Management Accountants which sponsors IMA Student Chapters at colleges and universities. To find the one nearest you an to receive a student membership application, call 1-800-638-4427, press 1.
IMA student membership is inexpensive and includes chapter affiliation, where you can network, develop leadership skills, and keep up-to-date on the latest accounting trends. You also will receive Management Accounting, a magazine specifically written for corporate accounting leaders.
The majority of accounting graduates become management accountants and financial managers employed in manufacturing and service industries. These people choose to use their skills within an organizational structure and develop their career as a valuable part of a management team. If this is your goal, the IMA, with its many benefits to student members, is for you.
IMA is the world’s largest organization devoted exclusively to management accountants, with approximately 84,000 members in over 300 chapters across the United States and in several affiliates abroad. Founded in 1919, IMA is based in Montvale, New Jersey.
Reproduced with permission of: The Institute of Management Accountants (IMA)