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What It Takes to Become One of the Accountants of Tomorrow

What It Takes to Become One of the Accountants of Tomorrow

Tomorrow's accounting jobs will require not only a treasure trove of knowledge but also a passion for new technology. Accounting is about a lot more than being good with numbers. It's about demonstrating unfailing integrity, utilizing shrewd analytical skills, designing easy-to-follow workflows and helping organizations to plan for their financial futures.

Getting your education

Future accountants can train at a community college, at a four-year college and in graduate school. You can expect the following accounting job options based on your education level:

1. Associate degree.

An associate degree can prepare you for work as an accounts payable or accounts receivable clerk. You'll also be able to do simple bookkeeping, payroll processing and tax form preparation.

2. Bachelor's degree.

With a bachelor's degree, you can find an entry-level job at an accounting firm. You can also help businesses of all sizes with payroll, taxes, auditing and financial planning. Just keep in mind that you can't attest to audits of publicly traded companies without a CPA designation. With only a bachelor's degree, you'll have limited opportunities for promotion.

3. Master's degree.

Most master's degrees are designed to give accountants the hours that they need to take the CPA exam. Many graduate schools offer these degrees online with minimal on-campus requirements. As a CPA, you can achieve either a good position at an accounting firm or a position as a high-level corporate accountant. You can also open your own private practice.

4. Doctoral degree.

A doctoral degree enables you to teach accounting classes at a university. This degree equips you to research complex accounting issues and to serve the industry as a scholar.

Other Accounting Credentials

The CPA designation is not the only professional accounting credential. You can also become either a certified management accountant (CMA) or a certified internal auditor (CIA). While a CPA focuses more on public financial reporting and taxation, a CMA performs accounting for internal use. Internal accounting includes preparing budgets, analyzing costs, determining business segment profitability and making forecasts.

A CIA analyzes financial statements and accounting practices to discover mistakes in reporting or potential illegal activities. Employment for CIAs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is expected to rise 22 percent by 2018.

The Accounting Careers of Tomorrow

In the future, accountants will still work for accounting firms, private sector businesses, not-for-profits and government agencies. However, accounting jobs one decade from now will look quite different from the jobs of today. For example, thanks to enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, accountants will rarely manually reconcile bank statements or journal entries. Instead, they will take on more of a supervising and planning role, designing automated information systems according to both government regulations and business guidelines.

Also, expect to see an increase in visual analytics usage. These programs slice and dice data and present it visually so that decision-makers can conceptualize it. By integrating both financial information and non-monetary metrics with visual representations, accountants will have an up-to-the-minute picture of an organization's financial health.

Finally, social media will transform the ways that accountants do their jobs. In the workplace, e-mail conversations will be replaced by internal social media platforms. These social tools will allow real-time collaboration with employees at all levels of the organization. For example, instead of preparing a number of budget variance documents and e-mailing them, accountants can track budget discrepancies and their sources by utilizing the comments left on social media.

As an accountant, you'll combine technology savvy with both integrity and an analytical mindset. These qualities can propel you to fulfillment and success in tomorrow's accounting careers. Ready to start your accounting career? Check out the latest accounting job openings at Accounting Principals.

Author Bio: John Hallinston is a recognized career consultant who works with many accounting professionals to help further develop their professional accounting career. You can find more of his career advice on his blog Career Focus Cafe.