All You Need To Know About Being An Accountant

You think about becoming an accountant but have some questions in this regard that need to be answered?

Great! This article is exactly for you since I will show you everything you need to know about an accountant career.

After reading this article, you will have a much better idea of what working as an accountant really looks like and can better decide whether you still want to pursue such a career or work in a different field instead.

I also added an FAQ section at the end of this article in which I answer various questions about an accountant career to make this career profile as profound as possible.

Table of Contents

What does an Accountant do?

Accountants are responsible for proper bookkeeping that complies with national and international laws, rules and regulations.

They also have to display the current financial state of the company properly so that decision-makers, authorities and business partners can get profound insights into how well the company is doing.

While internal accountants work for a company to assure that bookkeeping is done properly within the firm, external accountants can also provide auditing services to firms and testify their annual financial statements.

Duties of an Accountant

  • Bookkeeping
  • Internal audits
  • Testifying annual statements
  • Preparing tax returns
  • Reviewing and processing data
  • Working with official authorities
  • Making sure that a company complies with laws and regulations
  • Financial forecasting
  • Risk analysis and assessment
  • Preparation of presentations
  • Monitoring of budgets
  • Suggestions for improvements in spending

What a Typical Day looks like as an Accountant

Accountants usually start their workday between 8 and 9 a.m. Before going to the office, they often check their emails from home and make sure that there are no urgent things to do before they actually get to their workplace.

Depending on the company they work for, they may also be able to work from home some days of the week. Accountants usually work for a few hours, take a lunch break and then get back to work.

Most of the time, you will leave your workplace between 5 and 7 p.m. However, there may also be times where you have to do so many things that you will not be able to finish work until 8 p.m. or even later.

Hence, before becoming an accountant, make sure that you are willing to put in lots of hours, at least if you aspire to a demanding career and really want to get promoted soon.

Accountant Salary 2021

Accountant salary brackets 2021

Salary BracketsSalary (per year)Salary (per hour)
Top 10 %> $177,000> $85,20
Top 25 %$115,000 – $155,000$54.20 – $73.40
Bottom 25 %$65,000 – $73,000$32.60 – $35.90
Bottom 10 %$55,000 – $64,000$26.80 – $31.30
Range$55,000 – $195,000$26.80 – $90.00
Average$86,000$42.20

Accountant salary 2021 by expert level

Level of ExperienceSalary (per year)Salary (per hour)
Entry level$55,000 – $76,000$26.10 – $36.30
Junior$59,000 – $84,000$28.20 – $41.20
Professional$68,000 – $110,000$32.70 – $52.40
Senior Professional$84,000 – $127,000$41.10 – $58.20
Expert$96,000 – $145,000$46.20 – $68.80
Top Expert$125,000 – $195,000$57.30 – 90.00

Accountant salary by state 2021 (average)

StateSalary (per year)Salary (per hour)
Alabama$72,400$35.27
Alaska$81,300$40.36
Arizona$75,700$37.82
Arkansas$69,500$34.09
California$89,600$43.46
Colorado$84,600$41.29
Connecticut$85,300$42.24
Delaware$81,300$40.06
District of Columbia$81,700$40.25
Florida$76,200$37.56
Georgia$81,900$39.64
Hawaii$71,500$34.93
Idaho$69,100$34.23
Illinois$79,200$39.63
Indiana$72,100$35.29
Iowa$71,500$35.03
Kansas$72,300$35.53
Kentucky$69,900$34.17
Louisiana$69,300$33.97
Maine$72,500$35.83
Maryland$83,600$41.39
Massachusetts$86,700$42.82
Michigan$75,800$37.12
Minnesota$74,300$36.92
Mississippi$67,200$33.29
Missouri$71,300$34.84
Montana$68,200$33.52
Nebraska$72,300$35.93
Nevada$69,100$34.28
New Hampshire$73,900$36.03
New Jersey$89,700$43.92
New Mexico$67,200$33.02
New York$99,700$48.28
North Carolina$81,300$40.01
North Dakota$77,800$38.33
Ohio$75,700$37.62
Oklahoma$76,100$37.84
Oregon$75,600$37.53
Pennsylvania$78,100$38.01
Rhode Island$84,700$41.87
South Carolina$69,800$34.21
South Dakota$66,100$32.27
Tennessee$73,800$36.19
Texas$81,900$40.42
Utah$70,200$34.73
Vermont$76,300$37.94
Virginia$87,300$43.65
Washington$83,900$41.37
West Virginia$69,300$34.21
Wisconsin$74,100$36.89
Wyoming$68,600$33.72

Job Security of Accountants

Accountants enjoy pretty high job security since not many people are able to work in this field. In fact, accountants need lots of detailed knowledge of local and also international rules and regulations and it takes quite a long time to acquire this knowledge.

Moreover, many people also don’t want to work as an accountant and this leads to a further shortage of qualified workers in this field.

Consequently, becoming an accountant can be great for you if you search for a secure job where you don’t have to worry about becoming unemployed anytime soon.

Future Job Prospects of Accountants

Many experts estimate that there will be an enormous shortage of accountants in the near future.

While accountants are needed in almost every firm, fewer and fewer people get a degree in this field and most finance specialists rather want to work as investment bankers, financial analysts, controllers and so on.

Consequently, accountants will likely also have excellent future job prospects since the demand for qualified accountants will stay constant or even increase while the supply of work in this field may drop substantially.

Working Hours of Accountants

While you will only have to work around 40 hours per week during relaxed periods of the year, you may have to work 60 hours or even more during times where lots of things happen at the same time.

For instance, accountants often have to work long hours every day during spring when financial statements have to be finalized.

This period of the year is often called “busy-season” and this for a good reason. In fact, every accountant is afraid of this term and while your life as an accountant may be relatively relaxed for most of the year, it will be certainly not during those busy months.

Job Satisfaction of Accountants

An accountant career can be great for you if you love to work with numbers and are also not afraid or annoying of reading local laws, rules and regulations.

Hence, if you are a guy or a gal that pays great attention to detail and also wants to assure that everything and everyone complies with the rules, working as an accountant will likely be really satisfying for you.

Due to the overall good working conditions, many people who work in this field report pretty high job satisfaction and it is for sure not the worst career path.

Promotion Opportunities of Accountants

Accountants can get a promotion pretty quickly if they are willing to work hard and also build a strong network.

In fact, you can get into a leading position in your company within 5 years if you get the necessary certifications and also know how to talk to people.

You should also understand corporate culture and how people get promoted in your company to maximize the chances of getting promoted yourself.

Career Levels of Accountants

  • Staff accountant
  • Junior accountant
  • Senior accountant
  • Senior accountant with budget responsibilities
  • Manager with personnel responsibilities

Fields and Types of Accountants

  • Internal accountants
  • External accountants
  • Certified accountants
  • Auditors
  • Bookkeepers
  • Management accountants
  • Cost accountants
  • Project accountants
  • Investment accountants

Educational Requirements of Accountants

You need at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting for becoming an accountant in most states. Quite often, this will be a 4-year program and this means that you will have to spend lots of time on college education.

Moreover, some companies also require you to get additional certifications like the CPA before they are willing to employ you as an accountant.

How to become an Accountant

  1. Inform yourself properly about whether an accountant career is right for you or not
  2. Do an internship in the accounting department of a big corporation
  3. Make sure that you are able to finance your degree
  4. Choose the right accounting school
  5. Finish your degree
  6. Get additional certifications if necessary
  7. Decide whether you want to work as an internal or external accountant
  8. Apply at your favorite companies you want to work for

Character Traits you need for working as an Accountant

  • Strong analytical skills
  • Motivation to work hard
  • You should like to comply with laws and regulations
  • Calmness to manage conflicts with colleagues or external clients
  • Good abilities to express yourself
  • Acceptance of long working hours
  • Great communication skills help
  • Emphasizing on accuracy
  • Accountability
  • You should be trustworthy
  • Ethics matter

Hard Skills for being an Accountant

  • Talent for working with numbers
  • Good knowledge of laws and regulations
  • Knowledge on how to make presentations
  • Programming skills are a plus
  • Attention to detail
  • Good understanding of how different departments work together
  • Sense of what authorities want to hear

Soft Skills for being an Accountant

  • Critical thinking helps
  • Healthy level of mistrusts is a plus
  • You should respect clients and colleagues
  • Stress resistance is a plus during busy season
  • Good time management skills
  • You should know what’s important and what’s not
  • Good people skills help you getting promoted
  • You should know how to lead people if you have personnel responsibility
  • Willingness to travel

Exit Options for Accountants

Since accountants build decent knowledge in the financial industry over time, they can work in many different fields after exiting their accounting careers.

This includes working as a controller, financial analyst or also working in the law department of corporations that deal with accounting topics.

Accountant – Similar Careers

  • Controller
  • Financial analyst
  • Tax examiner
  • Actuary
  • Underwriter
  • Tax preparer
  • Financial clerk
  • Auditor
  • Working for official financial authorities

Accountant Career FAQs

Is working as an accountant physically demanding?

Working as an accountant is not physically demanding at all. In fact, you will not have to lift any heavy things and while you may have to use your brain quite a lot, you will not have to use your arms and can relax in a nice office chair instead of lifting heavy stuff all day long like construction workers have to do.

Is working as an accountant mentally demanding?

Working as an accountant can be mentally demanding. In fact, you will be working with numbers almost all day long and this can be really taxing for your brain.

However, if you have a real talent for working with numbers, it can also be a relatively relaxed occupation.

Is it dangerous to work as an accountant?

It is not dangerous to work as an accountant at all. You will just work indoors in front of a computer screen for most of your workday and while firefighters, policemen and other people out there have to risk their lives every day, you will be able to work in a much safer environment.

How long do accountants stay in their jobs?

While external accountants who work for an auditing company will change their workplace pretty soon, internal accountants will stay in their jobs for quite a long time and once you work as an internal accountant and enjoy all the benefits that come along with it, you will likely work for the same company for decades.

Is it easy for accountants to find a new job?

Since accountants have decent knowledge of finance and also of rules and regulations that come along with it, they are pretty important for companies to succeed in the long run.

Since there is also a shortage of qualified accountants, you will almost have freedom of choice for whom you want to work for and it will be pretty easy for you to find a job in most states.

How hard is it to switch from being an accountant to another field of work?

Many people who work in accounting switch to different fields sooner or later. This will not be a problem as long as you continue to work in the financial industry and don’t want to work in a field that is not closely related to what you learn as an accountant.

Do accountants have a high social status?

Accountants have a decent social status. Even though they are not as appreciated as doctors since accountants will not be able to save lives, they still enjoy a decent reputation and your friends may even admire you for this career path once you succeed.

Can you help out your family and friends as an accountant?

You can help your family and friends with tax issues or also if one of your loved ones wants to start a company and needs someone who can help him or her with bookkeeping topics.

Can accountants work remotely?

Since working as an accountant is a classical office job, you will be able to work remotely in most big companies.

In fact, while most accountants will be able to work remotely for at least a few days per week, some accountants are able to completely work from home and don’t have to commute to the office anymore at all.

Is it easy to find a partner as an accountant?

Since accountants make decent money and also have a high social status, you will have an easy time in the dating market since many potential partners would love to spend their lives with you and you will be the one who can choose among a variety of attractive partners.

Do accountants have to work on weekends?

Accountants don’t have to work on weekends most of the time. However, working on weekends and holidays may still help to get promoted faster since you will just get more work done compared to someone who just enjoys his or her leisure.

Do I have to work at nighttime as an accountant?

It may happen that you have to work in the evening or even at nighttime during busy season.

However, most of the time, you will finish your workday relatively soon and this means that you will have enough time to meet up with your favorite people after work for most of the year.

Do you have to travel as an accountant?

While internal accountants don’t have to travel much, external accountants have to travel quite a lot.

Consequently, if you rather want to stay at home with your family, you should search for a job as an internal accountant instead of applying at a big auditing company.

Are accountant pensions good?

Since accountants make decent money during their active careers, you will also get a pretty solid pension.

Moreover, you will also be able to save and invest additional money in the stock market, which can give you an additional source of income once you retire from your active career.

Are accountant salaries going up?

Accountant salaries have gone up for several years and will likely also continue to go up in the future.

This is due to the fact that there is simply a shortage of qualified accountants out there and with relatively high demand, labor prices will likely continue to increase in this field.

Can you have a positive effect on society as an accountant?

While you will be important for the company you work for, you will still not do an important job for society.

While other people like doctors save lives every day, you will just make sure that companies comply with rules and regulations and will not work for a deeper purpose than just money.

How long does it take to become an accountant?

Since you will need to get a college degree and sometimes even additional qualifications for becoming an accountant, it will take you between 4 and 6 years on average.

Hence, make sure that you are willing to spend that much time on your education and that you also have the mental strength to push through difficult periods so that you don’t quit before you get your degree and a decent job in this field.

Is it difficult to become an accountant?

It is not that difficult to become an accountant. However, you should still have a talent for working with numbers and you also need a high level of motivation to get a degree in this field and also to work in this demanding environment.

Do you need to be smart to work as an accountant?

While you don’t need to be a genius for working as an accountant, you still need a certain IQ level and also a talent for working with numbers.

If you don’t have those things, chances are that you will just not become happy with your job in the long run.

Do accountants have a good work-life balance?

Accountants have a pretty good work-life balance for most of the year. Quite often, you will come home from work early and will be able to enjoy lots of leisure.

However, during busy season, you will also have a pretty stressful life for a few months where your work-life balance will greatly suffer.

Do accountants have to work on holidays?

Accountants don’t have to work on holidays most of the time. In fact, people will not force you to work during those times but it may still help you with getting promoted sooner if you are willing to put in extra work during those times.

How many hours do accountants have to work?

While accountants will work around 40 hours per week most of the time, you may also have busy periods of the year where you easily have to work 60 hours or even more.

Hence, make sure that you are fine with working long hours before you decide for an accounting career.

Do accountants have to work many extra hours?

How many extra hours you have to work as an accountant greatly depends on the time of the year.

While you will have to work many extra hours during busy season in spring, you will not have to work many extra hours during the rest of the year.

How to maximize your chances to become an accountant?

You should get in touch with corporations as soon as possible if you want to maximize your chances of becoming an accountant.

You can do so by applying for internships and you should stay in touch with your colleagues as best as possible to increase your chances of finding a job after finishing your studies soon.

Do accountants work indoors or outdoors?

Accountants work indoors most of the time. In fact, the only time accountants work outdoors is when they have to travel.

Consequently, while other people out there have to work in the cold outdoors, you will be able to enjoy a rather relaxed time in this regard.

Job alternatives to becoming an accountant

If you don’t want to become an accountant for some reason, you could also work in similar fields.

For instance, you could also work as a financial controller, consultant, actuary, underwriter and in many other fields.

What does the workplace of an accountant look like?

Accountants usually work in a classical office environment. Hence, you will have at least one computer and will often also work with a laptop.

You will also often work from home and can furnish your home office as you want it to be.

Do you have to look good for working as an accountant?

While you don’t have to look good as an accountant, it may still help for getting promoted. In fact, many studies have shown that the better you look, the more successful you will be in the corporate world, even though looks in the financial industry are not as important as in the model business ;).

Is an accountant career beneficial for your private life?

An accounting career can also help you for your private life since you will better understand how to declare your taxes and you will also often have knowledge on how to improve your tax structure as best as possible to save lots of money in the long run.

Do you need a college degree for becoming an accountant?

Yes, you need a college degree for becoming an accountant. While some companies are ok with a bachelor’s degree, others may even require you to get a master’s degree in accounting and you will therefore have to spend lots of time in college before you are able to work as an accountant.

Do you need to be certified to work as an accountant?

Some companies are also not willing to employ you unless you get additional certifications like the CPA.

In fact, there are many certifications out there that accountants can get to improve their CV and to stand out from the crowd.

Hence, while it is not always necessary to get such an additional certification, it certainly helps for getting promotions in this field.

How much does it cost to become an accountant?

Apart from the costs of getting your college degree, you may also have to spend lots of money on additional certifications.

Consequently, costs for becoming an accountant may easily add up to six figures and you may therefore have to take on student loans to finance your degree if you don’t get financial support of your parents.

Is being an accountant a good career?

Working as an accountant can be a great career if you love to work with numbers and are also willing to adjust to new laws, rules and regulations on a regular basis.

If this is not the case, you will likely not get happy with such a career in the long run.

Can you provide for your family by working as an accountant?

Accountants can make really good money and you will therefore easily be able to provide for your family by working in this field.

If your partner works as well, you may even be able to afford a nice home, a nice car and other amenities that not many other people are able to afford.

Will accountants suffer from old-age poverty?

Since you can make lots of money during your active career as an accountant, you will also not have to suffer from old-age poverty, at least if you save and invest your money wisely and don’t spend everything on useless consumption.

Can you get rich as an accountant?

While most accountants will make decent money, they will still not get rich. Hence, if money is really important to you and your only goal in life is to get rich quickly, you may rather go for a career as an investment banker instead.

Do you get continuous training as an accountant?

If you work for a big corporation or a big audit company, you will get training on a regular basis. In fact, you will learn quite a lot during your accounting career and this makes you also really valuable for other employers.

Are accountants organized in unions?

Yes, there is a union of accountants and auditors that makes sure that working conditions and the salary of accountants stay competitive.

This union also aims to improve overall benefits for accountants apart from purely financial incentives.

Do you get paid when you are sick as an accountant?

Depending on the company you work for, you may also get paid while you are sick. While big corporations often offer sick pay, smaller companies often don’t fully compensate you while you are sick and you should therefore have a look at the conditions in this regard carefully before signing a working contract.

Do accountants have a high level of responsibility?

While mistakes of accountants can have a severe impact on the company they work for, accountants will still not have the same high level of responsibility as doctors since the mistakes of doctors may take away lives while the mistakes of accountants will only lead to financial damage.

Can you work abroad as an accountant?

It is pretty difficult to work abroad as an accountant since there will be many different local rules and regulations.

Moreover, also the accounting standard may differ and this means that you will be pretty constrained regarding where you want to work as an accountant.

Thus, if you plan a career abroad, there will be much better career choices out there.

Is it stressful to work as an accountant?

While accountants don’t have much stress most of the year, working during busy season can still be really stressful.

Consequently, you should not become an accountant unless you are willing to accept a high level of stress for at least a few months.

Is it boring to work as an accountant?

Since you will always have to deal with new rules and regulations and also many issues that come along with it, chances are that working as an accountant will never get bored since you will always have to adjust to new things.

Is being an accountant hard?

While the work of an accountant is not that hard, you should still have a decent talent for working with numbers.

Otherwise, you will have to spend lots of money on things that your colleagues will do in no time and this can be really frustrating in the long run.

Is there a dress code for accountants?

Accountants often have to wear suits or other conservative forms of clothing. This is especially true if you work as an external auditor and have many different business clients.

Hence, don’t become an accountant if you don’t want to dress up for work.

What kind of accountants are paid the most?

You can earn the most if you work as an external auditor by testifying annual financial statements for big corporations.

At this stage, you will easily make a six-figure income and you will be able to afford plenty of luxury.

What percentage of accountants are women?

The fraction of female accountants is still rather limited. In fact, over 70% of people who work in the accounting industry are men and this will likely not change that much in the future since more men traditionally love to work with numbers while women often want to work rather creatively.

Do I need a mentor to succeed in the accountant industry?

While you will not urgently need a mentor to succeed in the accounting world, it can still help to have someone on your side who is experienced and has worked in this business for many years who can also help you out once you run into serious problems.

Do accountants have a high life expectancy?

Since you will not do dangerous work and also don’t have to stress your body that much, you will have a pretty high life expectancy as an accountant.

In fact, the life expectancy of accountants is much higher compared to the general public.

What states are best for working as an accountant?

California is a great state to work as an accountant since you can make one of the highest salaries within the whole US and still can enjoy the nice weather and a relatively relaxed lifestyle at the same time.

What are the pros and cons of working as an accountant?

If you want to get even more information about being an accountant, make sure to also have a look at the pros and cons of an accounting career.

Sources

https://www.statista.com/statistics/317587/number-of-accountants-and-auditors-employed-us/

https://www.statista.com/topics/2121/accounting-industry-in-the-us/

Interviews and own research.

About the author

My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people about the different career paths that are possible in our current state of the world. In my opinion, people often make the mistake to choose their profession solely based on how much money they can earn from it instead of doing what makes them really happy.

This is quite sad and I just want to give people a more objective picture of how a fulfilling career could look like. I did the same when I started working in consulting after finishing my Master’s degree in Economics. However, I’ve quit pretty soon after that since I haven’t found true meaning in my job.

Now I can do what I really love to do and I want to enable as many other people as well to go this exciting path towards happiness instead of money.

I conducted various interviews with employees to give you a good impression of what working in different fields will look like and that you can make the best possible decision regarding your future career choice.

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