Do I Need an Accounting Degree to Work at the IRS?

It may seem surprising, but you do not have to have an accounting degree to work at the IRS. Positions with the Internal Revenue Service are more varied than many people realize. Opportunities include administrative and clerical positions, accounting positions, and even law enforcement positions.

Administrative and Clerical Positions at the IRS

Like most large organizations, the IRS needs employees capable of handling an assortment of administrative and clerical tasks. Positions for support roles like file clerks, mail clerks and administrative assistants are available at the IRS’ headquarters in Washington, D.C. and in IRS service centers and field offices all across the country. No accounting experience or education is required for these jobs. Administrative and clerical employees must be U.S. citizens who are at least 18 years of age and possess a high school diploma or an equivalent certification. They must also be capable of passing a work skills test.

Accounting Positions at the IRS

Since it is the biggest employer of accounting professionals, it certainly comes as no surprise that the IRS has quite an assortment of accounting positions. Although these internal revenue agents, tax specialists, tax compliance officers and tax examiners are expected to work with the tax code and other financial and accounting information, they do not have to have an accounting degree to work at the IRS. While an accounting degree is clearly valued, it is not required. The agency will also consider applicants who hold a bachelor’s degree in another area as long as they have completed at least 30 credits of accounting coursework. Even individuals who do not have bachelor’s degrees may qualify. While they must have completed at least 30 credits of accounting coursework, they can make up for not holding an actual degree if they have a blend of education and experience equivalent to four years of academic study. The agency defines one year of academic study as 30 credits or one year of full-time professional accounting experience.

Law Enforcement Positions at the IRS

Many people do not realize the IRS has its own law enforcement division. Criminal investigation special agents are federal law enforcement officers who merge traditional law enforcement investigation methods with forensic accounting in order to uncover criminal activities that involve violations of the tax code. As law enforcement agents, these professionals carry guns and are expected to protect the general public when the situation demands it. Applicants for these positions must be U.S. citizens who possess a driver’s license, but they do not need a degree in accounting. Like IRS employees in accounting positions, criminal investigation special agents can qualify for their positions with a mix of education and experience.

If an accounting degree is not required to work at the IRS, then what is? Although this varies widely depending on the specific position, all successful applicants to the IRS are expected to be U.S. citizens who are at least 18 years old. Because of the sensitive nature of the information the IRS handles, most potential employees must also be willing to undergo a background check and have their own personal tax records reviewed. While you will find a wide range of opportunities, including many in administration, accounting and law enforcement, it is not an automatic requirement to have an accounting degree to work at the IRS.