How Do You Become an International Accountant?

international accountant

Accounting is one of the most popular jobs in the world, and some people decide to become international accountants as their specialty. Like other types of accounting, international accountants have job duties and responsibilities that are unique from other specialties, and it takes special training and experience to become an international accountant. International accountants may even have the opportunity to conduct work in a different country than their home country.

If you want to work in the field of accounting that focuses on the global economy, consider taking the steps to become an international accountant. The need for accounting specialists who are experts in foreign transactions is on the rise as economies become more global than ever. You can’t just wake up one morning and decide that it’s time to apply for a position in international accounting. Here’s what you must do to dive into this specialty.

Complete a Bachelor’s Degree Program

If you don’t yet possess a bachelor’s degree, the first thing you need to do is compare accredited  programs majoring in accounting. How long this will take to complete depends on your current level of education. If you already possess an associate’s degree, you could finish your accounting coursework in as little as two years. The same can be said if you have a bachelor’s in an entirely different area of study.

Many bachelor’s degree programs offer a generalized view of accounting that isn’t focused solely on international accounting. A well-rounded introduction to accounting is important for any bachelor’s degree seeker, even if the student already knows what specialty of accounting he or she might pursue in a graduate program. Some of the classes in the average accounting program include Forensic Accounting, Cost Accounting, International Accounting, and Accounting Ethics.

When selecting a college for your undergraduate program in accounting, it’s important to make sure that the program is accredited by a regional accreditation organization. It’s not possible to obtain a graduate degree or qualify to take the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam if your degrees haven’t been earned by an accredited institution. Beyond regional accreditation, you’ll also want to consider schools that have been accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB) or the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP).

Take the Right Electives

international accountant

Your electives can make all of the difference when it comes to choosing any type of specialty. Since international accountants specialize in international standards and practices, it’s best for you to complete international accounting elective courses. Not only do you need these courses in the field, you should consider taking classes in the most popular foreign languages so that you can put bilingual on your applications.

Enter Into a Master’s Degree Program

You’re not done with your education when you walk the line for your undergraduate degree. The next step would be to enter into a Master of Science program majoring in accounting. As you’re picking your graduate degree program, make sure you look for universities that offer concentrations in international accounting. Not all universities do but it’s becoming a concentration that’s much more popular.

While you’re studying for your master’s degree, you’ll learn about the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles that are used in the US and how they compare to the IFRS that’s used all across the globe. You will also review more financial statements of multi-national and foreign companies to assess financial health and spot red flags. Expect to spend 2 to 3 years in grad school.

Complete an Internship as You Prepare to Pass Your CPA Exam

You must be a Certified Public Accountant before you can work as an International Accountant. That’s why you need to get the practical experience that you need to sit for the four-part Uniform CPA Exam before you even study. You may be able to find an internship while you’re completing your last year of grad school. After that, look for entry-level positions that will help you fulfill your test requirements.

Check your state’s requirements through the board of accountancy. It’s really important to look in the jurisdiction where you want to test, according to the American Institute of CPAs. Then, you can complete an application and pay the fees to start the process. You’ll be asked for academic documents so that you are accepted and your test date is set.

When You Know You Want to Become an International Accountant in High School

Some future accountants know they want to enter the profession while they’re still in high school, and it can prove beneficial to begin the training and preparation before earning a high school degree. Many of the country’s most respected accounting programs require that applicants take extra math in high school or maintain a high GPA for accounting-related classes. For future international accountants, maintaining high scores in classes like math, communication, and foreign languages can help.

It may be worth investigating the entry requirements for a few colleges that you want to attend before you exit high school, so you can apply for college with the best possible transcript and extracurricular activities. Membership in clubs that focus on subjects like math can improve your chances of getting accepted to college. Getting an entry-level job as a clerk or other basic employment can also help.

Any job where you have to keep track of money and use numbers can help you prepare for a career as an accountant. Getting a summer job as a front desk clerk at an establishment like a gym, a theater, or any retail store can help you get used to using numbers on a daily basis, as well as help improve your resume when you apply for college or try to get a job during or after you get your accounting degree.

Can I Become an International Accountant with a Non-Accounting Degree?

accounting degree options

If you want to become an international accountant, you’ll need a master’s degree in some type of accounting. However, your undergraduate degree doesn’t necessarily need to be in accounting. Some international accountants earn a degree in a related area like business, economics, or mathematics and then continue their education in graduate school in an accounting program. You may find that an undergraduate business degree is an excellent primer before your accounting graduate program.

If you’re already enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program in a completely different area of study, you may want to take a look at the prerequisite requirements for your future accounting program. If your undergraduate degree is in English, for example, you might need to think about taking some extra classes in accounting in your bachelor’s degree program. You might think about minoring in accounting, too.

In addition to checking the entry and graduation requirements for your accounting degree program, it’s also important to look at the requirements for getting a spot to take the CPA exam. For example, all states require that you earn at least 150 credit hours in college, with at least part of those hours being earned in accounting coursework. Requirements for accounting coursework vary from state to state, so it’s a good idea to explore the CPA requirements in the state where you want to take the test.

Some international accountants may need to engage in further study if they need to practice in a different country, but it’s not always the case that an international accountant needs to be licensed in another country to work as an accountant for an American company. For example, a business that sells toys in the United States and Canada might need the services of an international accountant, but their accountant might not need to be licensed in Canada to practice. They might only need to have a work visa to live and work in another country.

What are the Roles and Responsibilities of International Accountants?

International accountants handle financial details for companies that conduct business simultaneously in different countries. Job duties include translating accounting data to abide by the laws that govern another country. Many major countries around the world use a system called the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), but the United States and a handful of other countries use different standards like the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).

Some of the duties an international accountant may be responsible for include preparing financial data for inclusion in required financial reporting and analyses, as well as reporting on details like profit and loss, sales forecasts, and capital expenses. Further duties may include developing in-house financial models and conducting internal and external audits. Some international accountants are also responsible for maintaining all past financial data for historical and recordkeeping purposes.

The vast majority of accountants work in an office environment, whether that office is at a corporate location, within a small business’s office space, or in a home office. To become a successful international accountant, you must feel comfortable traveling to your client’s place of business, as well as working long hours during the busiest times of the year. You may find yourself working as part of a team of accountants, or you might be the sole person responsible for a company’s international accounting reporting.

How Much Do International Accountants Get Paid/

The pay for accountants varies greatly and depends on a long list of factors like the location where an accountant works, their accounting specialty, and whether they work for a large international company or a small business that only sells a modest amount of goods or services outside their own country. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median pay for accountants is $73,560 per year, but that figure is based on the expectation that an entry-level accountant will have a bachelor’s degree.

Income may rise dramatically once an accountant has passed the CPA exam, earned a master’s degree, and gained some experience in a specialty accounting field like international accounting. The BLS’s Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics page on accountants and auditors indicates that some of the most popular industries for accountants include the oil and gas extraction industry, investment companies, and insurance companies.

If you want to find a high-paying job when you become an international accountant, the industries you’ll want to focus on include computer equipment manufacturing companies, financial investment companies, and work with the federal executive branch. Some of the top-paying states for accountants include Washington D.C., New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California. For some international accountants, their home base might not even be in one of the United States. Some international accountants perform their work on location in another locale.

Helpful Skills for International Accountants

international accountant degree

As is the case with any job in accounting, one of the most important skills any international accountant might need is strong math skills. Much of the work that an accountant does on a day-to-day basis deals with numbers, which means years of math study are generally required while in school. Many future accountants begin their work with math while still in high school by taking an extra math class or enrolling in a specialty math class like statistics or trigonometry.

For international accountants, skills in foreign languages can also prove exceptionally useful, particularly when a company handles business in countries where the primary spoken language is different from the company’s home country. For example, a company whose primary business location is in Brazil might need an international accountant who can speak French to handle the company’s financial transactions that occur in France.

English is spoken in virtually every country around the world, and it’s even commonly spoken in countries where English is not the native language. However, international accountants are often well served by knowing Mandarin Chinese, German, or Spanish because of the sizes of the economies of countries like China, as well as the number of people who speak those languages around the world. There are millions of people who conduct business in the United States who don’t actually speak English, which means an international accountant with secondary languages skills may find their skills in high demand.


Once you hold your CPA certification, you’re qualified to work in the special and fast-paced field of International Accounting. In the global economy of the 21st century, there is a growing demand for highly trained accountants who know international standards. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field is projected to grow by 11 percent. If that entices you and you’re a good fit, study to become an international accountant.

When you decide to become an international accountant, you make the commitment to spend several years perfecting your craft, but your time spent studying will be rewarded when you enter a rewarding and well-paying specialty within the accounting world. Many companies require that their international accountants have at least five years of experience in accounting, so you may need to spend some time building your skills as a traditional CPA before making a move to international accounting. Start preparing now with research, education, and dedication, and you’ll become an international accountant with a bright future ahead.

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