If you have a gift for crunching numbers and enjoy balancing your own checkbook, you might be interested in entry level positions in public accounting firms. Your prospects will be best if you first complete a four-year degree in accounting. However, public accounting firms occasionally hire bookkeepers with associate degrees or, rarely, with just a high school diploma. A four-year degree will provide more lucrative employment options, and certified public accountants can earn even more.
Available Entry-Level Positions
There are three primary entry-level jobs available in accounting:
- Accounting clerk
To work as a bookkeeper, you may need to have an associate’s degree, but some small offices hire bookkeepers with no education beyond high school. Bookkeepers use accounting software to manage basic financial reports, payroll and such. Few large firms hire bookkeepers, and many small companies that use a bookkeeper will consult with an accountant for services such as tax preparation.
Accounting clerks work alongside accountants to help with routine tasks and manage specific projects such as payroll, accounts payable or inventory. These positions are generally available at larger firms, and a high school diploma or a two-year degree is all that most employers require for these jobs.
Accountants are by far the highest wage-earners among entry-level accounting workers. Annual salaries range between $40,000 and $80,000 per year while bookkeepers and clerks seldom earn more than $40,000 a year. Accountants must have a four-year degree in accounting, including 120 semester credits. If you choose to enter the field of accounting at this level, you should complete a degree program that requires 150 credit hours and prepares students for taking the CPA exam. Accountants often supervise clerks. Duties may also include preparing financial reports, analyzing accounts and ledgers, and auditing. Rarely, an accountant will begin work at a public accounting firm as a CPA; most CPAs gain experience in the field of accounting prior to completing their certification.
Those entering the field of accounting often have opportunities for advancement, especially if they have completed a four-year degree program. Those that excel in entry-level positions may be promoted to supervisory or managerial positions. Others leave positions in an established company to open their own public accounting firms. Many of today’s top executives, including CFOs and CEOs, have backgrounds in accounting. As you gain experience in preparing financial statements, planning budgets and auditing accounts, your skills can help you climb the corporate ladder.
Whether you choose to begin working at a public accounting firm before completing a four-year degree or go to school while working in an entry-level position, education is essential for advancement in this particular career. However, many accountants choose not to pursue become CPAs as good pay and steady employment can be found without this certification.
Many entry level positions in public accounting firms are available. These include jobs for those with a four-year degree as well as positions that require only an associate’s degree or a high school diploma. Once you’ve gotten your foot in the door, a combination of experience and formal education will help you grow professionally.