Where Do I Go Now? Promotion Paths for Accountants

Majoring in accounting can open many opportunities in the business world. Accountants have gone on to become CEOs, entrepreneurs, and even FBI agents. Even before you get your first job, consider the career you would like to have after five, ten and 20 years. The accounting degree is versatile and valued in today’s economy.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

The top positions in a company are accessible to accounting majors. While other business majors may also eventually become a CEO, accounting majors will have an edge because they intimately understand how profitability happens. Accounting majors understand how its stockholders are affected when the company decides to acquire or merge with another company, and how changes in accounting procedures can affect financial statements.

How to become CEO: While some companies hire outside CEOs, the best way to become a CEO is to stay with a company long-term. You should expect to be with a company at least 20 years, rising through the ranks to trusted positions. As soon as possible, sit for the CPA or CMA (or both) to add credibility to your chosen field of study. While working for the company, show your work ethic and integrity, gaining expertise from each position. Indicating that the company you work for is more than a job. A CEO is known as a company’s figurehead, and your entire career at the company should indicate your personal connection as a representative and eventually, leader of the company.

Partner at Accounting Firm

Accounting firms are organized similarly to law firms. There are managing partners, partners and associates. A managing partner is one that has a leadership position and may have a title such as CEO or Director. Partners are associates that have contributed capital in order to share in the profitability of the firm which can be quite lucrative at large, reputable firms such as Ernst & Young or Baker Tilly.

How to become a Partner: Get a job at your chosen firm as soon as possible, as you can expect to spend at least 13 years before a partnership is offered, according to The CPA Journal. In addition, as an associate, you should also be prepared to put in a lot of overtime without additional pay. The CPA Journal also indicates that in the last decade, most accounting firms have stopped paying for overtime, yet the number of hours have increased since 1991. Finally, earning your CPA is crucial for partnership. Upon graduation, this should be your first objective. Advanced education has shown to be helpful as well, but studies show that those with graduate degrees advance to partnership only six months ahead of their peers.

Politics and Law Enforcement

If public service appeals to you, consider working for the government. Virtually every agency in the federal government hires accountants, according to the University of Texas at El Paso. Agencies that recruit accountants include the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the General Accounting Office (GAO) as well as many others. If you are motivated to serve your country or to make a difference, public service may be your calling. The GAO and the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) both oversee the spending of federal funds, good for someone that wants to make a macroeconomic contribution. To help more locally, \the FBI and the IRS both have criminal investigation divisions, good for someone that would like to help rid the world of bad guys.

How to become a public servant: Most agencies require U.S. citizenship. In addition, some require work experience prior to applying. Government jobs are plentiful, so applying is a matter of visiting the agency’s website. If you are interested in politics, starting local is your best bet, by either applying for community job, or becoming a local business owner and running for local office. If law enforcement is your preference, visit the FBI website or the IRS criminal investigation website for information. Be prepared to travel extensively, and relocate often, just as you would in the military.



About Sara Huter

Sara Huter has over 15 years of experience in the banking and energy industries, and over 10 years as an adjunct professor. Her work has been published for BusinessBee.com, the International Directory of Company Histories, the Encyclopedia of Business Insights: Global, EHow.com, and Examiner.com. Find out more about Sara at her Google+ Profile.