How to Become an Accountant

Every business needs to keep track of its finances, and who better to do it than a professional accountant? These professionals are skilled in everything from payroll processing to profit-loss statements. If you’re interested in becoming an accountant, what can you do to get started?

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There are several steps that you’ll need to take before you become an accountant. Of course, there is no one right way to do any of these things – some people will take more or less time while others will decide upon a different path altogether. However, the following list should be a good starting point for anyone looking into accounting as a profession:

1. Identify your area(s) of expertise

One of the first tasks on your journey towards becoming an accountant is to gain knowledge about the industry. You’ll need to know what accountants do and how you can become one. What are some of the common responsibilities an accountant has? What is your typical day like as an accountant? Are there different areas of accounting that you can specialize in e.g. auditing, inventory, etc.?

2. Get into accounting school

Most employers will require at least a bachelor’s degree (and sometimes higher) for positions as an accountant or auditor. Getting into graduate school may be necessary if you want to further specialize in this profession; it’s also often required before you’re allowed to sit for certification exams such as the CPA exam. Find out more about programs offered by colleges and universities near you – these are crucial steps on your way towards becoming an accountant.

3. Work in public accounting

If you want to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), getting some experience working in the industry is crucial. It’s usually recommended that you get this experience while you’re still in school – internships are very valuable for anyone wishing to enter this field of work. Other than the academic growth that will occur during these periods, it can also be helpful when applying for jobs after graduation or completing an internship report for university credit.

4. Obtain professional certification(s)

There are two major professional accounting certificates available: the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and the Chartered Accountant (CA). Most states require CPAs to obtain licensure before they can legally provide services to clients or otherwise practice public accounting. However, in some countries (e.g. Canada) this is not the case – it also varies by the state when it comes to CA certification eligibility.

5. Consider becoming a certified fraud examiner (CFE)

The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners is an international organization that offers different levels of expertise in this profession: members are certified as Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), Certified in Financial Forensics (CFF), Certified Forensic Accounting Professional (CFAP) and/or Certified in Business Valuation (CBV).

6. Study for professional examinations

Before you become an accountant, there are several exams that you need to take to obtain certification. The exams that you need to take vary by country, state or province and also by professional accounting organization (or lack thereof). Some of the common exams include the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination (CPA exam), Chartered Accountant Australia/Canada finalist level exams, the CMA (Certified Management Accountant) Exam, etc.

7. Get your license(s)

As an accountant, you may be required to obtain licensure to legally operate within certain jurisdictions. It will depend on your geographical location – if you’re unsure about licensing requirements in your area, speak with a local business owner who is already working as an accountant. Everyone will have different advice for you; see what applies best for your specific situation.

8. Obtain professional liability insurance

As an accountant, there’s always the risk of legal action against you and your organization. Malpractice can occur when performing one’s duties negligently or irresponsibly. As such, to protect yourself and your company (if you work in a team environment), you need to obtain professional liability insurance; it may also be required by state regulation for many types of businesses that offer financial services (e.g. stock brokering).