Careers in Accounting

Careers in Accounting and Sources of Information
Prepared by the Accounting Faculty in the Department of Accounting & Finance

There are a wide variety of career opportunities for an accounting major. In addition, because all businesses require accounting services, the types of industries in which an accountant may work is extremely broad. Within the accounting field, various certifications are available. While not all accounting careers require certification, some positions do require it and for some positions, it is optional. Some of the certifications and specializations available for accounting majors are explained below. Most certifications involve passing an examination, payment of annual fees, continuing education, and specific rules of conduct to be followed in order to obtain and keep the certification. Additional information on specific career opportunities and employers may be obtained in the Career Planning & Placement Center. In addition, some of these organinzations have local chapters that meet monthly or quarterly. Most of these organizations welcome student members (most have a small meeting fee). For information on local chapters of accounting professionals, ask your accounting professor and/or use the resources listed below.

Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)

Internal auditors usually are not required to be a CIA. Examinations for certification are given in May and November, covering theory and practice of internal auditing; management, quantitative methods and information systems; and accounting, finance and economics. The examination also assesses analytical reasoning and communication skills. A passing score is 75%. Membership fees are $300/year ($150 for students). Applicants must have a Bachelor's degree or it equivalent.

Institute of Internal Auditors
249 Maitland Ave.
Altamonte Springs, FL 32701-4201
(407) 830-7600 extenstion 1

Campus contact: Professor McWilliams (924-3469), for information on activities of the local chapter, including opportunities for students to be an "auditor for a day."

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

  • Independent accountants and auditors are required to be a CPA in order to perform certified audits. Almost always, a public accounting firm will require its employees to become CPAs. Some other employers often want a certain number of the accounting positions to be filled by CPAs.

  • A CPA becomes certified by satisfying an education requirement and passing a 2 day examination. The examination covers business law, professional responsibilities, auditing, financial accounting and reporting, tax, managerial accounting, and non-profit

  • organizations. Writing skills are evaluated on portions of the exam. A passing score is 75%.

  • CPAs are certified by the state in which they practice; certification requirements vary from state to state. California generally requires a college degree, a certain number of accounting and business courses, passing the CPA exam, and two years of auditing experience where certain taks must be completed. Both the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the State of California impose a continuing education requirement to maintain certification. Both of these organizations also impose rules of conduct which must be abided by.

  • CPAs perform a variety of accounting services for their clients. The major service provided by CPAs as a whole, is the audit of a company's books and records to ensure that they are properly prepared and presented. However, along with this function, CPAs might provide many related services to their clients. These include preparation of financial statements and projections, design of financial reporting systems, advice on the application of GAAP, tax return preparation, tax planning and management and data processing consulting.

    ADDRESS (California)
    State of California
    Department of Consumer Affairs
    Board of Accountancy
    2135 Butano Drive #200
    Sacramento, CA 95825

    ADDRESS(New Jersey)
    P.O. Box 2209
    Jersey City, NJ 07303-2209

Tax Accountants

No particular certification is required for a tax accountant. However, many tax practitioners often become either a CPA and/or an enrolled agent (EA). California requires tax practitioners to be licenses.

Licenses tax preparer must be at leat 18 years old, completed high school and a 60 hour basic income tax preparation course, post a $5,000 surety bond and pay a $50 fee to the Department of Consumer Affairs of the State of California. Must take 20 hours of continuing education each year to maintain the license.

Department of Consumer Affairs - (916) 324-4977

Enrolled Agents (EA)

An EA is licensed by the federal government to represent taxpayers before the IRS. CPAs and attorneys are also allowed to represent taxpayers before the IRS, but do not need to be specially designated by the IRS for that purpose. An individual may become an EA by passing a 2-day examination given by the IRS and pass the background investigation performed by the IRS. An individual that has worked for the IRS for at least 5 years may become an EA without taking the examination. An EA is likely to spend more of his or her time preparing tax returns for clients and providing tax planning assistance than representing his clients before the IRS during examinations of clients' tax returns.

ADDRESS (Washington DC)
Director of Practice
Internal Revenue Service 
Washington DC 20224 
(202) 376-1418

California Society of Enrolled Agents
3200 Ramos Circle
Sacramento CA 95827
(916) 366-6646

Personal Financial Planners

Certification as a personal financial planner is optional.

In addition to accounting and tax services, personal financial planners offer guidance to clients in investment planning, insurance needs, and retirement and estate planning. Two common certifications available to personal financial planners are the Accredited Personal Financial Specialist (APFS) offered by the AICPA and the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) sponsored by the International Board of Standards and Practices for Certified Financial Planners (IBCFP). Certification generally requires passing an exam, bachelor's degree, references, and experience. An APFS must also be a CPA and a member of the AICPA.

Certified Management Accountant (CMA)

Corporate accountants (cost, managerial or financial) are usually not required to be a CMA; such certification is usually optional.

The CMA certification is the highest professional distinction for accountants working in industry. The CMA program is administered by the The Institute of Certified Managment Accountants (ICMA), which is sponsored by the The Institute of Management Accountants (IMA). To become a CMA, an accountant must pass the CMA exam and have two years of experience. The topics tested on the CMA exam are economics, finance, management, financial accounting and reporting, management reporting, analysis, behavioral issues, and decision analysis and information systems. A passing score is 75%.

Institute of Certified Managment Accountants 10 Paragon Drive Montvale, NJ 0764501759 (800) 638-4427

For more information visting the Department of Accounting & Finance on the web where the information on careers and certifications includes links into related sites on the Web.

Also, ask your accounting professors if they have information about local chapters of the groups mentioned above. Some professors post meeting notices outside of their offices - be sure to check the 8th and 9th floors of the Business Tower periodically.