Accounting Career Information

Accounting Career Information

Nearly all businesses need employees with degrees in accounting. Earning an accounting degree is one of the best ways to gain a seat at the financial table at large or small businesses, government agencies, or non-profit organizations. There are a variety of accounting careers that are available to you after you earn your degree in the field. This guide from Gwynedd Mercy University contains information on some of the accounting careers you may choose and accounting salary information, as well as as basic accountant job description if you chose to become an accounting major.

What is Accounting?
Types of Accounting Degrees
What Can You Do With an Accounting Degree?
How Much Do Accountants Make?
What Do Accountants Do?

What is Accounting?

Accounting is the recording and analyzing of financial transactions, usually related to business documents or statements. As one of the most proftiable career choices, an accountant must be good with numbers and have a specific attention to detail. In order to become an accountant, you must obtain an accounting degree. As an accounting major, you will study business law, ethics, personal finance and marketing related classes.

Types of Accounting Degrees

The first step in the process of becoming an accountant is to pursue a degree in accounting. There are different types of degrees you can obtain to qualify for a career in the accounting field, depending on the education level that is recquired.

Certificate in Accounting

A certificate in accounting might be a good option if you'd like to get your foot in the door and spend some time in the accounting field without committing to pursing a full accounting degree. The accounting certificate will teach you the basics of accounting and might take about 12 weeks to two years to complete. Many accounting certificates are offered through online coursework.

Associate's Degree in Accounting

An associate's degree in accounting is the next level higher from a certificate in accounting and takes two full years of study to complete. This degree still focuses on the basics of accounting, but specializes in economics, statistics and other business related courses. An associate's degree will qualify you for more job opportunities than an accounting certificate, and will allow you to further your education in the future after you have begun working in this field.

Bachelor's Degree in Accounting

A bachelor's degree in accounting takes four years to complete and teaches intermediate accounting coursework. For many accounting jobs, a bachelor's degree may be recquired in order to be considered. Due to the demand for bachelor's degrees in accounting, there are many traditional on-campus programs and online programs offered at many universities and colleges.

Master's Degree in Accounting

A master's degree in accounting is the next level of education following a bachelor's degree and is a more advanced degree that will open more job opportunities in the accounting field. This type of degree typically take an additional 2 years of studying on top of the 4 years spent obtaining an undergraduate bachelor's degree. Some careers that recquire a master's degree in accounting include jobs in government, finance, tax specialiation and auditing.

PhD in Accounting

The highest level of education you can obtain is a PhD in accounting. Many students seeking a PhD in accounting are looking to go into a teaching or research in accounting field. A doctoral degree in accounting can take up to 4 to 5 years to complete.

What Can You Do With an Accounting Degree?

A bachelor’s degree in accounting can lead all types of accounting jobs in both the public and private sectors, including positions in government accounting, internal auditing and compliance. Below are some common accounting careers that you can pursue after earning a degree in accounting. This list isn’t meant to limit you, and there are plenty more opportunities available to you after you earn your degree in accounting.

Managerial Accountant

Managerial accountants prepare financial information for a company’s management team. They are found in both public and private companies, as well as in governmental agencies. This accounting career might include submitting financial reports to be used in decision making or forecasting, and helping prepare budgets and forecasts. The median salary of a anagerial accountant in 2017 is $59,522.

Certified Public Accountant

A certified public accountant, or CPA, is an accountant that earns an extra certification and completes more education. CPAs can represent a business to the IRS, can give advice about ways to attract investors or customers, and can help businesses cut and manage costs. The median salary of a certified public accountant in 2017 is $62,410.


A controller is the person responsible for the financial accounts within a private organization. This person oversees all aspects of the company’s finances, including reporting, compliance, and communication with company management. The median salary of a controller in 2017 is $78,736.

Tax Accountant

Tax accountants work with individuals or corporations to file taxes, handle financial records, and conduct audits. More than just helping clients file taxes, tax accountants work with clients to lower their tax obligations throughout the year. The median salary of a tax accountant in 2017 is $69,410.


Auditors comb through a company’s financial documents to ensure compliance with state and federal laws. Auditors are independent and thus are not part of the company’s management team. However, they must work closely with an organization’s management team to gain an understanding of the organization, its operations and its financial reporting. The median salary of an auditor in 2017 is $54,426.

Chief Financial Officer

A chief financial officer, or a CFO, is the highest level an accountant can reach in their career. A CFO is responsible for long-term financial goals, oversees financial reporting and reports to executives on the status of the company financially. The median salary of a chief financial officer in 2018 is $128,449.

Finance Director

Finance directors work directly with managers and their employees regarding financial plans. They are often responsible for creating their own best practices and strategies for new and existing policies. Finance directors are in charge of all financial departments within a company. The median salary for a finance director in 2018 is $110,545.

Financial Analyst

A financial analyst examines data in order to determine profitable business decisions regarding investments. There are different levels of financial analysts who help predict future markets based off of current financial trends. The median salary for a financial analyst in 2018 is $59,025.

Compliance Officer

A compliance officer is responsible for educating and communicating ethical and legal standards to all employees within a company. Management skills are key when pursuing a career as a compliance officer and must be able to keep up to date with the newest regulations. The median salary for a compliance officer in 2018 is $66,442.

Accounting Software Developer

An accounting software developer creates new tools and programs to keep up with the changing landscape of accounting and finance. They must understand the process of accounting and finance and be able to design new software to handle the technological needs of new processes. The median salary of an accounting software developer in 2018 is $69,560.

How Much Do Accountants Make?

You may find yourself asking, How much do accountants make? There isn’t just one answer; an accountant’s salary depends on level of education, degrees attained and career span. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found the median accountant salary for all accountants and auditors was $69,410 in 2017. However, pay can also vary depending on the industry you work in. Here are some median salaries for accountants working in a variety of industries:

What Do Accountants Do?

An accountant job description can vary depending on the company that hires you and the level of education and professional certifications you’ve earned. However, most accountants prepare financial documents, oversee records, and offer financial advice on daily business operations.

All accountants will need to be proficient in managing financial documents, understanding business principles, and working in finance-specific computer software. Of course, as an accountant, you should keep up-to-date on tax laws and best practices in the profession, since you'll likely be providing information that will be used to make management decisions. For this reason, you should also have great communication skills so you can confidently and concisely present information to managers.

Do you think you’re ready for a career in accounting? Check out our How to Become an Accountant guide, or visit GMercyU’s Bachelor of Science in Accounting page for more information.

Build Your Experience Before You Graduate

At GMercyU, we encourage our accounting degree students to earn real-world experience through paid internships at public accounting firms, nonprofits, industry, and government organizations. You also can participate in professional accounting associations to make connections, get advice, and map out your career.  In fact, Gwynedd Mercy University accounting students are offered a student membership to PICPA (Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants), and encouraged to join the Student Chapter of the North Penn Chapter of the IMA (Institute of Management Accountants).

These opportunities to make connections and gain hands-on experience while still in school can really pay off. Accounting major, Matt French, is headed to PriceWaterhouseCoopers after graduation.