How to Become an Accountant

Accountant Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year $72,200
Avg. Pay / hour $34.71
Education 4+ Years
Job Outlook 10%

While many people think the role of an accountant is a dull one, the reality is quite different.

Accountants work in many different kinds of work environments in a wide range of roles.

Many take the opportunity to travel, as an accounting degree is recognized in most countries worldwide.

Accountants enjoy a good salary, as well as prospects for advancement and further training.

Being qualified as an accountant is a practical skill, there is always a great demand for qualified accountants, and furthermore your will be able to use the skills you have in your own life.

Accounting is referred to as a recession proof job; even in tough financial time people still need to have their books balanced and their tax return filed.

To succeed in accountancy you’ll need to have a good head for figures.

You will also need to have a high attention to detail and good level of accuracy.

Problem solving skills are also essential, if you enjoy solving an equation or finding a solution, you may find working as an accountant a rewarding career path.

Education Requirements to Become an Accountant

The most important step needed to become an accountant is education.

The first step is to complete a four year undergraduate accounting degree in college, most accountants take either a Bachelor of Business Administration, or a Bachelor’s degree in accounting.

There must be a strong focus or a major sequence of accounting subjects that form your degree.

If you choose to, you can go on to study for the Master of accounting degree, but this isn’t essential to become licensed as an accountant.

To gain the greatest amount of opportunity, you may wish to consider becoming a certified public accountant, or CPA.

To practice as an CPA, you will need to be licensed in your state.

This requires you to have completed your undergraduate degree which has a focus on accounting, as well as having passed the uniform CPA exam.

You will also need to participate in ongoing training over the years.

A CPA is allowed by law to provide accounting services to the public.

Not all accountants are CPAs, but all CPAs are accountants.

A non-CPA accountant is in most states referred to as a Public Accountant.

One of the misconceptions about a career in accounting is that it is a dull and static practice.

In reality, accountants in most states are required to keep up their training and development.

If you want to make sure your mind is always kept busy, then this is a good career to do it.

Accountant Job Description

An accountant’s job description can be varied.

While many will deal within a niche area like income tax, others may provide services to business, assist with litigation, be certified auditors, or financial planners.

Here are some of the things an accountant may find themselves doing.

  • Communicating with clients and colleagues
  • Developing strong relationships with clients
  • Auditing
  • Tax accounting
  • Bookkeeping
  • Financial Planning
  • Estate Planning

Accountant Salary and Career Path

Many accountants begin by working for firms, both small and large.

Later in their career they may open their own firm or small business.

Accountants are also found working in the public sector.

Later in their career, some move into different parts of finance, or become teachers.

Some accountants will move on to more complex roles, such as that of a senior accountant or financial controller.

Once you are more experienced, you can become a chartered accountant, although not all accountants choose to take this path.

There are many specialized fields of accountant such as business accounting, management accounting, and auditing that you can become licensed to complete.

According to, working as a junior accountant, you could expect to earn between $35,000 and $50,000 per year.

A senior accountant with more than four year experience will earn between $50,000 and $60,000 a year.

Top tier roles such as a financial controller would earn from $60,000 to $100,000 a year, and upwards.

Working as an accountant offers a secure job and salary, good benefits, as well as many opportunities for further training.

If you are looking for a career path with good employment opportunities, as well as the option of working for yourself later on, then becoming an accountant is a good choice.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$110,240
New Hampshire$78,770
New Jersey$97,950
New Mexico$71,650
New York$105,790
North Carolina$84,960
North Dakota$67,880
Rhode Island$88,350
South Carolina$71,400
South Dakota$70,190
West Virginia$70,130
Puerto Rico$39,450
Virgin Islands$62,730

The top earning state in the field is District of Columbia, where the average salary is $110,240.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

District of Columbia - $110,240
New York - $105,790
New Jersey - $97,950
California - $92,840
Massachusetts - $92,310
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Accountants and Auditors, OCC Code 13-2011, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an accountant?

The main responsibility of an accountant is to monitor and record the flow of money through an organization or business.

Accountants can work for large corporations, small businesses or private individuals.

These specialists might have a short contract with a company to do the tax returns and books or work for a single person to help him or her with various money-related issues.

The accountant has to make sure that all money transactions of the business are accurate, legal and follow certain guidelines.

Accountants should have impeccable knowledge in law, finance, accounting, and math.

They provide the necessary information to help the owners of the business estimate whether everything is going in the right direction.

There are different types of accounting – private, public, national income, governmental, fiduciary, investment, and forensic accounting.

Some of the responsibilities of an accountant include preparing profit and loss statements; interacting with auditors; analyzing revenue and expenditure trends; preparing and reviewing budgets, expenses, invoices, etc.

How much do accountants make?

On average, accountants earn a little more than $49.000 in the United States annually.

You can expect to make anywhere between $44.500 and around $64.000.

The salary would certainly depend on the experience of the accountant, his education, and on the organization (or individual) and sector that he or she decides to work for.

An entry-level accountant typically earns about $21 per hour, while top-level accountants can earn over $30.

A certified accountant career is one of the most well-paid jobs in the country (professionals with a license and a lot of experience can make up to $124.000).

How much does it cost to become an accountant?

In case you want to become an accountant, you would certainly need a degree.

Bear in mind that accountants with a higher level of education typically get paid more.

An average annual cost for a bachelor’s degree can range anywhere between $10.000 and $25.500.

If you decide to complete a master’s degree program, you would have to pay around $8.500 per year.

A doctorate degree program will cost a little over $10.000 annually.

What is the demand for accountants?

Between 2016 and 2026, the accountant job market is expected to grow by 10%.

The field provides great employment opportunities in the near future.

The accountants that have a professional CPA certification and/or a postgraduate degree will be in high demand.

This type of job market depends on the overall state of the economy – the better things are going, the more businesses that need accountants will emerge.

How long does it take to become an accountant?

An associate’s degree will take you 1 or 2 years to acquire, while a bachelor’s degree can be obtained in 4 years.

In case you decide to take the Uniform Certified Public Accountant exam, you would need to complete a certain number of credit hours or have at least 2 years of experience in the field (under the supervision of a licensed CPA).

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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