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Accounting & Finance

How to Become an Accountant: Guide to a Career in Finance

By Church & Dwight


Choosing to become an accountant means becoming one of an organization's greatest assets. Accounting is an esteemed profession that offers excellent employment security and the chance to build a rewarding career in practically any sector. It is a position at the heart of every organization and vital to the operation of all departments. It’s also an excellent opportunity to use communication, team building, time-management, and problem-solving abilities. On a personal level, an accountant must also possess integrity and impeccable trustworthiness due to dealing with significant amounts of money and confidentiality. 

What does an accountant do? 

Accountants have a crucial role making financial decisions in a business or organization. They offer input in supporting risk management, contribute to business strategies, and help reduce operational costs by controlling budgets and preventing the misuse of assets. An accountant will perform audits, analyze data, finance reports and prepare tax returns, while maintaining financial records such as debts, profits and liabilities.  

How do I become an accountant?  

Becoming an accountant can be a lengthy process that requires a lot of work and dedication but in the end, can be a satisfying and well-paying career. 

1. What degrees do you need to be an accountant?

 The first step to becoming an accountant is to complete a bachelor’s degree in accounting or related field. Many businesses consider this degree a minimum requirement to become an accountant. However, in the United States there are different requirements depending on the specific state.  

Some states may even require extra coursework like auditing, financial reporting, or tax accounting.  

2. What accounting types are there?  

The second step is choosing an accounting career focus from one of the four principal areas: Public Accounting, Private Accounting, Internal and External Auditing, and Government Accounting.  

Public Accounting  

A public accountant offers their services to a third-party person or organization, usually as a freelancer or a sole proprietor. They can often work with many clients rather than just one.  

The duties of a public accountant include auditing financial statements, preparing financial statements, organizing tax returns, analyzing and developing budgets, and analyzing business operations.  

To be a public accountant requires a bachelor's degree, passing the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam and then receiving certification.  

Private Accounting  

A private accountant offers their services to just one person or organization which allows the accountant to specialize in one field and sector. Because private accountants deal with a large variety of duties for just one client, a private accountant develops extensive knowledge of the person or organization's requirements and processes. Duties often include managing payroll, cash flow, billing, accounts payable and accounts receivable. Being a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is not needed for this type of position but is often preferred.  

Internal and External Auditing  

A primary objective of an internal auditor is to create efficiencies for a company or organization’s operations by reviewing its activities and removing risks. The aim of an external auditor is to ensure that a company or organization's accounting and financial records are accurate.  

Government Accounting  

When an accountant is employed in the public sector or at a government agency such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service, or the General Accounting Office, this is considered government accounting. Some of the work that a government accountant performs involves making businesses follow fiscal standards, assessing financial documentation, investigating white collar crime or financial fraud, and reviewing books to ensure that a government agency is legally compliant.  

A government accountant needs to be a qualified certified public accountant.  

3. Find an internship  

A recommended step to becoming an accountant is to take up an internship to learn skills. This will improve career prospects as employers prefer employing someone with experience. An effective way of finding an internship is by using a school’s program to contact accounting firms or businesses. Asking professors or using online resources are also effective ways of finding internship programs.  

 4. Pass the Certified Public Accountant exam.  

 The last step to becoming a certified public accountant is to meet the minimum requirements of a bachelor’s degree and then pass the CPA exam.  

A CPA qualified accountant will then be able to perform legal services like founding a business or filing certain reports. This expands career options and opportunities by proving that the accountant has the necessary expertise.  

It is worth noting that the career of an accountant is usually a continuous process of training and learning. This additional education allows an accountant to learn new skills and therefore progress their career. Following a certified public account degree, an accountant will need to pick further licenses or certifications to continue to develop.  

Completing an accounting degree is a fantastic step towards taking control of a career. It is a way that allows someone to pursue differing employment paths while also gaining a clearer progression compared to other careers. Starting an entry-level role as a staff accountant offers the necessary experience to achieve other qualifications which could lead to becoming a much-esteemed certified public accountant (CPA).  

What does Church & Dwight offer?  

Church & Dwight offers a range of finance positions that provide wonderful experience and a satisfying place to work. Check out some of our employee stories and see how much our team members enjoy working at Church & Dwight.