The Number Cruncher's Guide to Accounting Career Paths

Accounting career pathChoosing a degree that is right for you is challenging, but finding one that meets your needs while raising a family is just as important. While you want to study something you’re passionate about, you can’t help but think about the impact it will have on your family and future.

If you’re considering a career in accounting, you’re likely already trying to calculate the return on investment (ROI) of earning a degree. You want to ensure you’ll be able to launch a long and rewarding career after graduating.

We used a combination of real-time job data, government information and expert insight to help you envision your accounting career path. This guide should help you gain confidence in your decision to pursue this stable business career.

Your accounting career path: The starting line

Accounting is a very technical field, so it should come as no surprise that you need some formal education and training to get started. You’ll have the option of earning an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree, but the latter will open up more doors for your career.

FACT: 95% of accounting job postings required candidates to have a bachelor's degree.

We used real-time job analysis software from to examine more than 230,000 accounting jobs posted over the past year.* The data shows that a staggering 95 percent of employers prefer candidates to have a bachelor’s degree.

Not only will your degree choice determine the number of jobs for which you’ll qualify, it will also determine the types of jobs for which you’ll qualify, according to Kari Grittner, accounting program coordinator for the Rasmussen College School of Business. She says an associate degree can help land you an entry-level position, such as bookkeeping or data entry. Earning a bachelor’s degree will help you advance past entry-level jobs.

Your accounting career path: The first years

Earning your degree is just the first step to becoming an accountant. You also have to choose which sector you’d like to work in: public versus private accounting. Public accountants work with a variety of clients to prepare financial documents that an individual or corporation is required to disclose to the public. Private accountants work internally within a company to manage their financial documents.

Once you make your decision, the next step is landing that first job. The good news is there are a handful of options for entry-level accountants. Our analysis of job postings helped us identify the top three job titles for accountants with two or less years of experience. Here’s what we found:

  • Staff accountant
  • Junior accountant
  • Tax accountant

Our analysis also revealed that these entry-level positions carried an average annual salary of $51,004.** Any of these jobs will help you gain the experience and industry know-how to advance your career in the business world.

Your accounting career path: The intermediate years

One of the benefits of working in accounting is that there are opportunities to work your way up the corporate ladder. Once you have some professional experience under your belt, you’ll become eligible for more positions.

Here are the top three accounting job titles for professionals with between two and eight years of experience:

  • Accounting manager
  • Cost accountant
  • Accounting analyst

For these mid-level accounting careers, the average annual salary is $64,750, according to our job posting analysis.

Your accounting career path: The final destination

After working and proving yourself as an accountant for eight or more years, your experience managing and leading puts you in contention for some of the most coveted positions in the industry. Becoming a partner in a public accounting firm is one of the ultimate destinations for many public accountants.

For private accountants, becoming a chief financial officer (CFO) is the top of the corporate ladder. These senior-level positions obviously carry a lot of responsibility, but you can expect to be appropriately compensated for your expertise. Our analysis exposed an average annual salary of $87,725 for accounting professionals with more than eight years of experience.

Why the accounting career path?

This overview should give you a better idea of where a degree in accounting could take you. Knowing you have a variety of opportunities and room to grow should give you the confidence you need to take the next step in launching your new career.

You know you need the formal education to get you from point A to point B, so what are you waiting for? Discover 10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Rasmussen College Accounting Program.


* (analysis of 230,528 accounting jobs, Jul. 1, 2014 – Jun. 30, 2015)

**Salary data represents national, averaged earning and includes workers of all levels of experience and education. This data does not represent starting salaries and employment conditions in your area may vary. 

Aaron Lawrence

Aaron is a freelance writer for Collegis education who writes student-focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen College. His interest in writing articles for students stems from his passion for poetry and fiction and the belief that all words can educate.

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This piece of ad content was created by Rasmussen College to support its educational programs. Rasmussen College may not prepare students for all positions featured within this content. Please visit for a list of programs offered. External links provided on are for reference only. Rasmussen College does not guarantee, approve, control, or specifically endorse the information or products available on websites linked to, and is not endorsed by website owners, authors and/or organizations referenced. Rasmussen College is a regionally accredited private college and Public Benefit Corporation.

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