10 Must-Know Pros & Cons of an Accounting Career
Like nearly everything in life, a career in accounting has its positives and negatives. But the truth is that it’s not so much that the career itself is good or bad, but rather that it’s the right fit for certain people and not for others.
Think of it like shopping for a new car—some people seek dependability and safety while others crave performance and looks. Neither option is inherently good or bad, but each vehicle is a better choice for different types of people.
What you’ll think of an accounting career depends on your personality, working style and life priorities. Once you understand the possible pros and cons of an accounting career, you can make an informed decision on whether it’s the right career path for you.
So should you get “behind the wheel” of an accounting career? Take a look at these pros and cons of an accounting career to steer yourself in the right direction.
Pros of an accounting career
1. There is a clear career path
If you’re studying accounting, you’re learning practical skills about crunching numbers and analyzing costs that employers need. This gives you a much clearer career path compared to someone who chooses to study English or Philosophy where the potential career outcomes are harder to define.
If you choose to pursue an accounting degree, you’ll have a pretty solid idea of where your career will take you. Though there are different types of accountants in the field, the duties you’ll have and skills you’ll use will be generally the same, meaning you know what you’re signing up for.
2. It’s a stable and growing job field
Accounting is not a profession that’s going away or is easily outsourced. The job prospects in accounting are projected to grow in the coming years. As long as people need help with taxes and as long as businesses exist, there will be a need for accountants.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that employment in the accounting field will grow 11 percent from 2014 to 2024. This is faster than the national average rate of seven percent. One big factor driving this growth is that the Baby Boomer generation will continue leaving the workforce in the coming years—which should pave the way for opportunities for new accountants.
3. You’ll have the potential for professional growth
After graduation, you may begin as an entry-level associate but the potential for growth can be great. Many accounting graduates will start as staff accountants, junior auditors in public accounting or assistants in the controller’s office in private accounting as they begin to plot their career paths.
After getting established and gaining experience, career advancement can be achieved through on-the-job performance and additional education or certifications like earning an MBA or CPA.
4. The earning potential is favorable
You’d love to earn a generous salary so you can cover your expenses and live comfortably, right? A career in accounting has the potential to afford you that lifestyle.
The median annual salary for an in 2016 was $68,150, according to the BLS.* In fact, the BLS reports that the top 10 percent of earners made upwards of $120,000—not bad when compared to the national median salary of $37,040. Additionally, many full-time accountants receive great benefits such as healthcare, vacation time, retirement plans and more.
5. You can work where you want to work
Where would you like to live? West coast, east coast or somewhere in between? Big city or small town? In a mountain range or by the ocean?
With some career fields, you may need to uproot your life and move to an industry hub to find work. Accounting, however, tends to be a universal need. From farmers to software development companies, everyone could use the services of an accountant. This gives accountants a fair amount of flexibility when it comes to choosing where they want to settle down.
6. There is entrepreneurial potential
The dream of being your own boss is alive and well in the profession of accounting. If you ever want to strike out on your own, starting an accounting firm is within reach.
That’s certainly not true of every profession. It’s highly unlikely that a pilot will ever launch their own airline, but accountants establish their own firms routinely. Starting an accounting firm, like starting any business, has its risks and may not be for everyone, but it’s definitely good to have this as an option.
Cons of an accounting career
1. The education is ongoing
Unlike some industries, the learning doesn’t stop once you’ve earned your accounting degree. If you want to progress in your career, you’ll need to plan on continuing education after earning your degree. But here’s the benefit, more education could actually be the key to higher status and increased pay.
After getting started as an entry-level accountant, you should look at what type of certifications you might want to earn. There are a few different accounting credentials, including the CMA (Certified Management Accountant), CPA (Certified Professional Accountant) and CFA (Chartered Financial Accountant). These credentials will all take a significant amount of time and effort to obtain, so it’s important to know what you’re getting into ahead of time.
2. The work can seem dull
How many world-famous accountants do you know of? If you’re struggling to think of one, there’s a reason for that—accounting isn’t generally considered a “glamorous” field. But recognition and glitz isn’t everything. The day-to-day work requires a lot of investigating and math, which can seem boring to some.
That said, the term “boring” is completely subjective. Some may find it fascinating, while others would rather do anything else. This is one of those questions in which you’ll need to look within yourself and answer honestly about what works for you. Learning more about what accountants do on a daily basis will help you determine whether or not the work appeals to you.
3. There is a busy season
Accounting is typically a standard 9-to-5 job, except for certain times of the year with impending deadlines. The most notable deadline is April 15 for tax accountants. For most tax accountants, the heavy lifting starts after New Year’s Day right up to April 15.
During the busy season, long days and weekend work become the norm as accountants work to get their clients’ finances in order. But the plus side is that things slow down significantly after that time period.
4. The work can be stressful
When you’re responsible for an organization’s finances, there is bound to be some pressure. It’s just part of the game. Economia reports that 32 percent of accountants feel stressed in their day-to-day life.
Once again, you must ask yourself how well you handle stress. If you’re cool, calm and collected under pressure, you may be the perfect fit. But if you’re easily frazzled, it’s possible that accounting isn’t the right profession for you.
The choice is yours
Now that you’ve got a better grasp of the pros and cons of an accounting career, take the time to evaluate if this is the field for you. If the pros are outweighing the cons, you might want to take a closer look at how to prepare yourself for a job in this field. To get started, check out our article, “Your Step-by-Step Guide on How to Become an Accountant.”
*BLS salary data represents national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries. Employment conditions in your area may vary.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in July 2014. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2017.