10 Must-Know Pros and Cons of an Accounting Career
Like nearly everything in life, accounting careers have positives and negatives. But the truth is not 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 speed. 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.
So, is accounting a good major for you to pursue? Take a look at these pros and cons of accounting careers to steer yourself in the right direction.
Pros of an accounting career
There’s a lot to love about a career in accounting. Learn more about a few of the perks you can expect by pursuing this profession.
1. There is a clear career path
If you’re studying accounting, you’re learning practical and well-defined skills employers need for a specific set of roles. This gives you a much clearer career path compared to someone who chooses to study English or philosophy where the potential career outcomes are more open-ended.
“I’m a very analytical person, and I’ve found that I love having a step-by-step process to follow,” says Angela Christian, a financial controller at Burkland. “Accounting is a perfect field for people who value a clear guidebook to follow.”
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 the 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 anytime soon. Virtually every business needs an accountant or the services of an external accounting firm, and even the average person has reasons to hire an accountant from time to time. As long as people need help with taxes and businesses exist, there will be a need for accountants.
It’s not that accounting is just a steady field—accounting-related jobs are even projected to grow in the coming years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment of accountants and financial auditors to grow seven percent from 2020 to 2030, which amounts to a projected 96,000 new jobs during that time period.1
3. The career path offers strong earning potential
While money isn’t the only thing that matters in life—it’s still an important factor to consider. Like anyone, you want a career that allows you to provide for yourself and your family. So how does an accounting career stack up?
The median annual salary for accountants and auditors in 2021 was $77,250, according to the BLS.1 For comparison, the 2021 median annual salary for all workers was $45,760.1 That strong earning potential can get even stronger for those who are able to advance into management roles. The BLS reports the 2021 median annual salary for financial managers was $131,710.1
While there’s certainly no guarantee you’ll advance into a leadership position, it is clear employers value the technical financial knowledge required of accounting professionals.
4. 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 have a chance to find work. While opportunities do naturally tend to concentrate in large population centers, there’s still a need for accounting professionals elsewhere. From farmers to government organizations to software development companies, seemingly 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.
“Every type of business needs accountants, and so you can find your way to working in any industry or type of company that you want,” says Nate Hansen, a CPA and founder at SuperfastCPA.
5. There are opportunities to help others
While accounting might not be the first profession that springs to mind for people who find fulfillment in helping others, the role still has its moments that can bring satisfaction.
“I really enjoy helping people and businesses better understand their taxes, how they are calculated, what factors impact them and the ways in which tax efficiencies can be optimized,” says Josh Leyenhorst, CPA and advisor at BasePoint Accounting and Finance.
Helping individuals and businesses get a better handle on their financial situation so they can then navigate their next steps confidently is a nice feeling—who doesn’t like to be a trusted expert?
6. There is entrepreneurial potential
The dream of being your own boss is alive and well in the profession of accounting. If you have some of that entrepreneurial spirit, starting an accounting firm could be a great way to grow in your career.
“Many accountants eventually open their own firm or even their own business unrelated to accounting,” says Hansen. “Working as an accountant, you will become intimately familiar with the inner workings of running a business, so it’s a huge advantage if you ever decide to start a side hustle or your own business.”
Starting an accounting firm, like starting any business, has its risks and may not be for everyone, but it’s nice to have this as an option.
Cons of an accounting career
Just like any industry, working in accounting does have its drawbacks. Get a taste of some of the less appealing factors so you can decide if it’s the right fit.
1. The potential demands of ongoing education
While completing an accounting program will establish a solid foundation for you to build a career on, the field isn’t frozen in time. Whether it comes in the form of major overhauls or minor tweaks, the laws and regulations that influence your work as an accountant are subject to change.
To be successful in your career, you’ll need to plan on having some form of continuing education incorporated to keep up with these changes. Additionally, many accountants choose to pursue professional credentials like the Certified Professional Accountant (CPA), Certified Management Accountant ® (CMA) and Chartered Financial Accountant (CFA). These credentials will all take a significant amount of time and effort to initially obtain and may include meeting continuing education requirements to maintain that status.
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 usually seen as a “glamorous” field. But recognition and glitz aren’t everything. The day-to-day work requires a lot of investigating and math, which can be boring to some but interesting to others.
“Let’s be honest, it can be boring,” Hanson says. “There will definitely be times where you’re doing tedious or mindless number crunching in Excel®, but there is also a lot of problem solving and evaluation involved, which can be stimulating and interesting.”
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. Check out “What Do Accountants Do? A Look at Life Behind the Ledger” for additional perspective.
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.
Leyenhorst describes these times as “a surge of deliverables” which is further complicated by clients who tend to provide information at the last minute.
“While these dynamics can lead to stress and challenges, there are steps that can mitigate this, such as setting target dates for clients to submit what is needed and equipping them with helpful tools, such as checklists, to ensure you receive everything that is needed to do the work,” Leyenhorst says.
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. In this way, accounting careers offer some variety in the yearly schedule.
4. The work can be stressful
When you’re responsible for an organization’s finances, there is bound to be some pressure. But that pressure and stress can have an impact on your overall mental health and deserves consideration.
These negative experiences have a lot to do with where an accountant works and the specifics of their roles. It’s a safe bet to say, the more important your position is and the more money you work with, the more pressure you will face on the job. But whether that pressure results in higher levels of stress depends on your personality.
Try to honestly assess your attitude toward pressure and heavy workloads. If you don’t stress easy or don’t mind being a little high-strung, working as an accountant might not bother you. If you know you’re easily frazzled, it’s possible that an accounting career isn’t the ideal choice for you.
So, is accounting a good career choice for you?
Now that you’ve got a better grasp of the pros and cons of an accounting career, take the time to evaluate whether 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.
Are you still asking, should I become an accountant? It might help to know what kind of commitment is involved. Learn more about what it takes to launch this career in our article “Your Step-by-Step Guide on How to Become an Accountant.”
1Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [accessed April 2022] www.bls.gov/ooh/. Information represents national, averaged data for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. Employment conditions in your area may vary.
Certified Management Accountant is a registered trademark of Institute of Certified Management Accountants Corporation.
Excel is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corporation.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in July 2014. It has since been updated.