I have a friend who makes sixteen dollars an hour for the basic bookkeeping job in a company which has an accountant, a senior accountant, and the Chief Financial Officer above her position. (I didn’t ask what they makeÃ¢Â?Â¦Ã¢Â?Â¦uhmmmmÃ¢Â?Â¦.for obvious reasons.) But the point is, accounting jobs pay good money. I just looked at an ad for a Banking/Brokerage/Investment Accountant that offered $50,000 a year entry level up to $ 150,000 annual salary. Now I could learn how to live with that. The thing is they are looking for accountants not a writerÃ¢Â?Â¦..take note of that. To get the high paying accountants positions like certified public accountant, certified financial accountant, corporate accountant or government accountant you need the right combination of education and experience.
To get an understanding of how education and experience work together to give you salary advantages consider this:
Ã¢Â?Â¢ a beginning bookkeeper may make around $25,000 a year,
Ã¢Â?Â¢ 2 years of experience, as much as $37,000 a year,
Ã¢Â?Â¢ 4 years experience puts you in the $42,000 to $45,000 dollar range,
Ã¢Â?Â¢ 6 years experience may give you $50,000 to $55,000 and
Ã¢Â?Â¢ 8 years experience may put you in the $65,000 and over range.
1. The salaries quoted here assume that you are constantly seeking continuing education and professional certifications.
To get started on reaching these top salaries, plan your career like you would map a long and complicated journey. Remember the end goal; the top living wage you can attain in your field. The basic accounting functions can be performed after a good high school education if you included bookkeeping and accounting classes. The accounting terms, accounting principles, and accounting information systems will have been covered in these high school courses. If you plan on a career in the accounting field you can get a job out of high school as a bank teller, a data entry clerk, or any number of entry level positions. Then as you gain experience you should add to your education by seeking an associate’s degree in Business Administration with a focus in accounting. Accounting careers can take you from the home town business to International business, to Government accounting jobs. In fact the sky is the limit.
I made a quick search of the employment opportunities in several communities on the West Coast of the United States and found that the requirements varied from basic accounting knowledge to a detailed knowledge of computer and accounting terminology. Employers varied widely in their requirements of accounting systems knowledge and an assortment of those systems should be studied to be sure you are marketable. A few of the more common accounting software systems I noticed in my quick, and not really scientific, search were:
1. Excel program
2. Peachtree accounting program
3. Microsoft office small business accounting
The beautiful thing about this is that as you gain experience and education you will discover the practice of accounting remains basically the same, the only thing you will need to add for any specific position will be knowledge of the software they prefer. Of course as you progress you will add accounting terms and definitions to your vocabulary. You can do that online or with any number of accounting guides and textbooks. Learning the different software does not mean learning accounting all over again. It just means learning the quirks of the specific software tools.
Accountants can earn “the sky is the limit salaries” by steadily gaining years of experience and pursuing continuing education. Different certifications available to accountants increase your value and therefore your salary. Mistakes are totally unacceptable in accounting (but there are many checks and balances you can learn to avoid mistakes). Read accounting articles both online and in professional journals. It helps to have an affinity for numbers. It also helps to be very detail oriented.
Remember Enron? The Enron accounting scandal highlighted the need for ethical practices in accounting as well as ethical controls over accounting. As you continue on from the Associate Degree in Accounting level and pursue your Bachelors and then your Masters degrees you will take many ethics classes and along with the accounting classes. Do not underestimate the value of a good grounding in ethical values. Small business accounting is just as important as Fortune 500 accounting and the adherence to ethics is equally important. Not only does your future, your reputation and your career depend on your honesty, but the lives, the savings and the futures of many other people depend on your ethics as well.
When you have reached several years experience and a Masters degree it is time to move on to the next step. Pursue a doctorate and achieve your Certified Financial Advisor certification (if you don’t already have it). The “big time” in money and prestige is as high as you are willing to reach. The key is the combination of education and experience. Education without experience will still put you at an entry level position, so begin to work as soon as you can get that first job in high school. Cashier for a couple of evening a week at the a local burger place or store to begin to get experience with money and numbers, then as you gain education you can move to the next level in the job chain. Experience without education will hold you down near the entry level until you can achieve the required education and certifications to apply for the higher paying jobs. No one will trust you with a job requiring a high level of responsibility and a high level of pay if you do not show you can do it by demonstrating a good work ethic and a thirst for education. The two go hand in hand.
Accounting information is used by every person, business and government agency in the world in one form or another. The accountant is that all important person who actually keeps track of all the things that go into the nuts and bolts of business and personal finance. Two books to get you familiar with beginning accounting information are Accounting for Dummies, 2005, Tracy, John, A., Wiley Publishing, Indianapolis, In. and Accounting the Easy Way, 2003, Eisen, Peter, J., Barrons’ Educational Series Inc., Hauppauge, NY.
Education after high school will depend somewhat on your grades and finances but you can get an associates degree either at a community college or online while you continue to work. If you have a college fund, a scholarship or other financial means you may go straight to a four year university. While some people find the online university experience impossible due to self discipline issues, an accounting student should have the organizational ability and the self discipline to pursue this option. What ever option you choose remember that you are never too old to learn and the day you stop seeking education is the day you limit your earning ability to the “experience only” factor. Education magnifies experience the same way experience magnifies education; do both.