True or false: if you graduate with an accounting degree, your only option is to spend the rest of your career as a certified public accountant (CPA)? Though some people believe the answer is true, it is actually false.
As an accounting major, you can choose from a variety of different career tracks beyond working as a traditional accountant. Here are a few rather unique ones to consider.
#1: Forensic accountant
If you like numbers but also enjoy the latest crime-based show because you love to figure out who the culprit is, forensic accounting may be the best path for you. According to the Forensic CPA Society, "forensic accountants not only utilize their accounting and auditing skills, but [they also must use] their investigative skills to determine what events actually took place in a financial setting." This makes your work critical in civil litigations as well as in criminal proceedings regarding potential embezzlement, securities fraud, or identity theft.
#2: Environmental accountant
Maybe you're more of an environmentalist than an investigator. In that case, environmental accounting is an option to consider as this career consists of spending your days determining how business activities translate into environmental costs. In other words, it is your job to determine whether a company or organization's actions are hurting their bottom line and the environment, subsequently working together to come up with ways to become more environmentally friendly without breaking the bank.
#3: Management accountant
Being a management accountant means that you're both an accountant and a company leader. Investopedia explains further by sharing that individuals in this type of role not only supervise lower-level accountants, but also work with business owners, leaders, and board of directors, ultimately acting as "risk managers, budgeters, planners, strategists, and decision makers."
Ever hear of an actuary? The Society of Actuaries describes individuals in this career as "Part super-hero. Part fortune-teller. Part trusted advisor." Sound intriguing? It is because actuaries spend their days using their analytical skills to help companies better manage their risks by looking at what their numerical data says, then using that information to determine what potential issues the business may face.
#5: Cost estimator
You can also take your accounting degree and become a cost estimator. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), individuals in this position "collect and analyze data to estimate the time, money, materials, and labor required to manufacture a product, construct a building, or provide a service." Additionally, while you will do most of your work in an office setting, you may also get out a bit too as some estimates require that you visit construction sites or factories to give a better quote.
Some accounting majors pursue this type of degree with the goal of becoming an auditor. As such, you're tasked with ensuring that your organization or business is in full compliance with its recordkeeping requirements. You're also responsible for making sure tax laws are being followed and that all of the company's funds can be accounted for.
#7: IRS criminal investigation special agent
What about taking your accounting degree and using it to benefit our nation as a whole? The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reports that the criminal investigation unit of this agency "serves the American public by investigating potential criminal violations of the Internal Revenue Code and related financial crimes in a manner that fosters confidence in the tax system and compliance with the law." Sound like fun? If so, this may be the best option for you.
#8: Anti-money laundering compliance officer
Did you know that banks and other financial institutions are required to have an anti-money laundering (AML) compliance officer? According to Comply Advantage, this person is "a principal figure responsible for overseeing the effective development and implementation of their institution's AML program." In simple terms, a person in this role watches for and reports any potential money laundering activities.
Do you enjoy the stock market? Maybe you have a knack for selecting securities on the stock exchange that succeed more often than fail. Why not put these passions and skills to work for you by becoming a stockbroker, someone who buys and sells securities on behalf of his or her clients? Though you don't technically need a degree to work as a broker, Investopedia indicates that many firms prefer candidates who at least have a bachelor's degree.
#10: Financial analyst
You could also take your knowledge of and enjoyment in investments and use them to help individuals and businesses make better decisions about what to do with their monies. There are two types of financial analysts, according to the BLS. The first helps companies develop investment strategies (a buy-side analyst) and the second works with agents who sell investments (a sell-side analyst). Take your pick!
Controller is just a shortened way of saying chief accounting officer, according to AccountingCoach.com. As the controller, you're responsible for ensuring that all of the company's accounting practices and statements are up to date and correct, while also verifying that it is compliant with the tax code. Depending on the size of the company, you may also be required to supervise individuals the company has hired to assist you with these tasks.
#12: Chief financial officer
If your goal is to lead a company's entire financial division, you can do this as its Chief financial officer (CFO). In this case, your accounting degree will help you with all of the functions this type of position entails—which may include conducting cost-benefit analyses, forecasting, and obtaining funding — all of which help the company make better financial decisions.
As you can see, there are many things you can do as an accounting major beyond becoming a CPA. These are just 12 of the many options you have to consider.