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Accounting Jobs: Where They Are and How to Get Them

If you are looking for accounting jobs information this is the right place. Today, there are many different roles available in the accounting field. If you are studying accounting in an educational program or already in an accounting job, you may be considering what new position to pursue or how to navigate through your accounting career.

Depending on your interests and background here are some of the options:

  • Controller
  • Internal auditor
  • Investment banking management accountant
  • Product control accountant
  • Management reporting accountant
  • Regulatory accountant
  • Treasury director
  • Chief financial officer
  • Tax director
  • CPA
  • Project accountant
  • Cost accountant
  • Government accountant
  • Senior financial analyst
  • Compliance officer
  • Assistant controller
  • Forensic accountant
  • Accounting IT Manager
  • Accounting software developer/engineer.

    This list is not exhaustive, but in this snapshot you can get a sense of how much diversity there is today in the gamut of accounting jobs.

Which Accounting Jobs are the Most Prestigious?

You’ve probably heard the names KPMG, PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC), Ernst & Young, and Deloitte. They are the “Big Four”, and there used to be a fifth major player, Arthur Andersen, but this firm was tied to the Enron Scandal and didn’t survive. (Before it went down in 2002, Andersen had about 85,000 employees.) The Big Four accounting firms are the largest professional services networks in the world, offering audit, assurance services, taxation, management consulting, advisory, actuarial, corporate finance and legal services.

Today, KPMG has over 200,000 employees, PriceWaterhouseCoopers has about 250,000, Ernst & Young has approximately 270,000 and Deloitte has around 280,000. That’s about one million employees working at the Big Four; these companies are dominant and take in tens of billions in revenues each year.

The Big Four have employees in various global locations so if living internationally appeals to you then pursuing a position with one of these companies will be to your advantage. If you take a look at the other top-rated accounting employers you can see where they operate.

The Rest of the Top 10

Round out the top 10 accounting firms are:

  • Grant Thornton – has a London headquarters.
  • BDO – also headquartered in London.
  • RSM Tenon – London HQ as well with offices in 100 countries.
  • Smith & Williamson – Headquartered in London with over 500 offices worldwide.
  • Moore Stephens – London headquarters with over 600 offices.
  • Baker Tilly – Chicago headquarters with offices in over 100 countries.

Of course, these ten are only a tiny sliver of the total number of accounting firms which runs in the tens of thousands. 

The Largest Financial Hubs

The world’s largest financial centers are where there are great concentrations of accounting jobs.

Here are some of their locations:

  • New York City
  • Hong Kong
  • London
  • Sydney
  • Chicago
  • Tokyo
  • Boston
  • Toronto
  • Zurich

When you are searching for accounting jobs, you aren’t limited to one country. In some places like the Grand Caymans, Switzerland, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, Monaco, Luxembourg and Austria there are very favorable laws for corporations. Accounting jobs tend to pay quite well in these locations, and, if you are from a different country like the US you might not pay any income tax or less. Accounting might sound like a boring field to some people but it does have some advantages that many might not be considering like having the opportunity to work and live abroad.

Sectors

Though many accounting jobs are in firms and for-profit companies there are also positions in government, educational institutions and non-profit organizations. Working in accounting does not mean you are restricted to only working to support commercial activities. Though some employees want to work in the financial services sector others do not and may choose to work in others.  Accounting roles do have some flexibility across a number of sectors.

You can also become a certified public accountant (CPA) and start your own business. How much you choose to grow it or not, is up to you. You might also become a consultant for particular types of business situations like exclusively working with startups or social enterprises.

Accounting Jobs Salaries

Salary is one of the chief concerns of any job seeker for very obvious reasons. In the US, the median annual salary for people working in accounting is $70,000. This is a healthy figure and one that can support a comfortable lifestyle, including home ownership. Pay varies according to the role, experience level, sector, industry, employer size and location. Broadly speaking, accounting jobs pay more in urban centers in coastal areas than in the middle of the US.

At the low end of the accounting pay scale, accounting clerk salaries typically range from $35,000-$40,000. On the high end, some CFOs make a little over $100,000 and they can earn far more than that. Other executive roles like VP of Finance and Finance Director can pay about ten percent or more above the CFO salaries. Of course, these numbers can be much greater depending on location and industry. An executive role on Wall Street or Silicon Valley could pay over $300,000 per year. 

In between the salaries for accounting clerks and accounting executives there are remuneration levels you would expect to find. Assistant controllers make between $50-70,000, controllers usually make slightly more. CPAs make about $60,000-$110,000 depending on experience level, location and industry.

US Accounting Job Centers

New York City is the leading US city for accounting jobs, which should come as no surprise due to the presence of Wall Street. There are about 140,000 accounting-related jobs in this very dynamic metropolis. Chicago, Boston, Houston, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Washington, D.C. and Richmond, VA are some of the other leaders, though they are not on the same level as NYC. The largest cities are commercial centers so they support a huge number of accounting jobs.

Preparing for Accounting Jobs

If you don’t want to pursue higher education, there are jobs like accounting clerk, accounting assistant, payroll clerk and so on that only require a high school diploma or an associate’s degree. Associate’s degrees in accounting can be a good choice for some people because they are obtained at affordable rates from community colleges. If you want to move up the ladder and take up more responsibility with higher pay you will need to earn a bachelor’s degree and to get to the very top, maybe a master’s degree. Fortunately, because of the Internet and e-learning some people working in accounting full-time are also enrolled in degree programs. They work and complete their coursework simultaneously. Balancing work and school is not easy, but it can be effective for career advancement. 

There are also non-degree certificate programs you can use to expand your knowledge base and skill sets. By diversifying what you know you can prepare yourself to be able to work in a greater range of accounting jobs. If you lose your job and can’t find one with the same focus, by learning about other aspects of accounting you could make it more likely you will find a new job.

In other words, you can anticipate where you think the market is headed and prepare yourself in advance for large shifts like recessions.

If you don’t have the time, energy, resources or inclination to become a CPA, there are other roles you can prepare yourself for like Certified Management Accountant and Chartered Financial Analyst.

The Accounting Advantage

There are certain jobs that tend to experience a consistent demand so they may be safer during economic downturns like recessions. Accountant and auditor are two of them. Why is this? Any organization that handles money needs bookkeeping, financial management, tax preparation and so forth. Some industries like construction and real estate tend to follow economic trends so workers in these endeavors can experience boom and bust cycles. Hi-tech can be like this too. Demand for accounting work tends to remain relatively steady, however, so if you enjoy this field you will probably be able to ride through the tough times better than if you pursued other lines of work.

How to Get An Accounting Job

The old expression, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is simply untrue. Every job seeker today needs knowledge, skills and contacts. You can build up your professional network by attending industry-related events like trainings, conferences and meetups. If you don’t want to gather with your accounting peers in person you can join online groups. It will be necessary to have some kind of  social connectedness so you can share information and help each other. For example, if you help people in your network with their careers they will be more likely to help you too. Personal referrals can provide a boost to your career and being kind to others can increase your own happiness. Career reciprocity is a win-win so it is not be be avoided.

LInkedIn is effective for online professional networking and keeping up with former co-workers and contacts from school. It’s also good for identifying new potential employers and applying for jobs within the site. You can also find a job on the site and then see if anyone in your network is already working there. 

Applying blind –without a referral — is not as likely to land you an interview, so it’s to your advantage to go through people you know and/or their networks.

Our app is another channel you could try for digital networking because there are tens of employees at the Big Four accounting firms who use them.

Each week, Fishbowl also hosts Q&As with influential people in relevant industries. Eric Butts, Director at PwC, recently did a Q&A for Fishbowl users about interview best practices for aspiring consultants and accountants. 

Number of employees using Fishbowl by company:

  • Ernst & Young, 12,700 
  • PriceWaterhouseCoopers, 12,600
  • Deloitte, 11,200
  • Accenture, 7,500
  • KPMG, 5,700
  • Boston Consulting Group, 4,000
  • Grant Thornton 1,200
  • BDO, 900
  • RSM, 850

There are also thousands from CohnReznick, McGladrey, CBIZ MHM, CliftonLarsonAllen, WithumSmith+Brown, and Crowe Horwath.

Not only can you use the Fishbowl app for communicating with employees at these companies, we also survey our users and publish results, like this survey of KPMG employees and the SEC settlement scandal. 

How Have Accounted Jobs Changed?

You probably easily observed that many accounting jobs are located in the UK. That’s because the profession of accounting began to emerge in a more organized way in 19th century England. This development was a significant shift and it was related to London’s status as a global financial center. Also in this century, the adding machine was invented which helped accountants be more accurate and this technology was just a stop on the way toward the development of

large-scale computers and then the PC revolution. Today, there is the Internet and cloud-computing, big data, blockchain. And machine learning/AI. Who knows exactly what is coming next but you can probably count on more big technology shifts to impact accounting jobs.

Jobs Outlook

In the US, it is expected that accounting jobs will grow about 10% from 2016 to 2026; with the total number growing from 1,397,000 to 1,537,000.

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