Accounting is one of the most valuable career fields to pursue in the modern world. There are dozens of different positions you can hold, all of which have different responsibilities and functions. Accounting is reliably in-demand, with an endless list of open positions at any given time. And on top of that, you can grow your career in any direction you desire, whether you want to climb the corporate ladder or start an accounting business of your own.
But if you’re just getting started as an accountant, you may not be sure about the best way to improve your future job prospects. How can you increase your job opportunities as an accountant?
There are many different directions you can take your career as an accountant. For example, do you see yourself making executive-level decisions for an entire business? Or would you rather spend your day managing other people? Do you like the idea of being independent and running your own operation? Or would you rather have lower stress and higher consistency working for someone else?
All these different paths will require slightly different approaches. You don’t need to know exactly what path you want to take yet—but you should have some general goals and ideas.
One of the best ways to broaden your horizons in the accounting field is to get certified. Often, the first step for an accountant is to become a certified public accountant (CPA). But if you want to become an executive-level accountant someday, you’ll eventually need to get certified as a management accountant (CMA).
CMA certification requires you to have at least some education (such as a bachelor’s degree in accounting from an accredited university), at least some experience (two years in an accounting management position), and to pass the CMA exam. You’ll have to study for a while to do well on the exam, and you may not pass the first time, but once you’re certified, you’ll have a much wider range of job opportunities available to you.
Invest in Ongoing Education
Your college education was important, but it’s not going to equip you with enough knowledge or subject familiarity to last you a lifetime. If you want to keep advancing your career and remaining relevant in the field, you need to invest in ongoing education.
Depending on your position and your long-term goals, that could mean signing up for ongoing education classes designed for accountants. It could mean going back to school and getting an advanced degree. It could mean going to workshops and seminars to boost some specific skills. It could even mean cross-training with other people in your department. The point is you should never stop learning if you want to continue advancing.
Spend Time Getting Diverse Experiences
Your resume will look much more impressive—and qualify you for a broader range of potential positions—if you have an eclectic array of experiences to show off. Consider working for a variety of different types of employees in a variety of different positions. It can take a lot of time and effort to pull this off, but the end result is having a resume that shows off just how flexible and experienced you are.
Improve Your Soft Skills
While some accounting topics are objective and concrete, like mathematics, you also need robust “soft skills” to succeed in the field. You’ll open your career prospects by developing soft skills like these:
- Communication. You need to be able to communicate with others, whether you’re reviewing a report, giving feedback, or lending advice on a major business decision.
- Emotional intelligence. If you’re working as part of a team or managing other people, you need to have some level of emotional intelligence to “read the room” and prevent your own emotions from hijacking the situation.
- Flexibility. Don’t become too fixed on a single position or a single approach; be willing to adapt as necessary.
- Integrity. Work responsibly and always strive to do the right thing.
- Work ethic. Be committed to always doing your best work.
Finally, consider fleshing out your professional network. Somewhere between 70 and 85 percent of positions are now filled through personal networking; if you have a bigger, more robust professional network, you’ll be much more likely to find a job that’s a good fit for you (and hopefully, work your way up the ladder of your career). Go out of your way to meet new people, reinforce your past connections, and expand your professional horizons.
There’s no single “right” way to improve your accounting career. Instead, you’ll have dozens, if not hundreds of options in front of you. Make sure you invest in yourself and keep working to achieve your long-term goals.