Employment Prospects


More than 1.4 million people are employed as accountants and auditors. Accountants work throughout private industry, the nonprofit sector, and government. About 24 percent work for accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll services firms. Approximately 8 percent work for local, state, and federal government agencies. Others work as professors at colleges and universities. Some work as high school accounting teachers.

Starting Out

Junior public accountants usually start in jobs with routine duties such as counting cash, verifying calculations, and performing other detailed numerical work. In private accounting, beginners are likely to start as junior internal auditors. They may also be hired in clerical positions as accounting clerks, cost clerks, ledger clerks, and timekeepers, or as trainees in technical or junior executive positions. In the federal government, most beginners are hired as trainees at the GS-5 level after passing the civil service exam.

Some state CPA societies arrange internships for accounting majors, and some offer scholarships and loan programs. The Career Paths section (https://www.aicpa.org/career/careerpaths.html) of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants Web site is a good place for aspiring accountants to visit. It has detailed information on accounting careers and other resources for students.

Advancement Prospects

Talented accountants can advance quickly. Junior public accountants usually advance to senior positions within several years and to managerial positions soon afterward. Those who are successful in dealing with top-level managers may eventually become supervisors, managers, and partners in larger firms or go into independent practice. However, only a small percent of new hires advance to tax manager or partner.

Private accountants in firms may become tax managers or cost accounting managers, depending on their specialty. Others on the finance side may rise to become managers of financial planning and analysis, controllers, treasurers, or chief financial officers. Others advance to top-level business executive positions such as chief executive officer, chief financial officer, or chief operating officer. Some accountants leave the profession to work as accounting professors.

Federal government trainees are usually promoted within a year or two. Advancement to controller and to higher administrative positions is ultimately possible.

Although advancement may be rapid for skilled accountants, especially in public accounting, those with inadequate academic or professional training are often assigned to routine jobs and find it difficult to obtain promotions.

Tips for Entry

Read the Journal of Accountancy (wwws.journalofaccountancy.com) to learn more about the field.

Visit https://www.thiswaytocpa.com for useful information about resumes, job interviewing, networking, accounting careers, licensing, and much more. 

Visit the following Web sites for job listings:

  • https://aaahq.org
  • https://www.afponline.org
  • http://www.acfe.com/job-board.aspx
  • https://www.imanet.org
  • https://jobs.accaglobal.com
  • https://mycareer.aicpa-cima.com
  • https://careers.tei.org
  • https://www.jobs.irs.gov
  • https://www.natptax.com
  • https://www.financialexecutives.org
  • https://www.aicpa.org/career/jobboards/jobboards.html

Participate in internships or part-time jobs that are arranged by your college’s career services office. The AICPA offers a wealth of information about how to gain work experience and find your first job: https://www.thiswaytocpa.com/segmented-landing/recruitment.