When you begin searching for a position in the accounting field, you will first need to determine what area is best tailored to your experience and education. There are many available careers in accounting that you should research before making your decision.
There are many areas in which to specialize, from tax preparation to benefits management. Accountants may also participate in such activities as accounts receivable, which is responsible for all cash flow coming into a business, and accounts payable, which controls all cash leaving a business, as well as payroll, merger/acquisition strategy and preparation of financial statements. The area in which you choose to work will depend largely upon your education and prior job experience. Here's how to start looking:
- When you first start out, you'll probably have to start at a very basic, entry-level position. Positions such as accounting clerks and auditors can be a great way to learn about a business from the ground up. Accounting clerks usually work within a corporation and handle duties such as processing invoices and issuing payments, receiving and processing cash payments from customers and preparing back-up documentation for budgets, financial planning and audits. Auditors usually work for an independent firm that is hired by a business to check the accuracy of its ledgers and financial statements. Auditing typically involves a lot of travel and continual change, as you will be working within a different company every few weeks.
- If you have a bit more experience, you may be qualified for a position in budget analysis or financial statement preparation. These types of positions are typically known as financial or staff accountants. To qualify for such a position, you will need at least a bachelor's degree in accounting or a closely related field. In many instances, you may not even be granted an interview without a master's degree as well.
- The top level involves management accounting. These include comptrollers, business managers, and treasurers. Most positions of this level will require previous managerial experience, a master's degree or doctorate in accounting or finance, and extensive previous accounting experience. As well as managing the accounting/finance department of a corporation, these positions will involve working closely with other departments, also, to develop business plans, prepare annual budgets and analyze contracts.
- If working within a corporation isn't your cup of tea, you could start your own business. Most successful independent accountants include Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), which is a program that is equivalent to a master's degree. CPAs prepare tax statements for individuals and may also offer financial guidance to their clients.
- Once you've determined which type of job you'd like to pursue, you need to know where to start looking. The first thing that you'll need to decide is if you are willing to relocate for the right position. You will move up the corporate ladder faster if you are willing to move to a new area when the opportunity arises. However, this involves a lot of personal sacrifice. In addition, if your spouse is happy with his or her job, they may not be willing to move every time your job requires it.
- If you'd like to stay in the same area, start your search by submitting your resume to any large businesses in the community that has an accounting/finance department. Even if they don't currently have any openings, they may keep your application on file for up to a year. Be sure to call ahead to find out the proper protocol for submitting resumes. If you're required to turn in your resume in person, dress the part - button-down shirt, tie and dress pants for guys and dress pants, shirt and blazer for the ladies. Even if you know that the company dress code is business casual, it's always better to err on the side of caution. Also, be certain that your resume is as professional as possible and includes all information which is pertinent to the position. For guidance on preparing resumes, visit the Ford School resume website.
- Another avenue that may yield quick results is to look through your local newspaper. Most accounting jobs that are listed in the classifieds are entry-level only, but again, this can be a great way to learn about a business. If you're willing to work hard, it doesn't usually take very long to move up through the ranks to a higher-level position. Always submit a professional resume in the preferred manner, whether this is by mail, e-mail or in person.
- If you're willing to relocate to find the perfect accounting position, you can check with a website such as Monster.com or CareerBuilder. These websites offer an enormous variety of positions, from entry-level all the way up to managerial level. You can search for a position that matches your qualifications and experience, and decide which ones you would like to apply for. You may contact the company in which you are interested by phone or e-mail.
- Your alma mater can also be a wonderful resource. Many colleges list companies that have positions open to accounting graduates, and they may also have a directory of alumni that are willing to assist other alumni in finding accounting positions.
- If you are searching for a management-level position, your best bet may be to sign up with a headhunter agency. Such agencies recruit candidates for managerial positions within a business, then schedule any necessary interviews, make travel arrangements and generally act as a go-between for both the company and the candidate. To locate a management-recruiting agency near you, search the Headhunters Directory website.
Whether you're searching for senior or entry level jobs, these tips can help. No matter what position you would like to find, be open-minded. A great education in finance and education from an online school is a good place to start, but your experience and interests will ultimately guide your career. Remember that nearly any position can provide an opportunity to get your foot in the door, and from there, you're limited only by your ability and how hard you're willing to work!