Accounting Careers and Certifications

accounting careers

This guide shows the accounting careers, the certifications, including the CPA designation, and the professional associations in the financial industry.

There are many accounting careers available in the financial industry for accounting graduates. Accountants work in many areas of public and managerial accounting.

This is Chapter 1 in Financial Accounting. This chapter includes:

  1. Introduction to Accounting
  2. 10 Tips to Make an A in Accounting
  3. Accounting Concepts
  4. Accounting Careers and Certifications
  5. Introduction to Accounting YouTube playlist

For all the chapters, see The Ultimate Guide to Learn Accounting

Accounting careers

There are many career opportunities in the accounting profession. Accountants may be employed in the following areas:

  • public accounting
  • auditing
  • taxation
  • advisory services
  • internal auditing
  • corporate accounting
  • governmental accounting
  • nonprofit accounting
  • forensic accounting

Public accounting

Accounting firms hire many accountants and offer their services to the public. The main services provided by these accounting firms are:


Accountants examine the financial statements and records of a company, which is called an independent audit.


Accountants provide tax planning and preparation for individuals and businesses. Almost every financial transaction has a tax impact.

Advisory services

Accountants also provide consulting services to companies and individuals.

Internal auditing

Accountants can work as internal auditors for corporations, governments, and other organizations. Internal auditors audit their organizations’ records and resources and help to ensure good internal controls and improve risk management.

Corporate accounting

Accountants that work for a corporation in the accounting and finance areas are management accountants. Corporate accounting is also called managerial accounting. They provide financial expertise to help the company achieve its objectives.

Governmental accounting

National, state, and local governments hire accountants to provide information for decision-making and accountability.

Nonprofit accounting

Nonprofit organizations need accountants to help them achieve their mission and use their resources effectively.

Forensic accounting

Forensic accountants investigate fraud and financial crimes. They typically work for law enforcement or financial institutions.

Big Four Accounting Firms

The largest public accounting firms are global firms collectively known as the Big Four. These are firms with offices in over 100 countries, and each has annual revenues of more than $30 billion.

The Big Four includes the following firms, ranked by 2022 revenue in billions of USD:

RankFirm2022 Revenue
1Deloitte $ 59.3 B
2PwC $ 50.3 B
3EY $ 45.2 B
4KPMG $ 34.6 B
Big Four Firms Ranked by Revenue

Financial Certifications

Accounting is a challenging and dynamic profession. Accounting careers require a university degree and sometimes additional hours of education. It is the international language of business, with an accounting profession worldwide.

There are several certifications available in the areas of accounting and finance. Some of the most important accounting and financial certifications are:

Certified Public Accountant

The Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation is the largest accounting certification in the United States. To be a CPA, the accountant must have the required accounting education, have work experience, and pass the Uniform CPA Exam.

Most states require a college degree and a total of at least 150 semester hours to be able to take the CPA exam.

Chartered Accountant

A Chartered Accountant (CA) is the equivalent of the CPA designation and is the professional certification in countries such as the UK, Canada, Ireland, and Australia.

Certified Management Accountant

The Certified Management Accountant (CMA) is a professional certification for managerial accounting. Management accountants typically work in a corporation rather than an accounting firm.

Certified Internal Auditor

The Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) designation is for internal auditors that work for a company and audit the company’s financial records and operations.

Chartered Financial Analyst

The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation is for financial analysts and portfolio managers. This is an important credential for money managers.

Certified Fraud Examiner

The Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) designation is for professionals that investigate financial fraud and perform forensic work.

Certified Financial Planner

The Certified Financial Planner (CFP) credential is for financial planners who work with individuals on personal finance issues. This involves insurance, budgeting, taxes, and investing.

Professional Associations

There are several important professional organizations that affect accounting and finance practice and regulations in the United States.

American Institute of Certified Public Accountants

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) is the oldest and largest accounting organization in the United States. The AICPA writes and maintains the Uniform CPA Exam.

National Association of State Boards of Accountancy

The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) is an association of the 56 boards of accountancy in the United States. There are 50 states and 6 other territories.

Each state and territory issues the certified public accountant license. So, a CPA is licensed by individual states.

The NASBA administers the CPA Exam by determining candidate eligibility and maintaining a national candidate database.

Institute of Management Accountants

The Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) is a professional association for managerial accounting. It sponsors the CMA certification.

Institute of Internal Auditors

The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) is the organization for internal auditing that sponsors the CIA exam and certification.

CFA Institute

The CFA Institute is the leading organization for investment professionals and sponsors the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) charter.

Association of Certified Fraud Examiners

The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners is the organization that provides education for financial fraud and sponsors the CFE designation.

Accounting Careers and Certification Tutorial

Accounting Chapters

Here are the accounting chapters in The Ultimate Guide to Learn Accounting:

  1. Introduction to Accounting
  2. Recording Business Transactions
  3. Adjusting Entries and the Accounting Cycle
  4. Accounting for Merchandising Activities
  5. Inventory and Cost of Goods Sold
  6. Cash and Internal Control
  7. Accounting for Receivables
  8. Accounting for Long-Term Assets
  9. Accounting for Current Liabilities
  10. Accounting for Long-Term Liabilities
  11. Corporations
  12. Statement of Cash Flows
  13. Financial Statement Analysis
  14. Managerial Accounting
  15. Job Order Costing
  16. Process Costing
  17. Activity Based Costing
  18. Cost Volume Profit Analysis
  19. Variable Costing
  20. Master Budgets
  21. Standard Costing
  22. Performance Measurement
  23. Relevant Costing
  24. Capital Budgeting
  25. Time Value of Money

See also Accounting Sample Exams.

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