How to Transition to an Accounting Career

The desire to change career paths and pursue work in a new industry is something many mid-career professionals face.

For some, the choice to change careers comes from dissatisfaction. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, uncovering your “why” is the first step in navigating a career change. The reason driving you to seek out a new career can help inform your career-related decisions.

Are you looking to earn a higher salary? Are you trying to improve your job security? Are you seeking a second career to learn new skills and challenge yourself?

Ultimately, for financially savvy professionals or analytical individuals, a mid-career change into accounting might fulfill these needs.

The field of accounting has 6% job growth projected from 2018 to 2028, which is as fast as average job growth overall. If this is intriguing to you, taking the leap into the world of accounting as a second career could be a good fit. Find out how to move careers and enter the world of accounting below.

Why Consider Accounting as a Second Career

The desire to become an accountant later in life may be brought about by a need for increased financial knowledge and job security.

Accountants possess skills that businesses rely on to make and record budgetary decisions. With the ability to organize and make sense of the numerical data of a company, an accountant is a necessary figure in the ranks of any business.

Furthermore, accounting offers varying career options for those interested in the field. Here are just a few reasons to choose accounting as a second career:

1. Above-Average Pay

With their technical knowledge surrounding complex financial information, accountants are valuable assets in any business. As such, accountants often command higher salaries.

The median annual salary for accountants is $70,500. For those just starting out in the accounting profession, $50,000 to $60,000 is a typical base salary. As accountants gain more years of experience in the field, their value can increase along with pay.

Wages earned also depend on the industry the accountant chooses to work in. For example, the median salary for accountants working in management is around $73,180. That median salary shifts to $68,420 for those working in government accounting roles.

Keep in mind that these numbers are industry averages and can fluctuate depending on location, size of the firm and the level of education you pursue.

2. Upward Mobility

Moving up the professional ladder requires a strong foundation of knowledge. Those who select accounting as a second career obtain an understanding of generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) and learn how to apply analytical skills to prepare and report financial records within a firm.

There are several avenues open to accountants looking to develop their role or improve their earning potential. First, gaining experience in the field is crucial to cultivating a strong resume for potential employers.

Second, consider getting a certification to distinguish yourself from other accountants. Popular certifications include a CFA (certified financial analyst), an EA (enrolled agent) and a CPA (certified public accountant).

Since there are various ways in which you can advance in accounting, remember that there is no singular way to move up. Choose the path that works best with your professional goals.

3. Projected Job Growth

Switching careers can cause fear and uncertainty. But the prospect of industry growth helps to ease the worry for those choosing to become an accountant later in life. Examine the statistics below to understand the landscape of the industry.

Since job growth in the accounting profession is projected to increase by 6% from 2018 to 2028, an estimated 90,700 new accounting jobs are expected to open in the field during the same period.

While you can’t predict exactly what the future of accounting holds, many businesses will continue to rely on accountants for their expertise.

Do You Need a Master’s in Accounting to Change Careers?

To work as an accountant, you can benefit from an educational background in the industry. Holding a bachelor’s degree in accounting allows you to pursue entry-level accounting roles, such as a tax examiner or public accountant.

However, higher-earning roles often strongly recommend a master’s in accounting. Accountants with this higher level of education might pursue roles as financial managers such as corporate controllers and chief financial officers. The median salary for financial managers is $127,990.

If you think a master’s in accounting is out of reach, consider the following facts.

  • If you already possess a bachelor’s degree—even one that is not related to accounting—you can enroll to pursue a master of accounting. Many master of accounting programs will admit students with a bachelor’s degree in any field of study. Look into specific programs to understand admission requirements and see what prerequisite courses, if any, you might need to take.
  • Also, the option to obtain a master of accounting online means you can take a flexible approach to earn this degree. This option is ideal if you want to continue working or have other responsibilities that preclude you from returning to school full-time.

In short, the need for a master’s degree depends on what you aspire to do with your accounting career. If you are aiming for managerial roles and potentially higher salaries, the investment in a master of accounting may be well worth it.

How to Make a Mid-Career Change to Accounting

While every professional path is different, there are standard steps to take that can help aspiring accountants get ahead. These include understanding the necessary educational credentials required and selecting a specialization if you desire one.

Here is a breakdown of steps to take to enter and advance in the accounting industry.

  1. Fulfill Accounting Education Requirements

    First and foremost, you must obtain the necessary education to become an accountant. A bachelor’s degree in accounting is the minimum qualification for most entry-level accounting roles. It is in this program that you will gain a foundation in accounting practices and principles. Furthermore, a bachelor’s in accounting is a necessary foundational requirement for anyone seeking to become a certified public accountant (CPA) in the future.

    However, you do not need a bachelor’s in accounting in order to pursue a master’s in accounting. If you enroll in a master of accounting degree program, you may just need to take a few extra foundational classes.

  2. Obtain Accounting Industry Experience

    To signal your value and understanding to future employers, gaining experience as an accountant in the field is crucial. It is common for accounting students to hold an internship or part-time position while still in school. Outside of the classroom, students can implement accounting practices in the real world and interact with professionals in the industry.

    Obtaining temporary or part-time employment in the accounting sector can also open the door to securing full-time employment. In fact, the “Big Four” (Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young and KPMG) accounting firms often hire a significant portion of their interns as full-time employees. For instance, Deloitte hires more than 3,000 interns each year, many of whom go on to work full-time at the company.

  3. Fulfill Accounting Certifications or Licenses

    As this is your second career, you likely want to move up quickly in the ranks and stand out amidst other accountants. Pursuing certification allows you to specialize in a certain area.

    For instance, you could prove your deep understanding of the stock market with a chartered financial analyst certification (CFA) or signal your financial planning knowledge as a certified management accountant (CMA). Typical requirements of these certifications include a certain amount of work experience and passing one or more exams.

5 Skills That Accountants Use Every Day

As you weigh your options and decide if accounting as a second career is right for you, consider the unique skill set the job requires. Accountants are more than number crunchers. While a love of numbers is beneficial, it does not guarantee success.

Keep reading to learn about the skills that employers look for in accountants.

1. Problem Solving

Accounting requires that you analyze and solve problems for clients each day. This vital skill is one that top employers recognize and value.

Accountants face difficulties on the job, such as pressure to work under strict deadlines and ongoing changes in the industry (accounting laws and practices shifting). Rather than becoming flustered, accountants must understand how to address these issues and work through them.

2. Attention to Detail

Accounting requires a detail-oriented approach. To prepare accurate financial reports, accountants must ensure each calculation performed is correct. Even minute errors can lead to big inaccuracies in financial statements.

As you progress and move up in the ranks, you may be reviewing the work of other accountants. In this case, attention to detail will be invaluable to detect any errors made before reports are submitted.

3. Technological Ability

All accountants should be familiar with certain spreadsheet software, but financial technology goes beyond this. Fintech is rapidly changing the accounting landscape. Automated bookkeeping services such as QuickBooks and Bench perform basic accounting duties and store large datasets.

This does not mean that accountants are becoming obsolete because of technology. On the contrary, it signifies the importance of accountants who understand how to utilize technologies and interpret the data for firms. Those who are proficient in using enterprise resource planning (ERP) software like Oracle can bring value to a firm.

4. Interpersonal Skills

The accounting department is not an island separate from the rest of the business. Cross -department collaboration is key in organizations. Employers value accountants who can work in conjunction with other departments.

Firms want to hire accountants who can explain complex financial information in simplified terms so that other departments have an understanding of company resources.

5. Ethical Values

Accountants have a responsibility to report financial data accurately. Because of past scandals such as the 2019 misreporting of financial information by managers at GE, strict government regulations on accounting practices are in place.

Accountants must remain objective and impartial as they work. As an accountant, you may feel pressure from department heads, stakeholders or others to report inaccurate information. Nevertheless, maintaining integrity is imperative.

Maintaining Your New Career in Accounting

To get the most out of your newfound accounting career, you must work to continually learn more about the profession. Working in the field will allow you to grow as an accountant, but there are additional methods you can undertake to enhance this process.

Immerse Yourself in the Industry

Staying up to date on accounting industry news and changes is vital. The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), which sets forth accounting principles, releases information relevant to accounting via their website. Additionally, FASB offers webinar training sessions that you can attend to learn about specific topics.

Continue Your Education

Another way to improve as an accountant is to earn a certification. As mentioned earlier, certifications allow you to differentiate yourself to employers. The process required to earn the certification will entail studying a specific area of accounting in depth. This deep understanding of a certain area means you can pursue more specialized roles in your accounting career.

For accountants who have already obtained a CPA certification, ongoing education is required to maintain it. You must enroll in courses to fulfill continuing professional education (CPE) requirements for CPAs. CPE requirements ensure that the most current rules and regulations are fresh in the minds of CPAs.

Grow Your Professional Network

Last but not least, networking can give you the career boost you desire in accounting. The beauty of networking is that there are so many ways to go about it.

You can attend seminars and mixers for accountants or join an organization that caters to your specific interests. The Institute of Management Accountants and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants are two reputable organizations that serve different sets of accounting professionals. Keep in mind that you don’t have to wait until you are an accountant to start networking.

While pursuing your degree, you can form connections with classmates and teachers and maintain these bonds post-grad. There are several ways to improve continually as you settle into your new career. Ideally, you should be engaging in more than one method to amplify your success.


Switching to a career in accounting means that you need to develop the financial acumen and skills that businesses need. If you wish to pursue a career in accounting, find the right educational or certificate program for you and embark on this new professional chapter.

Based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics findings, the market for new accountants is a favorable one. However, the accounting field is still competitive. To set yourself apart, consider getting certifications or a master’s degree. For those seeking the chance to earn a higher salary and increase professional advancement opportunities, a second career in accounting could be a good choice.