Developing an accounting or finance career can be rewarding. Both offer ongoing career opportunities to remain in the industry for as long as desired.
However, it can be difficult to decide which field to work in. Because your career may last for decades, you should focus on where you want to be in the next five to ten years. This can give an idea of which path may be right for you.
Use these guidelines to determine whether a career in accounting or finance better suits your professional path.
Industry Focal Points
Consider the differences between the accounting and finance fields. For instance, accounting is quantitative. An accountant collects and organizes a company’s financial records.
Conversely, finance is qualitative. A finance professional analyzes financial records to determine the potential impacts of business decisions. This helps maximize profits and minimize risk.
An accountant tends to prefer working independently. They enjoy math, number crunching, and accurately reporting financial information.
In contrast, a finance professional tends to prefer collaboration. They enjoy managing money and calculating risk.
Career Path Examples
An accountant may specialize in public, government, tax, or other fields of accounting. The following is an example of a career path for a corporate accounting professional:
- Staff Accountant: The main responsibilities include preparing and maintaining financial and business transactions. Typical duties include analytical, evaluative, and advisory work. An understanding of accounting theory and practice is required.
- Senior accountant: Additional responsibilities include leading and directing team members’ work. A bachelor’s degree and four to six years of experience are typically required.
- Accounting supervisor: The main responsibilities include supervising and training on less complex day-to-day accounting functions and accounting operations. Examples include coding invoices and compiling data for reports.
- Accounting manager: The main responsibilities include managing professional-level accounting functions and preparing reports. These reports may involve earnings, profit/loss, cash balances, and cost accounting. A bachelor’s degree and seven years of experience are typically required.
- Director of Accounting: The main responsibilities include directing, coordinating, and administering accounting operations. Examples include general accounting, cost accounting, payroll, accounts payable, and accounts receivable. Ten years of experience is typically required.
A finance professional may specialize in corporate finance, commercial banking, investment banking, financial planning, or insurance. The following is an example of a career path for a financial analysis professional:
- Financial analyst: The main responsibilities include analyzing past and current financial data to estimate future revenues and expenditures. A bachelor’s degree typically is required.
- Senior financial analyst: Additional responsibilities include leading and directing team members’ work. Four to 7 years of experience typically are required.
- Financial reporting supervisor: The main responsibilities include managing all Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) external reporting requirements. Examples include preparing and filing Form 10-K, Form 10-Q, Form 8-K, proxy statements, and other governmental reports.
- Finance analysis manager: The main responsibilities include conducting statistical analyses of information impacting the financial and accounting programs of public, industrial, and/or financial organizations with your team’s help. An advanced degree and seven years of experience are typically required.
- Finance director: The main responsibilities include directing and assisting with financial analysis, evaluation, and report generation for current and proposed financial plans.
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