There are 1.4 million accountants and auditors in the US, making accountancy one of the biggest and most important professions in the business service sector.
Accounting is generally considered a stable and well paid job. How well paid is that? Let’s take a look at the average accounting salary in the US.
Average Accountant Salary – An Overview
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2017, the median accountant salary was $69,350:
US Accountant Salary
Per hour rate
*Low end salary is the average level for junior, inexperienced accountants. High end is the one for senior and experienced accountants.
Many people choose to start with an accounting job because it is stable and it pays relatively well. Some are forced into this profession because it’s the only job they can find with an accounting major.
A few years down the road, with solid accounting experience under your belt, it’s time to revisit the decision. Should you go for a career change from accounting? What would be a great second career?
I used to work in Morgan Stanley’s Investment Banking division. In our analyst class, we had a few lateral hires, and almost all of them were accountants by training.
It’s no surprise that bankers find accountants complementary in their working team. The first round of investment banking analysts are hired based on how they can carry themselves professionally (in front of the interviewer/client), how smart they seem to be, and how likeable they are. In other words, their majors and previous training do not always count. In my class, there were History and English majors, just to give you an example.
We went through a month of training, but still, many of us lack a solid foundation in Accounting. At the same time, financial modeling requires a certain level of accounting knowledge and this often creates an issue for the working team.
As you can imagine, for a Vice President who is frustrated over the quality of the financial model, he would be thrilled when he sees a candidate coming from a Big 4, or at least an accounting major with a few years of solid training. Better yet, if this person has taken the time to get his CPA exam, it’s gold.
If you are to start a second career in investment banking, please expect that the firm may discount your experience and put you in the first year class. This could be frustrating especially when you have classmates who would be a year ahead of you. I suggest that you look at this in a longer term — your solid accounting experience will help you stand out from the crowd. With dedication and hard work, your boss will notice, and you will reap the benefits through bigger bonus and faster promotion down the road.
Check out this insider guide to investment banking here.
Many accountants grow tired of working as bean counters. Fortunately, many accountant jobs have evolved into interesting opportunities that require constant interaction with business operation, business development and strategic planning units.
If you are interested in this direction, the easiest way is to look for jobs via internal transfer. This is the most efficient way for you to transfer your accounting skills into one that’s more analytical and business-oriented.
For those who feel like analyzing a company’s business is not exciting enough, you might want to jump straight into creating a business yourself.
Accounting is a very practical set of skills. It not only helps you understand how money flows in and out of any business, it also helps you plan and avoid pitfalls if you are to run a business yourself.
That’s why, if you are creative and entrepreneurial, launching your own company after your accounting training may be the way to go.
I don’t necessarily mean setting up your own CPA firm — it is possible if you have 10+ years of experience under your belt, but generally this is a tough road.
I am talking about creating your own company according to your passion – it can be a baking shop, an online business… the point is your accounting skills will help you along the way for years to come.
This is almost a best-kept secret within the accounting circle, but there is a profession called the Enrolled Agent that is perfect for accountants interested in tax and with an entrepreneurial mind.
Enrolled agents are tax specialists. They prepare and sign tax returns, represent the client at tax audits, assist clients with collections issues, set up installment tax liability, sign consents to extend the statutory period for assessment. For the experienced EAs, they advice clients on IRS tax disputes and represent clients in Tax Court.
Unless you hate tax, you are well prepared to be an enrolled agent as an accountant. Enrolled Agent enjoys flexible hours. But unlike Financial Advisors, your job is not linked to the external markets (e.g. the stock market) in which the ups and downs of your performance could be out of your control.
Enrolled Agents are more like an advisor and an attorney. At the same time, the demand for tax help is so big that you don’t need to market yourself for business if you do a decent job. Your client will happily refer you to friends and business partners because it looks good on them to recommend a much needed service.
Enrolled Agents are great opportunities for Stay-at-Home Moms, retirees and those who need or yearn for flexible working hours. At the same time, it is a job that can provide financial freedom.
To learn more about how to become an Enrolled Agent, check out this link.
Do you have other ideas in mind regarding jobs for former accountants? Please drop a note below and let us know.