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Five Potential Career Paths in Accounting and Finance

The accounting and finance fields are evolving every day. With emerging fintech, advanced digitalization and the increasing use of artificial intelligence (AI), it can be difficult to envision your career path in an industry changing so rapidly. Fortunately, specific accounting and finance roles are in high demand as companies need skilled professionals to help navigate this industry's current and future state.

Here are five accounting and finance roles with potential long-term career growth.

1. Financial Planner

A financial planner partners with clients to help set and achieve clearly defined financial goals. Clientele can vary greatly, from individuals to families and even large corporations. Many financial planners choose a specialization, with some focusing solely on retirement funds or college funds, and others planning the financial wellness of a client over a lifetime. Many financial planners also receive their certified financial planner (CFP) credentials upon passing an exam administered by the CFP board. CFPs must participate in regular educational training to maintain their credentials.

To become a financial planner, at minimum, you will likely need a bachelor’s degree, though a master’s degree can elevate your career opportunities even further. A master’s in finance or financial planning will also allow you to explore niche areas of the industry. It’s also advisable to immerse yourself in fintech. Experts say that fintech will become a companion to a financial planner's work, helping easily create resources like investment portfolios.

2. Financial Analyst

A financial analyst has many responsibilities, including evaluating an organization’s finances to determine its value; studying the current economy and business trends; and, based on those findings, identifying opportunities to generate profit. Financial analysts fall into one of two categories: buy-side analysts or sell-side analysts. Buy-side analysts develop investment strategies for large corporations with surplus funds. Sell-side analysts advise sellers of stocks, bonds and other financial instruments that are pertinent to the market. More specified financial analyst roles include financial risk specialist, funds manager, investment manager and portfolio manager, to name a few.

Similar to the role of a financial planner, a bachelor’s degree is a prerequisite to start on the career path of a financial analyst, and a master’s degree in finance will expand your career opportunities and further your professional development. Financial analysts are expected to have a broad understanding of the market, but they typically select a niche and pursue certifications and advanced education to obtain credibility in that niche. Exam and licensing information that can qualify you for entry-level financial analyst roles can be found on the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) website. Many financial research analysts, especially those entering the securities industry, will also take the Security Industry Essentials (SIE) exam.

3. Accountant

Unlike a financial analyst, who offers insights and analysis based on the larger market, an accountant is highly involved in an organization’s day-to-day operations, reviewing a financial data in real time. The chief responsibilities of an accountant include reviewing financial statements and reporting to ensure their accuracy, conducting routine audits, completing tax returns and performing account analyses.

To secure an accounting role, you will typically need a bachelor’s degree. As with the positions listed above, a master’s degree will also help further your knowledge and open up greater job opportunities. Licensure and certifications will ensure that your career as an accountant continuously progresses. The most obvious credential for accountants to obtain is a CPA license. Becoming a CPA  can lead to better pay, job variety and increased opportunities for professional freedom.

4. Tax Manager

A tax manager is largely responsible for tax preparation and filing for businesses and individuals. They may also review a company’s financial standing and provide tax advice where it’s needed. Tax managers are accounting professionals, working to ensure that both individuals and organizations are compliant with federal, state and local tax laws.

To secure a career as a tax manager, you first need a bachelor’s degree in a field like accounting. You can follow that up by obtaining your master’s degree in taxation, getting your CPA license and maintaining a level of certification that will allow you to perform your role effectively. In a managerial role, you will likely oversee a team or small workforce. As such, honing your soft skills can be useful preparation for this position.

5. Payroll Specialist

A payroll specialist’s central responsibility is making sure that employee salaries are processed and paid on time. They are also skilled at managing and updating time sheets and production records, balancing payroll runs and producing federal, state and local payments. If you’re interested in working as a payroll specialist, you will need a high school diploma or a General Education Development (GED) certificate.

Employers will likely prefer candidates who have a bachelor’s degree in accounting or another finance-related field. If you’re looking to become a payroll specialist, you may begin your career in an entry-level role, such as a payroll clerk or a human resources specialist. Additionally, you can obtain various certifications to further your professional development, such as the Fundamental Payroll Certification, Certified Payroll Professional and Certified Bookkeeper.

If you are interested in pursuing a career in accounting and finance, browse job opportunities today.

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