How To Become An Accountant With An MBA


When it comes to stable career tracks, there are few more surefire bets than keeping the long arm of the Internal Revenue Service at bay, particularly if you’re the hyper-punctual, law-abiding, number-crunching type. If so, the role of accountant may be just right for you.

While traditional micro-managers will never go out of style in the field, emerging accountants increasingly arrive from all backgrounds and skill-sets as the profession is projected to grow along with the economy11 percent between now and 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

The top employers are the finance, insurance and technical services industries, according to Accounting Web. And accountants stay busyone out of five work more than 40 hours per week in 2014, particularly during tax season or at the end of the fiscal year.

With demand for accountants holding steady and by all accounts slated to surge, those of you who are business school bound would do well to consider an MBA program with a strong accounting concentration, like these highly ranked schools, according to U.S. News and World Report:

But before you dive headfirst into prepping to prep financial records, let’s take a closer look at what a career in accounting actually looks like.

Accountant Job Description

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, accountants prepare and “examine financial statements for accuracy and conformance with laws; ensure that taxes are paid properly and on time and assess financial operations and work to help ensure that organizations run efficiently.” Accountants also “suggest ways to reduce costs, enhance revenues and improve profits.”

The BLS says the 2015 median pay for an accountant was $67,190 per year ($32.30 per hour) while the average starting according to Accounting Web is $53,300 in the finance and insurance fields and $53,100 in technical services.

It is quite common for accountants to offer specialty services or specialize in specific industries. While public accountants offer an expansive range of tasks, management accountants analyze an organization’s financial records for internal use and government accountants examine the records of government agencies.

Regardless of the accountant’s specific domain, Talent Egg says these are six skills any accountant worth their salt should demonstrate:

  1. Organization – “Calendars, alphabetized folders, day planners, color-coded post-it notes and highlighters, and apps and programs” help accountants “keep track of portfolios, transactions, and important deadlines.”
  2. Time management – “The ability to work within deadlines and to continually re-prioritize your to-do list will impress your boss, co-workers and clients, help you to maintain a healthy work/life balance, and keep your day-to-day productive.”
  3. Adaptability – “Embrace change. Adaptable individuals are more likely to learn and grow in their careers because they see each new challenge as an opportunity to learn and test their skills.”
  4. Communication – “Being able to communicate well in writing and in person will help you to get a job, work as a team with your colleagues, interact with clients and, with time, advance professionally.”
  5. Openness – “Honesty and integrity are highly valued in the accounting world. Being transparent when making decisions and giving advice will improve your working relationships, make teamwork easier, and will help you to foster an environment that is respectful and collaborative.”
  6. Leadership – “Being a good leader means knowing how to mentor and teach, and making yourself approachable and available to the people you’re responsible for. In accounting, leadership skills also include strategic thinking and long-term planning.”

Working As An Accountant

Investopedia spoke with Richard A. Melancon, a CPA and University of New Orleans MBA ’82 who helps “small and mid-sized companies to grow and establish themselves in the market; helped start-ups with business plans, loan applications and venture capital funding“about an average day on the job.

Melancon’s firm, which has operated out of Metairie, Louisiana since 1989, offers “business training, consulting services, computer security assessments,” as well as “tax planning, financial planning and income-tax preparation.” Melancon says one of the major perks of his job is that despite the long tax season hours, accounting allows for “greater freedom the rest of the year.”

According to the article, Melancon’s routine includes “answering numerous phone calls from clients, salespeople, prospects, peers and other people in the community.” There’s weekly, quarterly and annual payroll processing and bookkeeping, which he performs every time a client submits financial documents. Melancon mentions that he’s often called upon to “perform services that are not readily associated with accounting, [like] verifying research results, confirming product quality standards, substantiating historical renovation compliance and assessing computer security risk.”

“No CPA will become an expert in all areas, so each practitioner will develop a unique practice in the market. For those who are considering a career in public accounting, I strongly believe that the industry holds an opportunity for almost any area of interest that you may have.”

Do You Need an MBA?

The eternal question! CPAs don’t need MBAs, per se, but Going breaks own the mile-high pro/con list into easy-to-decipher terms: “If you want to be a partner, stay in public accounting. If you want to be a CFO or a CEO someday, invest in an MBA.”

Santa Clara’s Leavey School of Business Associate Professor of Accounting Neal Ushman, Ph.D., MBA, says in this interview that an MBA is a must for those with lofty professional aspirations.

“If you want to go into consulting or management for a financial services firm, go with the MBA. It should give you a broad overview of the business environment and equip you for a wide variety of jobs. They’re getting an MBA to enhance their promotability.”

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About the Author

Jonathan Pfeffer

Jonathan Pfeffer joined the Clear Admit and MetroMBA teams in 2015 after spending several years as an arts/culture writer, editor, and radio producer. In addition to his role as contributing writer at MetroMBA and contributing editor at Clear Admit, he is co-founder and lead producer of the Clear Admit MBA Admissions Podcast. He holds a BA in Film/Video, Ethnomusicology, and Media Studies from Oberlin College.

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