Like nearly everything in life, accounting careers have positives and negatives. But the truth is not that the career itself is good or bad, but instead that it’s the right fit for certain people and not for others.
Think of it like shopping for a new car—some people seek dependability and safety while others crave performance and speed. Neither option is inherently good or bad, but each vehicle is a better choice for different people.
What you’ll think of an accounting career depends on your personality, working style and life priorities. Once you understand the possible pros and cons of an accounting career, you can make an informed decision.
So is accounting a good major for you to pursue? Take a look at these pros and cons of accounting careers to steer yourself in the right direction.
Pros of an accounting career
There’s a lot to love about a career in accounting. Learn more about a few of the perks you can expect by pursuing this profession.
1. There is a clear career path
If you’re studying accounting, you’re learning practical skills about crunching numbers and analysing costs that employers need. This gives you a much clearer career path than someone who chooses to study English or philosophy, where the potential career outcomes are harder to define.
If you choose to pursue an accounting degree, you’ll have a pretty solid idea of where your career will take you. Though there are different types of accountants in the field, the duties you’ll have and skills you’ll use will generally be the same, meaning you know what you’re signing up for.
2. It’s a stable and growing job field
Accounting is not a profession that’s going away anytime soon. Virtually every business needs an accountant or an entire accounting team, and even the average person has reasons to hire an accountant from time to time.
The job prospects in accounting are projected to grow in the coming years. As long as people need help with taxes and businesses exist, there will be a need for accountants.
3. You’ll have the potential for professional growth
After graduation, you might begin as an entry-level associate, but the growth potential can be significant. Many accounting graduates will start as staff accountants, junior auditors in public accounting or assistants in the controller’s office in private accounting as they begin to plot their career paths.
After getting established and gaining experience, career advancement can be achieved through on-the-job performance and additional education or certifications, like becoming a Certified Professional Accountant (CPA).
4. The earning potential is favourable
Like anyone, you want a career that allows you to provide for yourself and your family. So how does an accounting career stack up?
Additionally, many full-time accountants receive excellent healthcare, vacation time, retirement plans and more. The BLS reports that most accountants work full-time, around or over 40 hours a week.
5. You can work where you want to work
Where would you like to live? Big city or small town? In a mountain range or by the ocean?
You may need to uproot your life with some career fields and move to an industry hub to find work. Accounting, however, tends to be everywhere. From farmers to government organisations to software development companies, seemingly everyone could use an accountant’s services.
This gives accountants a fair amount of flexibility when choosing where they want to settle down.
6. There is entrepreneurial potential
Starting your own business is the same option in every profession. It’s doubtful that a pilot will ever launch their airline, but accountants establish their firms routinely. The dream of being your boss is alive and well in the profession of accounting. If you have some of that entrepreneurial spirit, starting an accounting firm could be a great way to advance your career.
Starting an accounting firm, like starting any business, has its risks and may not be for everyone, but it’s good to have this as an option.
Cons of an accounting career
Just like any industry, working in accounting does have its drawbacks. Get a taste of some of the less appealing factors so you can decide if it’s the right fit.
1. The education is ongoing
If you become an accountant, the learning doesn’t stop once you’ve earned your degree. To progress in your career, you’ll need to plan on continuing education—at least to keep up with changes in the industry and essential certifications.
After getting started as an entry-level accountant, you should look at what type of certifications you might want to earn. There are different accounting credentials, including the CMA (Certified Management Accountant), CPA (Certified Professional Accountant) and CFA (Chartered Financial Accountant). These credentials will all take a significant amount of time and effort to obtain, so it’s important to know what you’re getting into ahead of time.
2. The work can seem dull
How many world-famous accountants do you know of? If you’re struggling to think of one, there’s a reason for that—accounting isn’t usually seen as a “glamorous” field. But recognition and glitz aren’t everything. The day-to-day work requires a lot of investigating and math, which can be boring to some but interesting to others.
This is one of those questions you’ll need to look at within yourself and answer honestly about what works for you. Learning more about what accountants do daily will help you determine whether the work appeals to you. Check out “What Do Accountants Do? A Look at Life Behind the Ledger” for more additional perspective.
3. There is a busy season
Accounting is typically a standard 9-to-5 job, except for certain times of the year with impending deadlines. The most notable deadline is April 15 for tax accountants. For most tax accountants, the heavy lifting starts after New Year’s Day, right up to April 15.
During the busy season, long days and weekend work become the norm as accountants work to get their clients’ finances in order. But the plus side is that things slow down significantly after that period. In this way, accounting careers offer some variety in the yearly schedule.
4. The work can be stressful
When you’re responsible for an organisation’s finances, there is bound to be some pressure. It’s just part of the game. But that pressure and stress can have an impact on your overall mental health and deserves consideration.
These negative experiences have a lot to do with where an accountant works and the specifics of their roles. It’s a safe bet to say, the more critical your position is and the more money you work with, the more pressure you will face on the job. But whether that pressure results in harmful levels of stress depends on your personality.
Try to assess your attitude toward pressure and heavy workloads honestly. Working as an accountant might not bother you if you don’t stress easy or don’t mind being a little high-strung. If you know you’re quickly concerned, it’s possible that an accounting career isn’t the ideal choice for you.
So, is accounting a good career choice for you?
Now that you’ve got a better grasp of an accounting career’s pros and cons take the time to evaluate whether this is the field for you. If the pros outweigh the cons, you might want to take a closer look at how to prepare yourself for a job in this field.
Are you still asking, should I become an accountant? It might help to know what kind of commitment is involved. Learn more about what it takes to launch this career in our article “Your Step-by-Step Guide on How to Become an Accountant.”
How many accountants are unaffected by stress? Just 2%
Today is the start of mental health awareness week in the UK, with the theme this year being body image.
With its high stress levels and pressure to be ‘always on’, accountancy is a profession where mental health is increasingly on the agenda.
At Accountancy Age, we’ve put together a roundup of what accountancy firms are doing this week to help tackle mental health problems.
Upskilling can boost wellbeing.
Research by AAT found that 90% of people who work in accountancy have been stressed out by work, with 43% having to take time off due to stress. This makes accountancy one of the most stressful industries to work in.
However, upskilling could be one way to reduce stress amongst employees. Research by LinkedIn showed that employees who were offered opportunities to learn at work are 47% less likely to be stressed, 39% more likely to feel productive and successful, and 21% more likely to feel confident and happy.
Hannah Carrington works for KIM Inspire, a non-profit organisation that provides professional mental health support in the community. She called on employers to recognise the added benefits that providing training opportunities could bring to their office.
“If the employee can move forward positively, they can be a lot happier in work and feel like they can contribute more,” she said.
“For example, their self-esteem may not be great – and for that, training could be massive. Increasing their skills and confidence will enable them to do their current job better, make them feel like they know exactly what they are trying to achieve and why, and feel more valuable in what they do as a result.”
Just 2% of accountants unaffected by stress
The accountancy profession is in the midst of a mental health crisis. Research by CABA, the wellbeing charity for accountants, has found that just 2% of accountants are unaffected by stress. CABA’s study also showed that one in three accountants feel stressed every day, and one in three also checked their emails while sick or on holiday.
There were several issues that contributed to the high-stress levels of accountants, which included:
- being overworked (41%)
- office politics (33%)
- feeling undervalued (29%)
- failure to increase pay or rewards (29%)
- having to attend too many meetings (28%)
Kelly Freehan, Service Director of CABA, said: “While a certain degree of pressure can help with motivation if stress levels are excessive, we risk becoming less productive or burning out… firms should be actively encouraging their staff to maintain a healthier work-life blend.”
Perhaps more worrying for the industry was the findings on the youngest accountants. There was a significant divide between younger and middle-aged accountants than their older colleagues, with nearly half of all 18-44-year-olds feeling stressed every day compared to just 15% of those over 55.
Freehan called on business leaders to do more for their younger staff. “It’s particularly concerning to see that so many young people within the industry are wrestling with stress, with our research showing that they are the most likely to take work home, stay late in the office and work on days off. Business leaders must provide tangible support that helps staff to form healthy working habits at the start of their careers if we’re to avoid the risk of fewer young people seeking opportunities in accountancy.”
The hidden mental health implications of running a small business
According to new research from FreeAgent, over half of the small business owners have experienced burnout from working too hard at their business. The study also showed that 86% admitted to sacrificing their care, such as missing meals or cancelling social plans, for the sake of the company, while 38% said they had no professional support network in place.
However, there were signs of encouragement as three quarters still recommended self-employment as a career choice.
Ed Molyneux, CEO of FreeAgent, said the figures showed more support for self-employed people was needed. “The large proportion of business owners without a support network in place suggests that either there is not enough support available for these self-employed people, or they are unsure about where, or who, to seek help from when they need it.”
“While it’s certainly positive to see that the majority of small business owners said they would recommend self-employment, it’s troubling to see how stark the reality of working for yourself can be when you scratch under the surface. For lots of self-employed people, it means working very long hours, with the pressure of maintaining their ventures having a noticeable effect on their mental health,” he added.
“Working for yourself should be an uplifting experience that enables you to be the master of your destiny – not one that is detrimental to your mental health. More needs to be done to ensure that the UK’s legion of freelancers and small business owners can protect themselves from any mental health problems that arise from self-employment in the future.”