A career in accounting and finance can be a lucrative one with great growth potential. But where do you even start? And then where do you go from there? It may seem a little overwhelming, but when you consider a career path, think about where you would like to be in five, 10 or 15 years. Believe it or not, 15 years will go by quickly, so be sure to intentionally seek out finance or accounting job opportunities and experience that will help you achieve your career goals.
Start simply by looking at the differences between accounting and finance. Accounting professionals obtain, collect, and organize a company’s financial records, which finance professionals then analyze to determine the impacts of potential business decisions in order to maximize profits and reduce risk.
Basically, accounting is quantitative while finance is qualitative.
Accounting vs. Finance career path – which suits you best?
Think hard about where your interests lie. While some personality traits will suit a career in either accounting or finance, other specific traits and interests may indicate that you are a better fit for a certain career path.
Accounting career personality traits
If you are a detail-oriented, self-professed math geek who loves crunching numbers and reporting accurate financial information, consider focusing your job search on the accounting sphere.
Finance career personality traits
If you like the idea of managing money, calculating risk and have great verbal and communication skills, a career in finance might be the best fit for you.
Accountant career path
While there are several specialties within the general field of accounting, including governmental accounting, public accounting and tax accounting. To learn what you can expect to earn in these roles, reference the LHH Salary Guide. This accounting career path follows the journey of a corporate finance accounting professional:
In this entry-level role, you will prepare and maintain financial and business transactions, applying accounting principles. Staff Accountant duties include work that is analytical, evaluative, and advisory in nature and requires an understanding of both accounting theory and practice.
Once you’ve gained four to six years' experience as an Accountant, you are ready to move on to a Senior Accountant position. In this role, you will still ready and maintain financial records, and you may lead and direct the work of others. If you do not already hold one, now would be the time to pursue a bachelor’s degree in your area of specialty.
The next step on this career path is to take on the role of Accounting Supervisor. In this role, you will supervise and train less complex day-to-day general accounting functions and accounting operations, which include coding invoices and compiling data for various accounting reports. As part of your Accounting Supervisor duties, you will lead most day-to-day operations of the group.
After working in accounting for approximately 7 years, you can expect to move on to a mid-level management position such as Accounting Manager. You will manage professional level accounting functions and the preparation of reports including earnings, profits/losses, cash balances, and cost accounting. A bachelor’s degree in your area of specialty is expected.
Director of Accounting
With 10 years of experience under your belt, you will be ready to take on the position of Accounting Director. As Accounting Director, you will direct, coordinate, and administer accounting operations, which may include general accounting, cost accounting, payroll, accounts payable, and accounts receivable.
Finance career path
Finance professionals can find work in corporate finance, commercial banking, investment banking, financial planning or insurance. To learn what you can expect to earn in these roles, reference the LHH Salary Guide. This career path follows the journey of a Financial Analysis professional:
This is an entry-level role that requires a bachelor’s degree. The Financial Analyst job description includes analyzing past and present financial data to estimate future revenues and expenditures, applying principles of finance.
Senior Financial Analyst
When you have achieved four to seven years of experience in the field, you are ready to move into a Senior Financial Analyst role. The Senior Financial Analyst job description involves continuing to analyze financial data to estimate future revenues and expenditures, applying principles of finance, and you may also lead and direct the work of others.
Financial Reporting Supervisor
After working as a Senior Financial Analyst, you may move on to the role of Financial Reporting Supervisor. The Financial Reporting Supervisor job description involves managing all Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) external reporting requirements including preparation and filing of Forms 10-K, 10-Q, Form 8-K, Proxy Statement and other periodic governmental reports.
Finance Analysis Manager
After working in the field for about 7 years, you can expect to move on to the role of Finance Analysis Manager. Finance Analysis Managers manage conduct of statistical analyses of information affecting financial and accounting programs of public, industrial, and/or financial organizations through subordinate financial analysis staff. If you have not already done so, now is the time to pursue an advanced degree in your field so you can continue to grow your career.
Once you have gained 10 years of experience in the field and have an advanced degree, you will be ready to move into a Finance Director role. As part of the Finance Director job description, you will be responsible for directing and aiding financial analysis, evaluation, and report generation of current and proposed financial plans.
Finance and Accountant career path final thoughts
These are just two examples of the path your career could take. There are countless variations and alternative accounting careers. The important thing to remember is to set short- and long-term career goals and know exactly what you need to do to meet them. For more insights into the accounting and finance industry, contact LHH today