The globalization of the economy has created new possibilities for companies looking to increase their profitability and grow their customer bases. However, to capitalize on business opportunities in international and domestic markets, organizations need financial experts who can help inform their decision-making and ensure that their investments deliver a sound return on investment. One such role is that of an accounting analyst, an occupation that’s growing in demand thanks to the expanding economy and a complex tax and regulatory environment, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
However, how do accounting analyst job descriptions differ from those of other positions in finance, what steps can professionals take to launch their accounting careers, and how can a Master of Accountancy degree help in the job market?
What Is an Accounting Analyst?
Accounting analysts, often referred to simply as accountants, perform a wide array of administrative tasks that allow businesses to keep track of expenses and forecast future performance. Their primary duties involve preparing and examining financial reports, with an eye on accuracy and compliance. These reports include income statements, balance sheets, cash flow statements and capital statements.
Depending on their level of education and years of experience, accounting analysts may also be asked for recommendations to help reduce costs, enhance revenue streams and increase profit margins. According to the BLS, accounting analysts are often responsible for:
- Examining quarterly and annual financial reports
- Creating financial statements that detail profits, overhead expenses and tax deductions
- Calculating taxes owed and preparing tax return documents
- Inspecting accounting books and systems to ensure efficient reporting
- Organizing and maintaining clients’ financial records
- Assessing financial operations and accounting department performance
As in most areas of business, information technology (IT has transformed how accounting analysts work. Professionals in this field rely on software applications like Microsoft Excel, QuickBooks and SAP to create detailed financial records, analyze data and generate ad hoc reports, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). As such, accounting analysts should have strong computer competencies and an ability to learn new programs quickly, as financial technologies are constantly updated and improved. Professionals should also have some experience with databases such as MySQL, Oracle, Microsoft Access and Microsoft SQL Server.
Accounting Analyst Salary and Job Outlook
Accounting analyst salaries are heavily tied to a candidate’s level of education, accounting experience and work history. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for accountants was $73,560 in 2020, with the highest 10% earning more than $128,680. The lowest 10% earned a median annual salary of $45,220.
In terms of job outlook, the demand for experienced accounting analysts will likely expand as business continues to globalize through international mergers and acquisitions. The BLS estimates that employment of accountants and accounting analysts will grow by 4% between 2019 and 2029, which is about as fast as the projected national average for all occupations. The agency also highlights that candidates who are accredited as certified public accountants (CPAs) will have the best job prospects and may be able to negotiate more competitive pay rates.
Accounting Analyst Requirements
The first requirement to become an accounting analyst is education. Some entry-level positions are open to those with an associate or a bachelor’s degree, though many employers prefer candidates with master’s degrees, particularly for senior positions. Relevant degrees include business, accounting or business administration with an accounting focus.
The next key to an accounting career is practical experience with an accounting or a business firm. With the right degree and work experience, accountants can consider certification. Many choose to become CPAs, which requires 150 credit hours of coursework, two years of work experience and a passing score on a four-part examination.
Alternatively, the Association of Government Accountants (AGA) offers the Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM) credential for auditors and accountants working in federal, state and local sectors. CGFM certification requires a bachelor’s degree in any field, two years’ experience in government financial management and a passing score on three comprehensive examinations.
How to Become an Accounting Analyst
Since most accounting analyst roles call for a deep understanding of finance, taxation and legal compliance, many professionals start their careers by earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting. This enables them to pursue entry-level positions and start building their work history for future advancement. Through their postsecondary education, students learn how to prepare financial statements in accordance with the generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) that the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) has outlined, as well as other important business concepts, including risk management and principles in taxation.
After earning their bachelor’s degree and acquiring real-world work experience, accounting analysts often enroll in graduate programs like the online Master of Accountancy (MAcc) at the University of Nevada, Reno. This master’s program provides essential learning opportunities in advanced accounting, tax laws and financial analysis that are necessary for high-level positions. For example, the online MAcc curriculum at the University emphasizes technical skills and industry knowledge that accounting analysts use around the world, including business analysis methods, data transformation and SQL, federal taxation, and auditing.
Many companies also prioritize candidates who are CPAs, which requires that candidates pass a 16-hour computer-based examination that the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy administers, meet the education and experience requirements, and get fully licensed. Luckily, the online MAcc at the University is designed to prepare students for the CPA examination and help them distinguish themselves from other job seekers with similar backgrounds. The program is entirely online and can be completed in as few as two years, allowing you to schedule classes around work and other important life commitments.
Finance vs. Accounting
Although a lot of overlap exists between financial analysts and accounting analysts, the positions are quite different. Most accounting and finance professionals earn a Master of Accountancy or similar graduate degree, but the work they perform varies. Each job focuses on separate aspects of money management and calls for distinct certifications; students should, therefore, consider their personal interests and long-term goals before launching their careers.
Accounting analysts analyze and report companies’ financial data on a day-to-day basis, while financial analysts review specific financial decisions. In many cases, financial analysts use reports that accountants generate to evaluate market trends and formulate investment strategies, making their partnership crucial to an organization’s success. Accounting analysts also play a key role in ensuring that their companies are compliant with existing tax law and upholding all regulations that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB), and other government or private sector regulatory agencies have set forth.
Your Path to Becoming an Accounting Analyst
Begin your path to a rewarding career with the online MAcc at the University of Nevada, Reno, a U.S. News & World Report National Tier 1 University. With a curriculum that features courses such as Federal Taxation, Governmental and Not-for-Profit Accounting, and Ethics and Professional Responsibility in Accounting, our versatile program prepares the accountants of tomorrow for careers in the private or public sector and is founded on best practices and strong ethics.