Throughout the United States, the morning commute for millions of full-time workers spans the distance from their living rooms to their kitchen tables. The internet has revolutionized the daily grind for people in a host of occupations and industries. In fact, based on the most recent statistics from Gallup, close to 40% of full-time employees perform 100% of their traditional work-related duties from home. That’s up from an average of just 4% in 2019.
As the world begins to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s anticipated that some form of work from home will persist. In a July 2021 PwC survey, less than 20% of executives stated that they wanted to return to a pre-pandemic version of the office.
Some of these telecommuting workers are accountants. As with several other remote positions that have become available — due in part to the effects of the pandemic — remote accounting roles are increasingly common among firms of all sizes. How can you find these virtual accounting jobs? And do virtual accountants perform the same work as those who work in an office setting?
What Does a Virtual Accountant Do?
Whether it’s verifying financial transactions, bookkeeping, preparing tax documents, reviewing transactions or preparing statements, accountants are involved in numerous tasks that are largely administrative in nature. The key distinction for virtual accountants isn’t what they do, but where they do it from. Through enterprise resource management software, cloud computing and a reliable internet connection, accountants who work remotely can log on from just about anywhere to complete their work.
Traditionally, remote work is done from individuals’ homes, mainly because of the convenience and seamlessness of the transition. Home offices may also have other equipment that can help make their jobs easier. For example, if someone needs to have their taxes reviewed or completed, tax preparers might use copiers or printers, so they can print out what their clients send them electronically.
Here are a few other common duties of accountants, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):
- Suggest ways that clients or businesses can reduce costs or improve profits
- Recommend best practices to managers or executives
- Identify potential external and internal risks for fraud
- Assess and evaluate the efficiency of financial operations and decision-making
Given where these duties are conducted, it’s common for employers to seek experienced accountants who are familiar with accounting software and how to use it via cloud computing.
How Do I Become a Virtual Accountant?
The path to becoming a virtual accountant begins with the same education as a traditional accountant. Virtual accountants must first earn a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field, such as finance. While this is sufficient to qualify for entry-level accounting positions, those interested in pursuing advanced virtual accounting jobs may need to earn an advanced degree such as a Master of Accountancy (MAcc). This degree offers students advanced training and can lead to more career opportunities.
Earning a master’s may also be crucial to obtain a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license. While a master’s degree isn’t required for licensure, applicants can only qualify to sit for the Uniform CPA Examination after completing 150 semester hours of coursework — more than the traditional undergraduate program offers.
Holding a CPA license offers evidence of an accountant’s expertise. This can be particularly advantageous for virtual accountants, as it provides further assurance of expertise and ethics to prospective clients.
Those who obtain a CPA license must enroll in continuing education courses to keep their licenses active.
How Much Do Virtual Accounting Jobs Pay?
The salary possibilities for accountants are wide-ranging and frequently influenced by accounting experience — not where they work from. According to ZipRecruiter, accountants who worked remotely made an average annual salary of approximately $56,500 as of July 2022. ZipRecruiter also reports that the top 10% of virtual accountants nationwide earned between $73,000 and $94,000 annually. Pay can be influenced by supply and demand, cost of living, job experience, and whether the position is part time or full time.
Just as with traditional accounting jobs, virtual accounting positions can be found all over the country.
Types of Virtual Accounting Jobs
The accounting field’s virtual space consists of several jobs that those seeking to work remotely can pursue. These jobs allow individuals to take on different aspects of accounting and can help them gain experience for more advanced accounting roles.
Bookkeepers keep track of an organization’s general ledger. They record all company transactions, typically posting them into two categories: debits or costs, and credits or income. They also produce financial statements and prepare bank deposits. Some bookkeepers may also be asked to prepare invoices and make purchases. The BLS lists the 2021 median annual wage for bookkeepers at $45,560.
Accounts Payable Specialist
Accounts payable specialists perform invoicing and billing functions. They use accounting software to process invoices and transactions and ensure that payments and payroll are paid on time. They also maintain vendor relationships and analyze workflow to identify weaknesses. Payscale reports the median annual salary for the role was $46,300 as of July 2022.
Tax preparers work with clients to collect relevant financial data, use software to calculate accurate tax information, and file tax documents with appropriate government agencies. They can also act as the client’s representative regarding general relations with the agencies. The BLS reports that the 2021 mean annual wage for tax preparers was $51,080.
Accountants manage a company’s financial records to ensure accuracy and rely on financial data to identify risk and recommend solutions to potential vulnerabilities. They also evaluate a company’s financial operations to spot and fix inefficiencies and may help develop strategic financial recommendations to optimize profitability. The BLS lists the 2021 median annual wage for accountants at $77,250.
Make Virtual Accounting Your Reality
For those who want to take advantage of a career that allows them to work from anywhere, the accounting field offers numerous opportunities. Employment of accountants is expected to grow by about 7% between 2020 and 2030, adding nearly 100,000 new jobs over that period, according to the BLS.
Many job search sites allow job seekers to tailor their search to look specifically for virtual accounting roles. Users can set up alerts so they’re notified when remote positions become available, and these alerts can be customized based on location, type of accounting (e.g. public accounting) or if they’re part time or full time.
The online Master of Accountancy program at the University of Nevada, Reno, can supply you with the skills to qualify for a variety of accounting roles. In the MAcc program, you’ll not only learn the fundamentals of tax law, financial analysis and reporting, but also gain a combination of soft and hard skills that can help you succeed in business and in life. The MAcc may also provide you with a greater degree of flexibility, with the freedom to work in different industries and in various capacities — including the ability to spend your typical 40-hour workweek from the comfort of your own home.
Contact us today to learn more about how a master’s degree can open doors for you in more ways than you can possibly imagine.
Career Resource Guide for Women in Accounting
How to Prepare for the CPA Exam
What’s the Difference Between Accounting and Accountancy?
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AICPA, 150 Hour Requirement for Obtaining a CPA License
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Gallup, “Remote Workers Facing High Burnout: How to Turn It Around”
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Indeed, Tax Preparer Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications
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U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021, Tax Preparers