Numbers span all languages and cultures, creating what is known as the language of business: accounting. The earliest accounting records date back thousands of years to the use of an abacus, a rudimentary counting tool. As the workplace has progressed, so has the role of the accounting professional. This has been particularly evident in recent years; the integration of technology in accounting has created many specializations and job opportunities within the field – from forensic accounting to health care IT auditors.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, accountants, auditors, financial bookkeepers and clerks rank among the top 25 occupations in the nation – and the employment of accountants and auditors is expected to grow 16 percent by 2020. This increasing diversity of career paths and the bright employment future are attracting many professionals to a career in accounting.
“Accounting is an exciting, expanding field going beyond traditional corporate and public accounting; the evolution of technology’s role in the field has allowed new concentrations to emerge,” says Sarah Engle, professor of accountancy in the College of Business and Management at DeVry University and owner of Black River Tax Prep. “Technology has expanded the traditional boundaries associated with the profession. Mobile devices and cloud computing, for instance, allow small and mid-size accounting firms to broaden their reach to clients worldwide.”
The need for accountants with professional specializations is on the rise. The demand for forensic accountants, for instance, has expanded with the fallout from high-profile financial scandals like Enron and Lehman Brothers. These accountants focus on disputes or litigation in civil or criminal law and often investigate corporate and securities fraud, insurance and personal injury claims and computer fraud. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has adapted by adding forensic accountants to its roster of permanent positions. According to research by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), the top three characteristics for a forensic accountant to possess are analytical, detail oriented and ethical.
Environmental or “green” accounting is also a growing field. With sustainability and environmental protection becoming more prominent objectives in today’s business world, green accountants will be employed to help leaders make more informed decisions. Accountants with expertise in both traditional accounting and various environmental technologies are needed to provide a more comprehensive analysis of the future cost of business.
“Today’s accountants need a widened skill set, learning and leveraging both hard and soft skills,” says Shanae Bond, a staff accountant at Macy’s and alumnae of DeVry University’s Keller Graduate School of Management. “For example, I use both fundamental accounting principles and economics each day as well as critical thinking and customer service skills.”
There are varied educational paths for accountants, but most positions require at least a bachelor’s degree. Many professionals in the field choose to earn a master’s degree and certification, such as becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), to enhance their resume and marketability.
DeVry University, for example, is helping to meet the demand of this booming industry by offering several bachelor’s degree programs that can lead to an accounting career. Courses such as cost accounting, ethics and fraud, and accounting information systems allow students to gain insight and experience that will translate in the working world.
The language of business has evolved. Future generations of accountants will have many diverse opportunities if they are well-educated and possess the skills required of today’s business world.