How To Become An Accountant (More Options Than You Might You Think)

Oct 11, 2023 | Accounting Career

As a CPA firm with over 40 years of experience, taking care of the accounting needs of our clients is second nature for us. We love what we do, and believe that we are in an incredibly rewarding profession. 

However, many young people who are entering college and deciding what to do with their futures are overlooking accounting as a career path. If you’re in that position (or thinking about switching careers), we think you owe it to yourself to reconsider.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 126,000 new jobs in accounting are expected to be created annually over the next 10 years. Unfortunately, the last several years have seen a decline in graduates from accounting degree programs. The Journal of Accountancy reports 2.8% fewer accounting undergraduates, 8.4% fewer master’s-level graduates, and 17% fewer people choosing to take the CPA exam since 2019.

We believe this means that the field is wide open for those who are interested! You may be wondering how to become an accountant, so this post will help you better understand what all is involved and what you need to do to get started.

How long to become an accountant

How To Become An Accountant

Accounting is a great profession. It has a long history of being one of the most stable and trusted careers around. 

There are several negative perceptions about accountants among nonaccountant types, though:

  • Accounting is boring.
  • Accountants are just “bean counters” and “number crunchers”.
  • They work long hours all the time. (More on how CRS CPAs handles that in a minute.)
  • All they do is prepare taxes.
  • You have to be good at math.
  • Accountants are stuck in cubicles all day.

Those stereotypes simply aren’t true across the board…or at least, they don’t have to be. 

Accounting is challenging but rewarding. And helping clients achieve financial goals is a lot of fun. When you put your skills to work to help people succeed in their businesses and personal lives, the result is a career that is worthwhile and satisfying.

A career as an accountant doesn’t mean that you have to become a partner at an accounting firm, either. You can make a difference in all sorts of roles within the accounting industry. Rasmussen University lists 9 types of accountants who do more than just taxes.

  1. Certified Public Accountant (CPA) – the most recognizable designation within the accounting world (more on how to earn this title in a minute)
  2. Forensic Accountant – perfect for people who like to solve mysteries
  3. Auditor – ideal if precision is your passion
  4. Management Accountant – good for those who are “people persons” since this role involves helping business leaders make good decisions with accurate financial data
  5. Cost Accountant – for those who love efficiency and figuring out ways to make things run better
  6. Government Accountant – as government grows so does the need for good people who can help keep track of money
  7. Project Accountant – a good fit for those who enjoy variety and prefer a more freelance lifestyle
  8. Investment Accountant – for those who love making money grow through the fast pace of stocks, bonds, and mutual fund management
  9. Staff Accountant – helping businesses of all sizes with everyday accounting tasks

As you can see there are plenty of things to do as an accountant, none of which have to be boring or involve being stuck in a cubicle for 80 hours a week. 

When you put your skills to work to help people succeed in their businesses and personal lives, the result is a career that is worthwhile and satisfying.

Now let’s help answer some questions about how to become an accountant.

How Hard Is It To Become An Accountant?

Becoming an accountant isn’t as easy as simply announcing that you are one, but it isn’t as difficult as you might think, either. The subjects you must master can be challenging and intense at times, but if you put in the time and effort you’ll do just fine.

In case you’re wondering “how much does it cost to become an accountant”, here are some numbers for you to keep in mind:

  • Undergraduate degree – According to U.S. News & World Report, the average annual in-state public university tuition is $10,662 (for 2023-24). Private tuition is nearly 4x more at $42,162.
  • Graduate degree – The average cost for a Master of Science in Accounting is around $19,000 per year. (Of course, you can spend much more than that at elite private colleges, if you want.)
  • CPA certification – Costs vary by state (so check your local requirements), but here in Tennessee it would look something like this:
    • Application Fee – $155
    • AICPA (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants) Ethics Exam – $149
    • CPA Exam (4 sections) – $743
    • Total: $1047

How Long Does It Take To Become An Accountant?

Now that you know a little more about the costs of becoming an accountant, the next question is “How long does it take?”

If you go the traditional route through college and grad school, you can expect to spend at least 6 years before walking across the stage to receive your Masters degree.

Additionally, in order to qualify to take the CPA exam in Tennessee, you’ll have to work at least 1 year (2,000 hours) in an accounting-related role under the supervision of a licensed CPA. ( has a great summary on their site.)

This is one of the main pain points that aspiring CPAs all face: you want to get your foot in the door in order to become an accountant, but it’s hard to work in accounting without being an accountant!

But with some perseverance and the willingness to put in the effort, you can make the connections you need to get the experience required to qualify for your CPA certification.

How Can I Become An Accountant Without A Degree?

In order to be a CPA, you will need to have a bachelor’s degree or higher. However, there are many accounting jobs that do not require a degree.

  • Accounting Clerk
  • Accounting Assistant
  • Auditing Clerk
  • Bookkeeper

Indeed has a good article on “How To Become An Accountant Without a Degree” with more information on these jobs and the typical salaries they produce. 

These can also be great stepping stones to help you get that experience you need while working on a degree if becoming a CPA is your ultimate goal.

How Can I Become An Accountant With A Different Degree?

You might be surprised to learn that you do not have to have an accounting degree to be a CPA or work in accounting. You can become an accountant with an unrelated degree (such as business, math, law, economics, or even psychology) and still be a great CPA. 

In fact, some of what you learn in those fields can actually make you a better CPA. The folks on our team are able to go far beyond filing taxes and provide valuable business services to our clients. 

To take the CPA exam in Tennessee, you simply need to:

  • have a college degree
  • 150 hours total in class time (but only some need to be in accounting)
  • work for at least 1 year under a CPA

At our firm, we understand the challenges involved with becoming a CPA. That’s why we offer financial assistance for study courses for the exam and the costs associated with taking the exam. Those who qualify to work with us start in an “intern” or “associate” role while they are in that process since you can’t legally use the word “accountant” in your title until you are officially a certified CPA.

how to become an accountant without a degree

Become An Accountant Where It Matters

If you are interested in becoming a CPA, we’d love to invite you to become an accountant where it matters and you can make a difference in people’s lives. AND we don’t make our team members work 60-80 hour weeks to do it…we cap the time you have to work at reasonable levels so you can still have a life!

We love to tell our clients to “expect more from your CPA,” and we enjoy going above and beyond for them. (Here are 8 big reasons they trust us for more than bookkeeping and accounting!)We’ve got locations all over West Tennessee (Jackson, Dyersburg, Paris, Milan, Martin, and Brownsville – near the new Blue Oval City). So schedule a call to learn more about discovering your calling in accounting today.

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