Entry-level accounting jobs can be a great step toward a fulfilling career. If you’re wondering what all is involved and how to land your first position, read on for some helpful advice from the pros.
“Entry-level” accounting jobs are exactly what they sound like. They are the first step on the rung of your accounting career ladder…the level at which you enter the profession.
They are the roles within an accounting firm typically done by people with little or no experience in the field. Usually, entry-level accounting jobs are filled by recent college graduates or people who have transitioned into accounting from another type of job.
Sometimes, though, experienced accountants choose to accept entry-level jobs when they move to larger firms to simply get their “foot in the door”. For instance, someone looking to work with one of the “Big 4” accounting firms (Deloitte, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Ernst & Young, or KPMG) may be willing to take a small position just to be associated with a big name…with hopes of moving up within that organization later. While getting promoted is no guarantee, everyone starts at the entry level.
Entry-level accounting job descriptions vary since every firm has slightly different things they’re looking for, but they will generally include things like:
- Perform data entry tasks
- Maintain financial records
- Track revenue and expenses
- Update general ledger
- Use data to create reports
- Assist senior accountants
The educational and skill requirements for entry-level accounting jobs usually include:
- A high school diploma (or equivalent) or an associate’s degree in accounting. Often, a bachelor’s degree is preferred.
- Good organizational skills
- Strong abilities in math and working with numbers
- Experience working with spreadsheets and accounting software
The average starting salary for beginning accounting positions, according to Salary.com (as of December 2023), is around $61,000 nationally. However, that amount can vary significantly depending on factors like education, experience, and whether or not you are working with a large firm in a big city or small firm in a small town.
Best Jobs For Accounting Majors
Entry-level positions in accounting often appear as a variety of titles. They may include Bookkeeper, Staff Accountant, Accounting Associate, Accounting Clerk, or Accounting Representative.
If you are a college student looking to develop a career in accounting, the best jobs for accounting majors usually fall to those who go on to earn their CPA certification. As we pointed out recently in another post titled “What Jobs Can a CPA Do?”, it is worth the time and effort to go the extra mile to become a CPA if you are serious about creating the best opportunities for yourself in the field of accounting. You will have access to better positions with higher salaries and even more rewarding kinds of work.
Accounting majors who become CPAs often find jobs as
- Corporate Accountants
- Chief Financial Officers
- Financial Advisors
- Finance Directors
- Tax Accountants
Virtually every industry employs CPAs, so don’t think that your opportunities are only limited to accounting firms, tax prep companies, or stuffy corporate behemoths. If your interests are in law enforcement, aerospace, education, government, healthcare, media…or whatever you can imagine…there is probably an accounting position there for you.
Where to Start Your Accounting Career
When you’re looking to land your first accounting job, however, you may not be sure where to even start.
As we’ve already mentioned, most accounting professionals begin as accounting majors in college who go on to become CPAs. It’s a path that can take about 6 years by the time you complete a Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree, and then successfully pass the CPA exam.
However, there are plenty of people who move into the world of accounting from other professions with other degree backgrounds. They manage to study for the CPA exam while working in the types of entry-level jobs we listed above.
One of the best ways to start your accounting career is by talking to accounting professionals who have been in the field for a long time. Their knowledge, experience, and industry connections can be invaluable as you navigate your accounting path. More than likely, they’ll remember how other seasoned accountants helped them along the way and they’ll be more than happy to “pay it forward” with you.
No matter where you begin, though, you can expect employers to ask several questions to see if you are right for the job. No one wants to waste time and money hiring even an entry-level accountant who isn’t a good fit.
Betterteam.com lists a few good entry-level accounting interview questions you can expect to encounter:
- “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” Use this as an opportunity to highlight not only the mathematical and organizational skills they’ll be looking for, but to also express interest in further developing yourself in areas of accounting that you haven’t had a lot of experience in yet.
- “Can you provide an example of a time when you handled a tough deadline?” In accounting, there are often firm deadlines to meet. (Especially when you’re working as an entry-level accountant at one of the “Big 4.”) Tax season, audits, and other situations require accountants to be able to produce accurate results in a short amount of time. Employers want to know that their accountants can deliver under pressure.
- “What is your familiarity with GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles)?” The Financial Accounting Standards Board regulates accounting standards in the U.S. GAAP are used to ensure consistency and accuracy regardless of where accounting services are done or by whom. Since a firm’s reputation is on the line when it comes to GAAP, they expect everyone working for them to know them well.
- “How do you avoid errors?” Good accounting is all about attention to detail. Being able to explain how you work and think in such a way as to minimize mistakes and put processes in place to check and recheck your work can be a huge selling point to potential employers.
- “What considerations do you make before updating a journal entry?” A good accountant never arbitrarily changes anything. Be able to explain how you always know which accounts are affected by an entry, whether it is increased or decreased, how much it has changed, and that everything stays in balance.
For further reading, check out this other post we did on the topic as well: “How to Become An Accountant (More Options Than You Might Think).”
Should You Use An Accounting Recruiter?
One additional thought: when you are looking for an entry-level accounting job, should you use an accounting recruiter?
There are pros and cons to using a recruiter to land your first accounting position. In many cases, they may know of job openings that have not been advertised publicly yet. Getting your resumes in before the masses can work to your advantage. They know the firms they work with well, and since they only get paid when you do (usually as a percentage of your first year’s salary), they are motivated to make sure their clients get the best opportunities possible.
However, even though they help you they don’t technically work for you. They are paid by the firms they supply, so in a pinch, they may be fine to simply plug you into any position (regardless of pay or quality) so they can get paid and go find more recruits…a matter of quantity over quality.
While they can help get your applications in front of several prospective employers, you can often land good positions on your own just as well by simply developing relationships in your area, demonstrating a good understanding of accounting, and having a willingness to work hard.
Providing Beginner Accounting Jobs (And Beyond) For 40+ Years
Our firm has been serving clients all across West Tennessee at our 6 offices (and the U.S. remotely) for over four decades now. We have been honored to help quite a few beginning accountants get started in long and rewarding careers. To find out how we can help you in landing your first entry-level accounting job, schedule a call with one of our pros today.