Accounting skills : How to Become an Accounting Consultant

Most accountants work from accounting firms or home offices that offer accounting services to the public, private companies or the government. However, a growing section of the accounting trade is offering their services as business consultants, helping businesses and people to restructure their financial reporting, analyze fiscal data and conform to new regulations. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the demand for accountants and auditors will rise approximately 16 percent in the next decade, meaning there is still steady growth in the industry. Accounting consultants must be leaders in their field, who can offer advice and solutions to people after thoughtful research. Learn how to become an accounting consultant.

  • Develop advanced skills in mathematics and computers. Today’s accountants must have technical skill in both areas to handle the demands and changes of the industry. Start taking advanced math and computer classes in high school.
  • Earn a bachelor’s degree in accounting. If you aspire to be a consultant, you will want to choose a bachelor’s degree over an associate’s degree in order to advance quickly and gain leadership experience. Earn at least 120 credits in your program, and opt for more credits if possible.

    o Earn the additional 30 credits needed to become a certified CPA. Most states require 150 credit hours. Applying for certification may take a year or 2 because you are required to get work experience under a licensed CPA; however, you can take extra credits to achieve the educational requirement.

  • Work an internship while still in college. This will allow you to choose whether you want to be in public accounting, work in the government, work with large financial institutions or work in auditing. The most popular choice is certified public accounting (CPA).
  • Apply to entry to mid-level positions in accounting firms. Bachelor’s degree graduates with internship experience may be able to move into associate positions more quickly than other graduates. Apply for a job with the type of accounting firm (business, public, government) you would like to work with.

    o If possible, apply to accounting firms that offer a wide variety of services. You need a broad range of experiences in order to become a consultant, so you should be exposed to different industries.

  • Earn your certification. You can choose to be either a Certified Public Accountant or a Certified Management Accountant (CMA). You have 18 months to pass all portions of the test once you start the process, if you want to be a CPA.

    o Becoming a CMA and working with financial institutions and companies is a different process. You are required to join the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) and then you have 120 days to pass 4 sections of the test.

    o Consult your state’s certification board to learn all the requirements for certification in your state. You are required to become licensed in order to offer accounting services independently.

  • Gain a master’s degree in accounting or a master’s degree in business (MBA) with an emphasis in accounting. These 2 degrees will put you on track to start your own business or become an independent business consultant. A master’s degree gives you added expertise that will make you more valuable to potential clients.

    o Earning an MBA will give you the added skills needed to create and market a consulting business when the time comes. You will eventually need to develop services, a marketing strategy and a business plan, and these courses can help you.

  • Join trade associations. As you gain expertise in a certain area, cement that knowledge by seeking training and affiliation with organizations, such as the American Institute of CPAs, the Association of Governmental Accountants and the Professional Association of Small Business Accountants. You will be required to pay yearly membership fees.

    o You may also choose to align yourself with trade organizations. If you work with the oil and gas industry, you may want to join the National Petroleum Institute to receive information on new legislation regularly.

  • Research and take classes on many different types of accounting software. You should have a broad knowledge base, so that you can recommend accounting systems to your clients. If you are looking for continuing education credits to stay licensed, this is an excellent way to earn them.
  • Network with trade organizations, local charity groups and community organizations. Take on roles as the treasurer or leader of the organization to develop useful contacts. Gain friends that can refer clients to you when you become a consultant.
  • Begin consulting on a part-time basis. Few people are able to gain full-time work when they first start consulting. If your job entitles you to do accounting consulting outside of the office, do this to start building a client list.
  • Start your accounting consulting business. Spend plenty of time developing a business plan, getting financing for start up costs and developing professional marketing materials.
  • Market yourself. Learn to play golf or find another way to network with the people who would hire you. As a consultant, you must take advantage of every referral and develop a reputation for excellence.
  • Become a leader in your field. Attend conferences, write an expert blog or articles and develop thoughtful and successful changes for companies. You should consider it your job to be well educated and develop problem solving skills for a variety of industries and companies.

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