Professional Development Could Advance Your Accounting Career

Professional Development Could Advance Your Accounting Career


You're a good accountant with a couple of years of experience under your belt, a stable position in the company and a nice salary. But now that you're comfortable with both your tasks and your workload, you've started thinking about advancing your accounting career. Why? Though you keep up with all of the developments in your field, you want to build on your specific skills and area of expertise. In addition, you'd like to earn a more senior position in the not-too-far future. But how do you know the best approach to advance your career?

Know the Playing Field

According to, Certified Public Accountant (CPA) firms are losing managers and senior staff at a rate of 10 to 35 percent each year. Some staff go to other CPA firms, while many accept positions as a CFO or controller in industry. The most commonly cited reason for leaving is a disconnect between employers' investments in training, coaching and development and employees' individual career goals. In addition, as of June last year, 61 percent of all partners in CPA companies were over 50 years of age, meaning that over the next decade, with accelerating retirements, there will be an increased demand for senior personnel.

What does this mean for you? It should be apparent that in the accounting field, there's room for new blood to advance to more senior positions. In fact, there's a need for it. And as a consequence, your employer might be more open than ever to supporting your professional development.

Plan Your Course

It's always a good idea to have the advice of a mentor, no matter where you are in your career. A more experienced CPA can help you determine what direction you want to go with your career, as well as advise you on how to approach challenging situations. Discuss with your mentor what your career goals are and how quickly you can realistically attain them. Then plan what skills you will need to develop and what areas of expertise you should study more. In addition, look ahead for high-value career opportunities that will offer you the opportunity to put your acquired knowledge into practice.

Deciding What Professional Development Courses to Take

As a CPA, you have to earn a number of Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits each year in order to maintain your certification. Credit requirements vary from state to state, and the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) has its own CPE requirements for maintaining membership. So when deciding what courses you need, you should first look at your state requirements before choosing training in your area of expertise.

Though there are many companies that offer CPE, the best place to start is the AICPA. On its Professional Development page, you can find information on self-study courses, group-study courses and live web events. In addition, it offers a variety of training options that deal with topics like:

  • ethics
  • forensic accounting
  • not-for-profit accounting
  • fraud
  • tax
  • government

Before signing up for any course, evaluate if it fits your career plans. It's also a good idea to look outside of the accounting field for courses on management, public speaking, leadership and networking. Not only will this give you a broader knowledge, but it will also help you expand your network with professionals outside of the accounting field.

Get Your Boss on Board

According to the Minnesota Society of Certified Public Accountants, it's critical for accounting firms to invest in their staff's continuing education. This allows both employees and firms to remain competitive. And your employer is likely aware of the value that additional training brings to the company.

Before you approach your boss about the possibility of getting part or all of your CPE funded by the firm, do your homework. Make a list of courses that will benefit both your employer and yourself. Research the costs, dates and duration. Know how to demonstrate that it's a win-win situation for both parties. And just for your own peace of mind, know how much you're willing to pay yourself if necessary. Once you're prepared, ask for a meeting with your boss to discuss the matter.

Advancing your accounting career takes careful planning, dedication and energy. But with the prospect of a relatively large number of senior positions opening up over the next decade, your investment might very well prove to be the best career move you ever make.