One of the most common reasons why people decide to become a CPA is so that they can have a greater range of career opportunities. But that means much more than choosing between public and private accounting, working at a big four firm or at a smaller firm, or having the freedom to start your own firm.
While you can certainly go far in your career by working as an accounting generalist, specializing in niche areas of accounting has been a growing trend in the industry. There are several areas of accounting that involve concepts and principles that generalists might not be as familiar with. So by choosing an area of accounting to specialize in, you not only find a way to stand out from your peers, you gain expertise that can allow you to provide more valuable insight to clients beyond their finances.
If you’re not completely sure what you want to do with your career after becoming a CPA, that’s okay. Learn about some of the fastest-growing types of niche accounting and see if any of them catch your interest.
If you enjoy audit and have an interest in helping investigate potential crimes, forensic accounting could be for you. Since the Sarbanes-Oxley Act was passed in 2002, demand for forensic accountants has been on the rise. Forensic accountants specialize in auditing financial reports and data to verify accuracy and to look for signs of criminal activity. A forensic accountant may be able to uncover evidence of crimes like money laundering, employee theft, securities fraud, falsified financial records, or insurance fraud.
While many forensic accountants are employed by government and law enforcement agencies, those are hardly the only options. In fact, forensic accountants can have a very wide range of employment options, such as working with insurance companies, banks, public accounting firms, non-profit organizations, corporations, and brokerage firms. Forensic accountants might also work with law firms to help determine economic damages, look for hidden assets, or to figure out child and spousal support payments.
As the world becomes more environmentally conscious, businesses need to have an accurate understanding of how their operations impact their finances and society as a whole. This can include things like the costs of pollution control measures, developing and implementing new strategies, using certain types of materials, fines and penalties, sale of pollution licenses, or finding tax deductions for taking environmentally-friendly measures.
Without environmental accounting, these types of expenses would often end up being grouped in with general overhead expenses, which makes it difficult to tie them directly to their sources. But environmental accountants are able to track these expenses with greater accuracy, which means they’re better able to focus on the big picture and identify opportunities to reduce costs.
Environmental accounting can be broken down into three different areas: management accounting, financial accounting, and national accounting. Management accounting focuses on materials, energy flow, and gathering the information an organization needs to be able to make decisions. Financial accounting focuses more on developing external reports while national accounting deals with the management and use of natural resources.
It’s no secret that technology plays a hugely important part of our lives both at home and at work. If you’re a CPA who has strong computer accounting and computer skills, you might want to consider becoming a Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP).
A CITP certification is only available to licensed CPAs and by earning it, you’re showing that you’re not just capable of working with computer programs and systems, but you understand how they function on a deeper level. Finances and technology are two of the most important things any company has to worry about, so when you have a CITP certification, employers see that you’re able to bridge the gap between the two areas. With such a strong understanding of both areas, you’re bound to become very sought after in the job market.
While there are plenty of general accounting and bookkeeping needs that businesses of all types need to handle, not all businesses have identical financial needs. Many types of businesses have unique rules and requirements that apply to their industry and CPAs who specialize in working with these types of businesses can easily build a strong career around them.
Casinos, airlines, medical clinics, insurance companies, construction firms, and tech companies are just a few types of businesses that have unique accounting challenges. For example, a construction firm might need an accountant who understands the process of bidding on public works projects while casinos have lots of complex regulations and reporting requirements to deal with. By focusing on these types of businesses, CPAs are able to gain a greater understanding of the intricacies of the industry and can work with clients to help them reach their short-term and long-term goals.
If you’d rather focus on working with a certain type of business rather than businesses in a specific industry, working with startups, small businesses, or franchisees can also be a great option.
Nonprofit organizations play an important role in society, but they’re another type of organization that involves a lot of accounting challenges. Not all types of nonprofits are completely tax exempt and rules might be different for a 501(c)(3) than a 501(c)(6). And since they don’t operate the same way for-profit businesses do, different accounting practices are involved.
Because of this, many CPAs don’t want to deal with nonprofits. But if you’re willing to take the time to really learn about the financial regulations that apply to nonprofits, they can be an excellent area to specialize in. Not only are there lots of career opportunities to be found, working with organizations that focus on causes you personally support can bring a deeper level of career satisfaction.