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Accounting: A pathway for career success

Lisa A. Owens-Jackson and Charles F. Malone / August 12, 2016

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For high school students planning for college, senior year can be an exciting and confusing time. Many students begin their college studies without a clear plan. The earlier a student develops a plan and selects his/her major the greater the likelihood of on-time degree completion (less tuition/fees). Parents and students have heard a great deal about the “STEM” fields: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Wonderful opportunities exist in these fields. However, STEM is not for everyone. This article informs students and parents about accounting and the amazing opportunities available with an accounting degree.

For accountants, unemployment is extremely low. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for accountants is expected to increase faster than economic growth. In 2015, a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers ranked accounting as the second most in-demand major. The median compensation for accountants, $67,000 per year, is about twice the national median. Corporations, like General Electric, can send accounting majors to multiple international locations within the first two years of their careers.

Lisa A. Owens-Jackson, PhD

Lisa A. Owens-Jackson, PhD, CPA

Even with all these positives, accounting has an image problem. Television, movies, and print media generally portray accountants as boring “number crunchers.” The actor Kevin Hart portrays a depressed accountant in this summer’s movie, “Central Intelligence.” This image of accountants is easy to accept but far from the truth. Successful accountants are well rounded professionals that command a high level of business knowledge and instant respect. Accountants have strong communication skills, can analyze complex business activities, work collaboratively on teams, and are comfortable dealing with numbers.

Most people are aware of tax accounting. Although tax planning and preparation are among the important services provided, accountants work in auditing, consulting, forensic, government, and corporate accounting. Many accounting graduates start their careers in public accounting positions and eventually move into senior management positions in corporations, government, and education. The FBI hires accounting graduates to investigate criminal behavior and find criminals’ assets. The TSA hires accountants to develop and enforce regulations that improve our travel safety. The Web site http://www.startheregoplaces.com, sponsored by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), can provide extensive information on accounting careers.

Charles F. Malone, PhD, CPA

Charles F. Malone, PhD, CPA

Even with high demand, there remains significant underrepresentation of minorities in the profession. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015 African Americans comprised 11.7 percent of the labor force but only 9.5 percent of accountants. Only 7.4 percent of Hispanic/Latinos are accountants, while they make up 16.4 percent of the labor force. Organizations such as the AICPA, the North Carolina Association of Certified Public Accountants, the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA), and the Association of Latino Professionals For America (ALPFA) have initiatives to increase diversity in the accounting profession.

North Carolina A&T State University’s (A&T) accounting program is one of the largest producers of African American CPAs. The Aggie accounting program was developed by the legendary Quiester Craig, one of the nation’s first African American accounting PhDs. This spring, Essence and MONEY magazines ranked A&T ninth (out of more than 1500 colleges) as the best colleges for African Americans. A&T is one of only 180 schools in the world with AACSB accounting accreditation. The accounting program has wonderful facilities, a great student-teacher ratio, and a committed faculty (70 percent have active CPA licenses). Many A&T accounting students obtain summer internship positions and earn over $25 per hour. The Department of Accounting and Finance distributed over $120,000 in scholarships in 2015-2016.

What do the president of GE Asset Management, a senior executive with Bank of America, the Chief Financial Officer of the US Olympic Committee, and the CEO of an entertainment industry financial services firm have in common? They are all accounting graduates of North Carolina A&T State University. Let A&T’s Accounting program help you discover a pathway for a successful and dynamic career. You are encouraged to contact Dr. Kevin James, the department chairperson, at (336) 285-3370 or kljames@ncat.edu for information about the accounting program.


Charles F. Malone, PhD, CPA is an associate professor and Lisa A. Owens-Jackson, PhD, CPA is an associate dean and associate professor in the Department of Accounting & Finance at North Carolina A&T State University.




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