An accounting consultant provides clients such as companies and individuals with services to help analyze financial information and make important business decisions. Their responsibilities involve creating and analyzing financial documents, looking for financial areas needing improvement, optimizing accounting procedures and forecasting future profits. Accounting consulting jobs involve tailoring services to the client and require a strong academic and professional background in accounting. Opportunities exist in a variety of professional services firms, and offering consulting services on your own is an option.
Accounting consulting professionals help clients with financial management, financial forecasting and auditing. Rather than managing day-to-day transactions like bookkeepers, their responsibilities mostly include analyzing financial documents, offering advice on improving profitability, predicting future costs and revenues, and checking for compliance with financial regulations. Collaborating with business leaders, they also prepare and file financial reports and tax documents, conduct tax research and suggest ways to improve financial reporting processes. This advisory role requires attention to detail and good analytical skills to make observations based on complex financial data and avoid mistakes. Staying organized while working with multiple clients and communicating findings clearly are crucial.
In addition to looking for previous experience in accounting, firms hiring accounting consultants typically require at least a bachelor’s degree related to accounting or finance. These programs focus on accounting principles, regulations and financial reporting and often involve internships for practical experience. Companies often prefer a graduate degree and may require the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) credential. CPA candidates need additional credits beyond a bachelor’s degree to qualify to take the set of exams, so earning a master’s degree or completing advanced accountancy coursework can meet the education requirement. State requirements vary, but verified accounting work experience is often an additional requirement to get the CPA license.
Rather than managing the finances of a single company, accounting consultants more often work for specialized accounting agencies, finance companies and business consultancy firms that assist many clients. Others choose a freelance CPA role where they have to seek their own clients and more freedom over their work. Offering accounting advice to multiple clients can require traveling to different locations. Overtime is not uncommon for accounting consultants, especially between January and April when the busy tax season occurs. Freelance accounting consultants have the most control over their workload and can work with fewer clients if they choose.
Years of Experience and Salary
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median earnings for accountants and auditors are $69,350 as of May 2017, with half making less money and half making more. Accounting wages fall below $43,020 for the bottom 10 percent of workers and rise above $122,220 for the top 10 percent. Accounting services firms pay $83,000 on average, while management consultancy services firms offer $80,840 on average. Accountants earn the most in District of Columbia, where they average $96,880. They earn the least in Mississippi, where they average $59,960.
Other factors such as self-employment and work experience can affect accounting consulting wages. Freelance consultants can charge their own rates, so earnings vary widely. As of August 2018, PayScale reports these salary ranges for accounting consultants to show how work experience has an effect:
0 to 5 years: $40,234 – $79,718
5 to 10 years: $40,901 – $103,841
10 to 20 years: $53,582 – $110,668
20 or more years: $39,453 – $116,099
Job Growth Trend
The BLS shows a positive job outlook for accounting consulting specialist jobs, with fast job growth of 10 percent between 2016 and 2026. This will add around 139,900 accounting positions over the decade. When the economy is strong, companies of all sizes need accounting professionals who can help with financial analysis and documentation and the complexities of international business. Being a CPA and having a graduate business degree can give you an advantage looking for accounting consulting positions in large companies.