Accounting is one of the country's most competitive fields. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the current U.S. workforce includes more than 1.2 million professional accountants, and this number stands to rise more than 13% over the next eight years. If you're an accounting student, then you may want to supplement your education by seeking out professional organizations, open access journals, and other online resources that can steer you toward professional success.
Accounting is a professional field associated with many different professional organizations. These groups can help newly graduated students prepare for the CPA and other important exams, network with accountants and other individuals who work in finance, learn about seminars and conferences in their city or state, and beef up their skill sets through continuing education courses.
- The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA): Regarded as the largest professional accountant organization in the world, the AICPA (founded in 1887) consists of nearly 400,000 members in 128 countries. The organization requires annual dues that generally run between $225 and $415; however, certain individuals (such as retirees or military veterans) may receive discounted or waived membership.
- Institute of Management Accountants (IMA): This organization is specifically geared toward accountants who serve as corporate executives. IMA provides training materials for the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) credential, which has been offered for more than 40 years. Currently, the organization consists of more than 60,000 members.
- National Society of Accountants (NSA): This organization emphasizes the role of technology within the accounting industry, and works with both established professionals and prospective accountants who are currently earning a college degree. Members receive unlimited access to four publications that cover different niche areas of the accounting field.
- American Accounting Association (AAA): Nearly 100 years old, the AAA is a volunteer organization primarily geared toward accountants with an interest in academic research. Students and faculty members who join will receive access to two authoritative resources, the FASB Accounting Standards Codification Professional View and Governmental Accounting Research System, and they may submit work to be presented at the AAA Annual Meeting held every August.
- International Federation of Accountants (IFAC): Headquartered in New York, this global organization consists of 179 permanent members who represent roughly 2.5 million accountants across 130 different countries and jurisdictions. IFAC's main goal is to standardize the profession of accounting on a worldwide scale through ethical review and international collaboration.
Today's students are invited to enroll in web-based open courses sponsored by some of the world's leading colleges and universities. Unlike traditional college courses, open courses are typically offered free-of-charge to students regardless of their major or enrollment status at their own school.
- Introduction to Financial and Managerial Accounting - MIT: This course, which is hosted by MIT OpenCourseWare is taught by Prof. Sugata Roychowdhury, an associate professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management. The course is taught from the perspective of those who read and review financial reports (rather than the accountants who compile them), with the goal of providing an alternative perspective for accounting students.
- Business Accounting Using Financial Statements - MIT: This graduate-level course offered through MIT OpenCourseWare explains how accountants can perform different analyses to determine the financial status and value of a given firm or organization. The course is moderated by Peter Wysocki, a former MIT Sloan School of Management associate, who is today a professor at the Miami University School of Business Administration.
- Fundamentals of Business Analysis - UC Irvine: This seven-part course focuses on different strategies for accountants to employ when analyzing the financial efficacy of firms and organizations. Chapters include 'Enterprise Analysis', 'Elicitation', and Requirements of Management and Communication.' The course's primary source text is the Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK).
Open Access Journals
Historically, access to academic journals has been reserved for college students, faculty members, and paying subscribers. In recent years, however, many journal publishers have begun to upload their publications online and allow anyone to access new and archived entries free-of-charge. The following journals are some of the most well-renowned open access publications concentrated in the field of accounting.
- The International Journal of Digital Accounting Research: Founded in 2001, this journal focuses on the intersecting fields of accounting and information technology. With the increasing popularity (and necessity) of online platforms as effective business analysis tools, accountants working today must incorporate web-related skills into their profession. Past journal entries in the IJDAR have covered topics like online corporate reporting, e-commerce, social analytics, and webmetrics.
- Accounting and Finance Research: Founded in 2012, this publication explores the role of accounting in investments, the stock market, insurance, capital markets, and other topics related to personal and corporate finance. Past entries include "Charitable Donations: Feeling Good but Hardly Worth It," and "Earnings Management and the Financial Statement Analyst." This journal is available in both print and online versions.
- Journal of Accounting and Economics: This publication explores how - and why - accounting and economic theory are related. Many authors approach common accounting problems using economic analyses, while others discuss the merits (and inherent difficulties) of applying broad economic standards to firms and organizations that manage their accounts differently. Readers have access to 57 different volumes, with an archive that dates back to 1979.
- Asian Journal of Finance & Accounting: Any experienced accountant or financial analyst understands the strong correlation between market strength in the U.S. and the economic activity in China, Japan, South Korea, and other major Asian powers. This bi-annual journal is devoted to articles and research that explore the economic relationship between the East and the West, as well as political, cultural, and social factors that play a role in the dynamic between Asia and the rest of the world.
Online journals and open courses are some of the cutting-edge ways that accountants can hone skills that allow them to advance their careers. However, the time-honored art of reading a book still benefits accountants who are hoping to learn more about the intricacies of their professions. Here are some popular, critically acclaimed book titles for accounts to download or check out from the library.
- Financial Statements: A Step-by-Step Guide to Understanding and Creating Financial Reports: Thomas R. Ittelson, a lifelong consultant to entrepreneurs, fully understands how to explain the process of financial reporting to inexperienced accountants. This title represents his wealth of knowledge. Ittelson not only delves into every facet of preparing financial reports, but also takes time to explain the importance of each key concept. The title has proven to be exceedingly popular with readers; more than 100,000 copies have gone into print since the book was first published five years ago.
- Closing the Books: An Accountant's Guide: Steven Bragg (an author with dozens of books to his name) is not only a licensed CPA, but has also served as the CFO or controller of four different organizations and worked as a consulting manager for Ernst & Young. In this 2011 publication, Bragg presents the fundamentals of accounting - from meeting clients and initially collecting information to putting the finishing touches on a financial statement - in a manner that is both insightful and easy-to-read.
- The Accounting Game: Basic Accounting Fresh from the Lemonade Stand: Judith Orloff and Darrell Murris use familiar parables to explain the complexities of accounting in this bestseller from 2008. The authors present the information in a fun way, but this isn't a book for kids. The bulk of the material concerns the three most commonly encountered types of financial statements (cash flow, income, and balance), as well as all of the industry jargon accountants need to familiarize themselves with if they hope to succeed.
- Accounting: Tools for Business Decision Making: Three authors - all experienced accountants with previous titles to their name - are credited for this 2011 publication. The text essentially works backward, beginning with fundamental accounting concepts and then gradually delving into specific conditions and problems that accountants are likely to encounter in different industries and sectors.
Online Industry Magazines
Industry magazines are another great printed resource for accountants to use. In addition to informative articles penned by some of today's most renowned accountants, financial analysts, and economic theorists, these titles often include product blurbs, literary reviews, software tutorials, and other practical materials.
- Accounting Today: In print for more than 25 years, this catch-all magazine shares articles and editorials that touch on various topics that pertain to personal and corporate accounting. In addition, Accounting Today runs a well-renowned podcast, and the website features an extensive blog with posts from the magazine's top correspondents and columnists. The parent company is SourceMedia, which owns and operates more than 40 industry-specific publications.
- Tax Pro Today: Another SourceMedia publication, Tax Pro Today concentrates on matters related to the preparation and filing of taxes for households, companies, and non-profit organizations. Although the magazine publishes issues year-round, it is a valuable resource during that hectic January-April period unaffectionately known as "tax season."
- Journal of Corporate Accounting & Finance: This journal is not open-access, but anyone with a Wiley subscription (which includes many students and college faculty members nationwide) may access the archived materials that date back to 1989. The entries are generally aimed at CEOs and other executives, as well as auditors and accountants brought in to manage corporate finances.
- Journal of Accountancy: Contrary to the name, this publication's website more closely resembles that of a magazine. In addition to news articles, Journal of Accountancy publishes a handful of columns that focus on specific areas of accounting, such as "Tax Matter" and "Inside the AICPA." An iPad app is also available.
Blogs essentially cover the same topics as industry magazines or journals, but they differ sharply in their presentation. Generally, blogs are informal publications that use a conversational tone and shy away from overly technical jargon, but the best blogs (like the ones listed below) still manage to convey important facts and data to their readers.
- Going Concern: This "online tabloid" focuses on the movers and shakers influencing the past, present, and future world of accounting and corporate finance. The blog neatly organizes its past entries into catch-all categories (such as 'Accounting Firms,' 'CPA Exam,' and 'Salaries'), allowing readers to easily navigate the extensive archives to find the information they need.
- Accounting Coach: If you're an accountant or business owner with questions, then Harold Averkamp, CPA and published author, has answers. Mr. Averkamp's blog is fashioned after traditional advice columns, allowing readers to submit queries and receive feedback from the man himself. The blog also features web tutorials, a glossary of business terms, and quizzes to help readers gauge their expertise in different areas of accounting.
- Forensic Accounting Blog: Many accountants will primarily investigate fraud, false claims, and other criminal activities related to financial reporting. This field is known as forensic accounting, and Bond Beebe Accountants & Advisors have created a blog exclusively devoted to this niche industry. In addition to an archive of blog posts that dates back to 2008, the site features legal contacts and an extensive FAQ page.
Who to Follow on Twitter
Twitter is one of the more unconventional methods of obtaining information online, but the social media platform's explosive popularity in all realms of business has transformed the site into a meeting-place for like-minded professionals. Here are some of the most popular Twitter handles that accountants are following and retweeting today.
- National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA): This is the official Twitter handle of the national organization that (in cooperation with the AICPA) oversees the administration and evaluation of CPA exams in the country's 55 state boards of accountancy. The account averages two to three tweets per day, typically providing updates related to the CPA exam process or sharing links to helpful accounting articles.
- American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA): Like the organization that owns it, this Twitter handle is devoted to sharing practical, important information with the general public in regard to accounting and financial management practices. In addition to this national handle, many state chapters of the AICPA maintain their own Twitter accounts and provide specific information for residents and accountants working there.