Careers in taxation include a wide range of opportunities, and include everyone from those who work for the Internal Revenue Service reviewing tax returns and auditing companies and individuals to accountants working for private firms helping people with tax preparation and financial planning. Taxation professionals work in CPA firms, tax preparation companies and professional services firms. They can be employed by corporations or work directly for the local, state or federal government. Taxation professionals with entrepreneurial spirit can also choose to work for themselves.
Taxation careers: Becoming "cool?"
Taxation experts need to be able to work well independently and in teams, as large tax cases may require the work of several accountants. Individuals also need to have strong numerical skills and a solid understanding of tax laws and regulation. Communication skills are also important, since communicating complex financial details to clients is a key part of the job. Familiarity with computers is also a plus as accounting and financial management software is regularly used to track expenses.
One global leader in tax services describes its ideal tax professional as someone who can work equally well independently and as part of a team; who has intellectual rigor, a sound understanding of tax legislation, excellent project management skills; who is analytical and able to manage client relationships through superior interpersonal and communications skills; and who is comfortable with technology innovations and working in a dynamic, fast-paced environment. U.S. News and World Report even named accountants, financial analysts and personal financial advisers in the top 50 best careers for 2011.
This doesn't sound like the classic accountant stereotype that has prevailed for so long. With the advent of computers, which removed much of the tedium from taxation careers, today's aspiring taxation professionals may be cultivating a new image--taxation careers may even become cool.
Online taxation degree programs
The minimum education for most taxation careers is a bachelor's degree, generally in accounting or business with an accounting specialization, and some employers require a master's degree. Other online business degree options include:
- Certificates range from pre-associate, which provide a general overview of accounting careers, to post-bachelor and graduate certificates for expertise in a specialized field.
- Associate degrees provide an introduction to basic accounting and can lead to entry-level bookkeeping or clerical positions or prepare recipients to continue on to a bachelor's degree program.
- Master's degree programs include degrees in accounting with concentrations such as finance or information systems, Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs with an accounting specialization, and Master of Accounting and Master of Taxation with elective specialized coursework. Many master's degree programs are offered online for the convenience of professionals already working in the field.
- Doctoral degrees in accounting generally relate primarily to research or academia. Most degrees focus on a specific concentration for careers in government research, corporate or economic consulting, financial analysis and higher education administration.
Online taxation degrees are available at all levels. In addition to offering convenience for working professionals, online degrees in taxation allow professionals to gain familiarity with many of the Web-based platforms that may be used by accounting firms or tax preparation companies.
Salaries and career projections for tax professionals
The following taxation careers are included in the Department of Labor's list of the top 50 fastest-growing occupations that require a bachelor's degree or higher. Occupations are listed along with 2010 mean annual wages and projected employment growth from 2008-18, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
- Accountants and auditors: $68,960 (22 percent employment growth)
- Financial examiners: $82,320 (41 percent)
- Financial analysts: $84,040 (20 percent)
- Personal financial advisers: $91,220 (30 percent)
The mean annual wage for bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks was $35,340, with an expected employment growth of only 10 percent. Earning an associate degree in accounting is an excellent beginning but a comparison of salaries and job growth with other taxation careers shows that it might make sense to pursue a bachelor's or master's degree.
Taxation at a glance
- Top region for tax professionals: New York pays its tax professionals the highest wages
- Employment numbers: The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects more than 1 million accountants and auditors will be employed by 2018
- Education: Is there a new degree on the horizon? The LL.M (Master of Laws) in Taxation degree is becoming more popular