How Open is the Accounting Field to Minorities?

Minority-AccountantHistorically, minorities in the accounting field have faced an uphill battle. Many have felt that accounting was a good old boys club that excluded women and people of color. Today, many potential accountants want to know if anything has changed. Have recent anti-discrimination laws had an effect on accounting firms? A career as an accountant offers stability and financial rewards, but how accessible is the field for minorities?

How To Become An Accountant

Although it is technically possible to work as an accountant without formal training, most job positions require a bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance or economics. The best positions require certification as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and a master’s degree in accounting or a related field. To become a CPA, you must hold a bachelor’s degree plus an additional year of college classes, and you must pass the four-part CPA examination. Additionally, you must take continuing education courses to maintain your certification. Once you complete your education, you typically start your career at a large accounting firm where you’ll receive mentoring and on-the-job training. Eventually, you can start your own business or transition to a job as a corporate accountant.

Minority Outreach

Many firms and accounting professionals recognize the need to draw minorities into the profession. Minorities in the accounting field can bring new ideas to the workplace and investment clients from a minority background don’t want to work with a firm that doesn’t value diversity.  To help attract more ethnic minorities into the field, the American Institute of CPAs hosts an annual Accounting Scholars Leadership Workshop for minority students. The workshop is coordinated by the AICPA’s director of diversity and inclusion and offers free transportation, lodging and food for attendees. Students receive valuable networking connections, an insider’s look at the field of accounting and encouragement for their career.

Potential Barriers To Minority Involvement

Becoming an accountant involves many steps. First, students must graduate with a bachelor’s degree. Many minorities find college a difficult experience academically and socially. Luckily, today’s universities offer support for minority students, and accounting programs may offer tutoring services and student organizations to help finance majors complete their degree.

The second step to becoming an accountant is obtaining employment with a firm. Although minorities may face some discrimination while looking for a position, today’s firms are desperate for certified accountants. With the right training, anyone can find a position as a CPA. However, minority candidates should be aware that many financial employers are now looking at employee’s SAT and ACT scores . Because minorities typically score lower on standardized tests, too much emphasis on these scores could be a barrier for minority candidates. If your high school test scores were not as high as you would have liked, you can make up that deficit during college by getting involved in student activities, leadership positions and doing well in your classes.

Today, accounting is a meritocracy that works hard to prevent discrimination. With the right education and a commitment to acing the CPA exam, minorities in the accounting field can enjoy a fulfilling career.