A job that adds up

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- When it comes to finding and prospering on the job, to truly succeed you need to know where the jobs are.

Finance is the strongest sector in Arizona right now, and we found one career that fits right in -- with a big paycheck and lots of security. That job is accounting.

And as we found out from accountant Richard Swetonic, it is not all about math.

“A lot of people think that if I go into the field of accounting or finance, all I have to deal with are numbers, and that is not necessarily the case," he said.

Swetonic, who handles account development at Moss Adams, says if your idea of a Certified Public Accountant involves tax forms and adding machines, think again.

“Because typically when you are working with a client, yes, you are going into some detailed technical accounting areas, but you need to be able to communicate those issues, communicate the answers properly with your client," Swetonic explained.

And while you do need a solid understanding of math, you do not have to be a math genius.

Accounting can be a great choice for anyone looking into a business career, says Professor Phil Drake at Arizona State University's WP Carey School of Business.

“Anybody who, you know, is reasonably intelligent and works hard can be very successful. It is not that you have to be in the upper 1 percentile to be in accounting," Drake said.

Swetonic says another secret to success is choosing a career that opens up lots of options.

“When you come out of school and go to work for an accounting firm, you get exposed to a wide array of industries, a wide array of companies, and that can really help you understand the path you want to follow," he said. “For example, you may want to focus on just corporate tax, or you may have a penchant for wanting to develop an expertise in nonprofit tax.”

It can even lead to a little detective work.

“If there is anything sexy in accounting it is forensics," Drake said. "That is because you are actually coming in after something has gone wrong and you are trying to understand why this occurred."

Swetonic added, “Typically there is some sort of litigation or some sort of business interruption that has occurred there, and you dive into some of the details of what happened; you're trying to reconstruct what happened under that situation.”

And who knows, you may just uncover a job where you can prosper for your entire career.

“Our students coming out of the master's program are probably averaging in the mid 50s. 21-22 years old, so having $55,000 starting salaries and then it goes from there," Drake said.
Swetonic added that accountants have job security.

“There is always going to be a need for accounting and tax professionals in the world of business,“ he said.

You can sit for the CPA exam with a bachelor’s degree. And while that does involve time and money, one thing we have heard again and again is that if you want to find and prosper on the job, investing in your education is one of the best things you can do.