Navigating a Career Change From Accounting: Embracing a New Professional Horizon [2023]

One of the major career trends of the 21st century is the increasing fluidity and dynamism of career paths. Gone are the days when a single job or industry would define a lifetime career. Instead, we are witnessing an era where career changes are not only common but also increasingly encouraged. A career change can often serve as a catalyst for personal growth and professional development. It provides opportunities to learn new skills, explore new arenas, and cultivate a more diversified professional identity. One such career shift that many individuals consider is a career change from accounting.

Accounting: A Solid Starting Point

Accounting is a highly respected profession known for its rigorous standards, solid skill set, and considerable career opportunities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of accounting is projected to grow 6% from 2021 to 2031, as fast as the average for all occupations (BLS, 2022). It is a field that provides a strong foundation in business practices, financial literacy, analytical thinking, and a keen eye for detail.

However, despite these advantages, some accountants find themselves yearning for a change. They may seek greater creative fulfillment, a more flexible work-life balance, an interest in a new field, or a desire to learn new skills. Some might be simply tired of the routine, predictable nature of accounting work. Regardless of the reason, making a career change from accounting is a significant decision that requires careful consideration and strategic planning.

Understanding The Shift: Why Change Careers?

As identified in the landmark study of Sullivan and Baruch (2009), the modern career is characterized by boundaryless career orientations. This refers to a career that is not tied to a single organization, instead is flexible, comprises multiple roles, and spans across different sectors and industries. They found that individuals with a boundaryless mindset are more likely to seek a career change, driven by their desire for learning, development, and variety.

Likewise, a study by the University of Michigan found that individuals change careers for reasons as varied as the individuals themselves (Dobrow Riza, Ganzach, & Liu, 2018). For some, the drive comes from a deep desire for personal growth or self-fulfillment. For others, changes in personal circumstances or economic conditions might necessitate a career shift.

5 Steps to a Successful Career Change

1. Self-Assessment:

The first step in any successful career change is self-assessment. In his study, psychologist John Holland proposed the RIASEC model, also known as Hollandโ€™s Occupational Themes (Holland, 1985). This model suggests that individuals can be classified into six types: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional. Holland’s theory suggests that individuals will find satisfaction in careers that match their personality type.

Accountants usually fit into the ‘Conventional’ category, known for being organized, detail-oriented, and good with numbers. However, if your personality aligns more with one of the other five categories, it may indicate that you are ready for a change.

Table 1: Holland’s Occupational Themes

ThemeCharacteristicsCareer Examples
RealisticHands-on, practical, physical activities, likes to work with thingsEngineer, Mechanic, Forester
InvestigativeAnalytical, intellectual, likes to study and solve problemsScientist, Physician, Programmer
ArtisticCreative, original, independent, likes creating and interpreting thingsWriter, Artist, Musician
SocialHelpful, cooperative, empathic, likes to work with peopleTeacher, Counselor, Nurse
EnterprisingAmbitious, energetic, leadership-oriented, likes to influence othersSales, Manager, Entrepreneur
ConventionalDetail-oriented, organized, likes rules and routinesAccountant, Banker, Editor

2. Identify Transferrable Skills:

Transferable skills are the skills you have acquired during your time as an accountant that can be applied to new roles or industries. These skills can range from the technical (financial analysis, data management, compliance) to the more general (problem-solving, attention to detail, and organizational skills). Recognizing these transferable skills can help you understand the value you bring to a new role and can inform your career change strategy.

See also  Mastering the Career Change from Banking [2023]

Table 2: Transferable Skills from Accounting

Transferable SkillsDescription
Financial AnalysisAbility to interpret financial data and make informed decisions.
Data ManagementProficiency in collecting, organizing, and interpreting data.
ComplianceUnderstanding of laws and regulations to ensure business operations are legally compliant.
Problem-SolvingAbility to identify problems, analyze potential solutions, and implement effective plans of action.
Attention to DetailCapacity to focus on the specifics of a project or task, ensuring accuracy and preventing errors.
Organizational SkillsAbility to manage time, prioritize tasks, and stay organized in a busy environment.

3. Career Exploration:

Once you have a clearer understanding of your interests and skills, it’s time to explore potential careers that align with your assessment. This is where networking comes into play. Connect with professionals in fields you’re interested in, attend industry events, and consider informational interviews.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook is a useful resource for career exploration. It provides detailed information about various occupations, including job descriptions, work environment, educational requirements, and career outlook.

4. Acquire Necessary Skills:

A career change may require you to learn new skills. Whether through formal education, online courses, or self-learning, investing in skill development is essential for transitioning to a new field successfully. For example, if you’re interested in moving into a more analytical role such as data analysis, you may need to learn data manipulation languages like SQL or Python.

5. Update Your Professional Profile:

Finally, it’s time to update your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile to reflect your new career aspirations. Highlight the transferable skills you identified earlier and showcase any new skills or qualifications you’ve obtained.

Success Stories: Career Change From Accounting

Evidence of successful career transitions from accounting is not hard to find. For example, a research by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales found that out of their members, about 35% work outside of traditional accountancy roles (ICAEW, 2020). They’ve moved into roles such as financial controller, management consultant, and CEO. Their accounting background provides them with a strong foundation in financial literacy and business acumen that can be valuable in a wide range of roles.

From Accounting to IT: A Common Transition

A popular career change from accounting that many individuals consider is a shift towards the booming Information Technology (IT) industry. The dynamic nature of IT, combined with its promising career prospects, makes it an appealing choice for many accountants. Moreover, the analytical, detail-oriented mindset developed in accounting can be leveraged effectively in IT roles. If you’re considering this path, our article, “Navigating a Career Change from Accounting to IT”, provides a detailed guide on how to transition smoothly from an accounting role into the IT sector, including identifying transferrable skills, acquiring new ones, and understanding the IT landscape.

Accounting to Healthcare: A Rewarding Transition

Another field that attracts professionals seeking a career change from accounting is healthcare. The healthcare industry offers an array of roles that are both challenging and personally rewarding. With the right approach, your accounting background can serve as a powerful launching pad into this sector. Our detailed guide, “Making a Career Change from Accounting to Healthcare: An Empowering Journey”, provides in-depth insights on the steps you need to take for a successful transition, including how to leverage your analytical skills in a healthcare setting, necessary qualifications, and inspiring stories of those who’ve successfully made the move.

Conclusion on Career Change From Accounting

A career change from accounting is a bold, transformative decision, but with careful planning, self-assessment, and skills development, it’s a move that can lead to personal and professional growth. Remember that change is not just a necessity but also an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to step outside of your comfort zone, embrace new challenges, and redefine your professional identity. And in this dynamic, boundaryless career era, the change you’re contemplating might just be the norm.

In the words of Herminia Ibarra, an Organizational Behavior Professor at London Business School, “Change happens when people start taking actions that are consistent with what they aspire to become” (Ibarra, 2003). And with your strong accounting background, your aspirations are not just dreams, but achievable goals.

Embrace this career change from accounting as a chance to grow, learn, and create a career that truly resonates with who you are.


  1. BLS, U. (2022). Accountants and Auditors : Occupational Outlook Handbook. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  2. Dobrow Riza, S., Ganzach, Y., & Liu, Y. (2018). Time and job satisfaction: A longitudinal study of the differential roles of age and tenure. Journal of Management, 44(7), 2558-2579.
  3. Holland, J. L. (1985). Making vocational choices: A theory of vocational personalities and work environments. Prentice-Hall.
  4. Ibarra, H. (2003). Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career. Harvard Business Review Press.
  5. ICAEW. (2020). Beyond Accountancy – Career Moves of Accountants. Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.
  6. Sullivan, S. E., & Baruch, Y. (2009). Advances in career theory and research: A critical review and agenda for future exploration. Journal of Management, 35(6), 1542-1571.
  7. U.S. Department of Labor. (2020). Occupational Outlook Handbook. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
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Editorial Board

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