How to Make the Switch from Accounting to Finance

Is the grass really greener in finance? As a Senior Executive Search Consultant, I’ve worked with many accounting professionals who are interested in transitioning to finance because they see the role as more strategic and business forward. The primary difference between these two fields is that those who work in finance plan and direct financial transactions, while accountants focus on recording and reporting on those transactions.

Here’s the good news: you can certainly make the transition. In fact, I’ve helped many candidates over the years successfully make this transition and I promise it won’t be as tough as you think, even if you do not currently hold an MBA. Based on my own work with candidates and advice from industry hiring managers, these are my top three tips for making the transition:

  • Move internally, if possible.

Before applying to a finance position outside your current company, see if you can move internally first. You have a better shot at getting a role in your own company than at a new company. Even though you’ll need to learn a new skill set, there’s still significant value in the knowledge you hold about how your company works and that could give you the edge over an external candidate. Even if there aren’t currently any roles open, promote yourself to Finance leadership and express interest in learning the finance side of the business by cross-training or taking on a special side project. Companies value professional development for high performing employees. You may be surprised at just how supportive your company can be.

  • Get public accounting experience.

A background in public accounting is valued by most hiring managers and can be helpful when transitioning to finance. Many of my clients love hiring public accountants for a number of reasons. First, clients know that you have a great work ethic and are an efficient go-getter. Second, they love that you have experience working for different companies across multiple sectors. Sometimes, not always, you might have to take a step back in title, but if you are passionate about finance then a small step back will be worth it in the long run.

  • You don’t necessarily need an MBA.

A lot of candidates believe they need to get an MBA to make the transition from accounting to finance. After discussing it with my clients and colleagues, they agree that it really isn’t necessary. The skills you need to be successful in finance – forecasting, financial analysis, and budgeting, for example – can be learned on the job. You’re already an expert at interpreting financial statements, so you have a solid foundation that you can easily build upon.

If you’re interested in making the move from accounting to finance, there’s no reason why you can’t make it happen. If you are considering this move, there’s no time like the present. So get out there!

Have you made the transition from accounting to finance? Share your experiences in the comments below.

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