Engineering to Accounting Career Change: Key Steps to Pivot

Switching lanes from engineering to accounting isn’t just a career change; it’s a whole new world of spreadsheets and fiscal systems instead of circuits and schematics. It’s like swapping your toolbox for a ledger, and suddenly, you’re translating the language of math into the dialect of dollars.

This post will guide you through everything from recognizing the transferable skills you already have to hitting the books again and landing your first accounting role.

Quick Takeaways:

  • Leverage engineering skills like problem-solving and attention to detail for success in accounting — they transition well.
  • Prioritize formal education and certifications, such as a CPA, and supplement with real-world experience, like internships or volunteer work.
  • Utilize networking through LinkedIn and industry events, and market your engineering background as a unique strength in your new accounting role.

Why Switch from Engineering to Accounting?

Ever feel like you’re itching for a new adventure in your professional life? Or perhaps you’ve discovered a previously untapped passion for numbers and financial strategy. These are just a couple of the reasons why someone might trade in their engineering hat for an accounting visor.

Let’s face it; a career in engineering can be incredibly fulfilling for many. But for others, the lure of a new challenge is enticing. Maybe the structured, orderly world of debits and credits speaks to the deep-seated desire for organization and precision. Or perhaps long-term job prospects in accounting seem more stable—accountants are the backbone of every business, after all, and their expertise is always in demand.

Additionally, a preferable work environment can trigger the switch. Some might find the collaborative and often office-based setting of accounting roles to be a better fit, especially if the idea of auditing, tax preparation, or financial analysis sounds more appealing than project management or fieldwork. And let’s not forget those who’ve had an epiphany, realizing that they have a newfound interest in finance and wish to pivot towards a career that aligns with that passion.

What Skills Can You Bring from Engineering to Accounting?

Believe it or not, swapping from engineering to accounting doesn’t mean you’re starting from scratch! Engineers are equipped with a toolkit of skills that are highly coveted in the world of accounting.

First off, problem-solving is in an engineer’s DNA. And guess what? Accounting pros are professional problem-solvers, too—whether it’s navigating complex tax laws or untangling financial records.

Attention to detail is another powerhouse skill that transfers seamlessly. Engineering projects require meticulousness, and that same eye for detail will serve you well when ensuring financial records are accurate down to the last decimal.

Then there’s the analytical thinking you’ve honed over the years. Accounting is all about analyzing financial data to help businesses make informed decisions. So, your engineering background in crunching numbers and making sense of complex data? It’s pure gold in the accounting world.

Where Should You Start Your Accounting Education?

Transitioning to accounting doesn’t have to be daunting, education-wise. Here’s the lowdown on setting up for success in the numbers game:

Accounting demands a certain level of formal education. A bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field is typically your starting point. But don’t overlook the power of certifications such as the CPA (Certified Public Accountant) – the gold standard in accounting that can boost your credibility through the roof.

Diving into a MAcc (Master of Accounting) program can also be a strategic play, giving you a more robust and specialized knowledge base. And let’s not forget the AICPA which offers resources to help you navigate the CPA exam and licensure process.

Now, if you’re itching for some real-world advice that’s not your everyday tip, here it is: consider volunteering your number-crunching services for a non-profit or a small local business. This may provide you with that precious hands-on experience in a less intimidating environment, and often, these organizations are more open to individuals with untraditional backgrounds but with a sharp knack for numbers and analysis.

Lastly, in this digital age, online courses are a treasure trove of information. Platforms like Coursera or edX offer finance and accounting courses from top universities without the heavy price tag of traditional education. By strategically leveraging these resources, you can bridge the gap between your engineering experience and the world of accounting, all while balancing your current employment.

As you mull over the idea of trading circuit boards for balance sheets, remember it’s a journey of transition, not an overnight switch. Your unique skill set as an engineer can be a tremendous asset in the accounting field. With the right educational endeavors and a sprinkle of real-world experience, that fresh career in accounting might just be a ledger away.

How Do You Gain Accounting Experience?

Breaking into the accounting field can feel daunting, but with the right steps, you’ll paint a picture of yourself as a number-cruncher extraordinaire in no time. Internships are a golden ticket; they provide real-world experience and a glimpse into the day-to-day of an accountant. Start by looking for internships at local firms or through job boards like Indeed or Monster.

Don’t rule out part-time jobs or temp positions, even if they aren’t squarely in the accounting department. These roles can help you understand business operations and finance from the ground up. Places like small businesses or non-profits might be open to someone with your knack for analysis and problem-solving.

Volunteering is another great avenue. Offer your budding skills to local charities, religious organizations, or small non-profits that could benefit from basic bookkeeping or financial advice. It’s a win-win – they get the help they need, and you get hands-on experience.

Why not go for a little job shadowing? Reach out to accounting professionals in your network, explain your career transition, and ask if you can shadow them for a day or two. It’s a fantastic way to learn on the fly and build relationships.

Remember, every bit of exposure counts. Try using accounting software for personal finance management to familiarize yourself with the systems you’ll likely use on the job.

What Are the Expected Challenges and How Can You Overcome Them?

Every career switch comes with its hurdles, but who better to clear them than someone with an engineering mind?

One of the first hurdles you’ll face is the lingo leap. Accounting jargon can seem like a foreign language—terms like “accruals,” “deferred revenue,” and “amortization” may be unfamiliar. Surmount this obstacle by reading accounting textbooks or taking online courses. Consider resources such as Khan Academy or Coursera, which can help steep you in the vernacular of value, depreciation, and dividends.

Another challenge is mastering accounting software. Good news: your engineering background has likely already honed your tech-savviness. Leverage online tutorials or community college courses to learn platforms like QuickBooks or Xero. A unique tip? Create a mock company and run it using these tools to get a feel for how the software meets real-world business needs.

Meeting additional educational requirements can feel like scaling Mount Everest. But fear not; by breaking it down into smaller goals (like one course at a time), it’ll seem more like a series of manageable hills. For those eyeing a CPA credential, review each state’s requirements – they might include specific course credits or exam prep.

How to Network and Market Yourself in the Accounting Industry?

There’s no denying it, networking is the lifeblood of career advancement, and accounting is no exception. Begin by carving out your own niche in the accounting community. LinkedIn is your ally here; join accounting groups, participate in discussions, and showcase thought leadership by sharing articles or insights related to the industry.

Don’t shy away from industry events such as seminars, conferences, or local chapter meetings of accounting associations like the AICPA or state societies. Here’s a secret sauce tip: Volunteer at these events. It puts you right in the action, working side-by-side with pros, which can lead to stronger connections.

When it comes to marketing yourself, you’ve got an ace up your sleeve: your engineering background. Position it as a unique strength. Accountants are expected to have sharp analytical skills, attention to detail, and the ability to solve complex problems – skills you’ve already honed in your previous career. Craft a narrative that connects your engineering experience with the value you can bring to accounting roles.

Lastly, remember to nurture relationships. That means following up with connections, saying thank you to those who’ve lent you their time, and offering your help in return. It’s this give-and-take that turns networking into meaningful professional relationships.

Make sure these contacts know that you’re actively seeking opportunities. Circulate an updated resume that blends your engineering feats with the fresh accounting skills you’ve acquired. Highlight any relevant projects or coursework to show that you’re not just flirting with numbers—you’re entering into a long-term relationship.

By intertwining your prior expertise with new knowledge and networks, you’ll be tapping into the full potential of a dual-disciplined dynamo. And that’s a balance sheet anyone would want to invest in!

  • Alex Mitch

    Hi, I'm the founder of! Having been in finance and tech for 10+ years, I was surprised at how hard it can be to find answers to common questions in finance, tech and business in general. Because of this, I decided to create this website to help others!