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How to Become an Oil & Gas Accountant

Learn how to become an oil and gas accountant. Research the education requirements, licensure information and experience required for starting a career in industry accounting.

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Do I Want to Be an Oil and Gas Accountant?

Accountants review financial records, analyze spending habits, and suggests ways to increase revenue. Information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showed that there are several different types of accountants, including management accountants and certified public accountants (CPAs). Businesses hire management accountants to deal with internal financial decisions and budgeting concerns. Organizations hire CPAs to prepare taxes or other financial documents that must be reported to government agencies.

The majority of accountants work in office settings and few do so from their homes. Accounting work can be stressful and, depending on the time of year, may be very fast-paced. They generally work independently and may be required to do some travel to oil and gas extraction or refinery locations. Almost all accountants work on a full-time basis with overtime common during tax season.

Job Requirements

Oil and gas industries have to submit a lot of paperwork to government authorities, so they may hire management accountants who are also licensed CPAs. Basic career requirements for becoming a CPA include completing a four-year degree program, gaining accounting experience and passing the CPA exam. The following table displays a more detailed list of requirements for becoming an oil and gas CPA:

Common Requirements
Degree Level Bachelor's degree**
Degree Field Accounting*
Licensure Certified public accountant (CPA) license*
Experience 3-5 years of experience in oil and gas accounting, revenue, accounts receivable, coding and tax analysis**
Key Skills Able to listen to coworkers and clients, comfortable communicating orally and in writing, enjoys examining information closely, maintains organized work area and pays attention to detail*
Computer Skills Proficient in spreadsheet software programs and allocations software programs**
Technical Skills Full understanding of mathematical and statistical formulas and familiar with electronic calculators*

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS),* CareerBuilder.com August 2012 job postings.**

Step 1: Earn a Dual Degree

Although the BLS shows that accountants only need a bachelor's degree to find employment, the majority of states have changed their educational requirements for certified public accountants (CPAs). The BLS records from 2012 indicated that most states require CPA applicants to meet the minimum educational requirements of 150 units of postsecondary coursework, whereas a traditional bachelor's degree is only 120 units. Thirty additional post-baccalaureate units are equivalent to a master's degree.

Dual degree programs allow students to complete bachelor's and master's degree programs in five years instead of six. Before starting graduate level classes, some schools may require students to complete prerequisite courses or pass exams. Course topics in these dual degree programs may include micro and macroeconomics, cost accounting, financial management, auditing, operations management, accounting information systems, marketing, taxation rules and business law.

Success Tip:

  • Take oil and gas accounting courses. Not every degree program offers courses directly related to the oil and gas industries. Some universities offer elective courses in these fields, and a few colleges even offer related certificate programs. Most oil and gas courses and certificate programs discuss the energy market, global issues, financial management strategies, petroleum accounting and domestic natural gas accounting.

Step 2: Build Industry Experience

The BLS recommends that college students complete as many accounting internships as possible to gain the experience needed for CPA licensing requirements. Furthermore, job postings listed in August 2012 on CareerBuilder.com for oil and gas accountants showed that employers preferred applicants with at least 3-5 years of experience in the industry.

Not all colleges require students to complete internships, but many colleges help students find accounting internship opportunities. Universities that have coursework or certificate programs related to oil and gas accounting may have direct contact with industry leaders.

Success Tip:

  • Attend industry lectures. Representatives from some of the largest oil and gas companies are often asked to be guest lecturers in business and accounting classes. During these lectures, students have the opportunity to ask questions about individual companies and industry accounting practices. Many representatives also offer internship opportunities that may lead to full employment.

Step 3: Become a CPA

Individuals become licensed CPAs in their state of employment, and each state has slightly different licensing requirements. In most states, license applicants have to meet education and experience requirements to be eligible to take exams. Experience requirements vary, but most states require applicants to have 1-2 years of approved accounting experience.

The BLS stated that, after meeting eligibility requirements, individuals must pass the uniform CPA examination, offered by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA). Information from the AICPA website indicated that the exam consists of four parts: financial accounting and reporting (FAR); auditing and attestation (AUD); regulations (REG); and business environment and concepts (BEC).

Step 4: Find Employment as an Oil & Gas Accountant

CPAs who have enough related experience and training can start applying for oil and gas accountant positions. Predictions from the BLS showed that up through 2020, open positions for accountants and auditors will increase by 16%. Competition for accounting positions is expected to remain high. Accountants who are licensed CPAs will most likely have better job opportunities, per BLS reports.

Step 5: Maintain CPA License

Information from the BLS stated that accountants who are CPAs must maintain their licenses by meeting renewal requirements, which often include paying fees and completing approved continued-education courses. Each state has different requirements for what counts as approved coursework. Some states may require CPAs to attend formal classes or conferences, whereas other states may allow individuals to learn from interactive web-based seminars or individual study programs.

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