If you like to work with numbers, then a career in accounting or engineering may interest you. The jobs have similarities in compensation and personality type, but the nature of the work is very different. Accountants thrive during tax season, putting in long hours during this time, though the rest of the year will be slower. Engineering tends to have a steadier workflow and can be more hands-on. Both careers were actually rated to be among the 20 happiest jobs in America based on a survey conducted by Career Bliss in 2012. So think about where you see yourself in your career. If you like to design products and solve problems, engineering could be best. But if you prefer the financial side and enjoy the business environment, consider accounting as a career choice.
The education for accountants and engineers is quite different. Although both jobs typically require a bachelor’s degree, the accounting degree is more focused on business, while the engineering degree is more technical. If you study accounting, you’ll go for a degree from a business college and will take similar classes to students majoring in marketing or management. Engineers, on the other hand, take more technically challenging courses based on math and science. Both degrees require strong math skills, but you might steer clear of engineering if science isn’t your forte.
Both accountants and engineers tend to have a type C personality. They tend to appreciate the facts and usually need a lot of information before they can make a decision. You probably know one; they are extremely detail-oriented and always strive for accuracy. This personality really lends itself to engineering and accounting because both positions require attention to detail. Accountants work with numbers and are responsible for producing financial statements for businesses or completing income tax returns. In both cases, one mistake with a single number can have a dramatic impact on the end result. And as an engineer, you’ll also need to be accurate with numbers. A miscalculation in a product’s design can have a catastrophic impact and even result in product failure or safety issues.
Accountants work in an office environment and generally don’t have much physical activity associated with the job. While engineers also tend to work in an office environment as well, the job is usually more hands-on. Physical testing is a common aspect of engineering work. When designing or troubleshooting a product as an engineer, you must conduct testing to evaluate performance. So if both paths seem interesting to you, consider whether you’d prefer a more active job or one that requires less physical activity.
Both accounting and engineering are high-paying jobs compared to other fields. Salaries in the engineering field can range from $40,000 to $120,000 depending on the position and experience level. Likewise, accountants can earn between $39,000 and $109,000 per year. These career options are very rewarding so you should choose based on your interest and which you think you’d enjoy more. As the money rolls on your paychecks, you’ll be happy that you spent all those years in college studying hard to complete your degree. It’s not an easy task, but you’ll find it’s worth the effort.
Auston Matta is an experienced engineer who has worked in the packaging industry since 2003. He holds a bachelor's degree in bio-engineering and a master's degree in engineering management. Auston has also contributed to "Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging News."