With companies placing a much greater emphasis on accounting practices, there is a growing demand for accounting professionals in the corporate sphere. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted that there will be 16% more jobs in the field of accounting by 2020, making this field attractive for professionals with the right skills and qualifications. If you already possess a Bachelor’s Degree or a Master’s Degree in the field of accounting, you are one step closer to finding a career with a reputable company looking for accountants, assistants or department managers. If you do not yet hold an undergraduate or graduate degree in the field, now is the time to enroll in a degree program so that you can become a top contender while the demand for accounting professionals is still high.

When you enroll in a degree program with a concentration in Accounting you will quickly realize that the program prepares you to be more than just someone who prepares individual taxes. There are a wide variety of jobs in the field of accounting, and you should take the time to learn which jobs are high in demand and which jobs pay the best before you start your career search. If you identify a specific career that you are interested in pursuing while you are still in school, you can complete optional courses that will give you credits towards your degree while preparing you for the position you will be applying for in the future. You should consider your duties, the job outlook, and salary trends before you pursue any position in the field. If you have not yet pinpointed a specific accounting job, here are the salary trends of the 7 most popular jobs.

1. General Accountants

General accountants can work with either individuals or corporations, and will prepare and analyze financial documents and reports. As the tax laws and accounting regulations become more complicated and confusing, there is a growing need for knowledgeable professionals who understand tax law and stay updated on all of the changes to avoid penalties and fines. With more and more regulation changes being announced, job outlook for general accountants domestically and internationally is positive.

The growing need for General Accountants who are up-to-date on laws, principles and regulations translates into 16% growth in employment over a period of 10 years with an average salary reported to be $61,690 in 2010. General accountants hired with an undergraduate degree and very little experience in the field tend to earn an average $54,000 in the first 2 years of employment. Accountants with larger accounting firms tend to earn larger salaries. You can gain experience with a smaller company, and use this experience as a stepping stone to move up in the field. If you go on to pursue your Master’s, this can translate into a raise of about $10,000 a year with the right level of experience.

2. Accounting Clerks

An accounting clerk is responsible for producing the financial records for organizations by recording data and updating statements for accuracy. Unlike an accountant, who will analyze the data, the clerk only records data. Because accounting clerks can work in a wide range of industries, the job outlook for clerks is high. Employment of accounting clerks is predicated to grow by at least 14% by 2020, and as the financial regulations and tax laws become stricter, employment is only expected to grow more.

Unlike many of the jobs in the field, candidates for a clerk position are generally only required to have a high school diploma and basic math and computer skills. The competition for employment as an accounting clerk is very high, so many individuals pursue a special certification when seeking a position.

While the average salary reported for accounting clerks in 2012 was $31,030, salary trends are on the rise. Entry-level clerks can expect to earn about $16 per hour, but with years of experience or a Certification by the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers, you can attract better opportunities that offer higher pay. After you gain enough experience in the field, you may be able to become an accountant and advance your career by passing a CPA exam.

3. Accounting Managers

Accounting managers are responsible for using the financial data that is recorded and updated to make strategic financial decisions that will benefit the company. Unlike an accountant, a manager typically plans budgets and oversees accountants within the firm or organizations. In times following financial crises, firms and organizations tend to focus more time on budget planning. Because of this, there is a growing need for accounting managers who are familiar with regulation changes, accounting principles and finance. Employment outlook for accounting managers is predicted to be about 18% between 2006 and 2016. This number is predicted to rise in the following decade as well.

An accounting manager must have great communications skills, managerial abilities, and the ability to interpret financial data and form strategic financial recommendations. Because managers have greater responsibilities than accountants, they earn a higher salary. Management accountants earned an average of $64,000 in 2008, and this average rose to $86,100 in 2012. There is opportunity for advancement within this career when you pursue a CMA certification. By earning this certification, you can expect a salary increase of up to 24%.

4. Accounting Assistants

Accountants are often bogged down with work, and during peak seasons there is a growing need for accounting assistants. If you are pursuing a position that will get your foot in the door to advance and become an accountant, you can gain the experience you need by becoming an accounting assistant. Assistants can perform a variety of roles in a small firm or a large corporation. Some of the duties may include: bookkeeping, recording financial statements, updating ledgers, and other basic duties. Currently, there are about 1.6 million accounting assistants in the United States alone. With the outlook in this field directly linked to the forecast for business growth, employment as an accounting assistant is favorable.

The average accounting assistant salary can vary dramatically depending on the employer, the location, and your duties in the office. Typically, assistants will earn an hourly wage between $12.00 and $17.00 per hour. You can also expect to receive a great deal of overtime pay during peaks seasons. The average annual earnings for an assistant in the field is between $28,000 and $39,000 per year. Individuals who take time to earn an Accounting Assistant Certificate can increase earning potential and improve their chances of beating out the fierce competition in the field.

5. Certified Public Accountants (CPA)

Did you know that a CPA career is one of the most well paid in the nation, and employment in the field is predicted to grow dramatically with a 10-year growth average of 22%. Certified Public Accountants will perform a variety of activities from auditing to analyzing financial performance. A CPA will also advice management on financial decisions and the tax ramifications for every company decision made. To become a CPA, you must pass a CPA certification exam.

The starting salary for CPAs can vary dramatically depending on the firm, the geographic region, and your level of experience. If you possess a graduate’s degree in Accounting, you can expect to make a larger salary than a CPA who possesses an undergraduate degree. The average CPA salary reported is $73,800, but premium salaries for CPAs with an MBA are around $90,500. Taking time to earn your MBA as you are working can increase your salary by an average of 18% as a Certified Public Accountant.

6. Cost Accountants

Companies are always concerned about cost. If you want to enter the field as a cost accountant, you will play the very specific role of analyzing the costs of specific business activities so that the organization can lower operational costs and increase profits. Job outlook in cost accounting is very good. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted that employment for cost accountants will grow by 16% in the next 7 years.

Cost accounting salaries can vary depending on the size of the company you are employed by. While the average salary is reported to be $49,300 per year, salaries can range between $37,000 and $58,000 for entry-level professionals. As you progress in the field and gain experience, you can move up to management level positions with higher pay.

7. Accounts Payable

Accounts Payable professionals will receive, process, verify, and reconcile invoices. With more and more organizations accepting payments on credit, there is a growing need for experienced clerks who understand accounts payable and receivable functions and procedures. As a specialized accounting clerk, you can expect to earn anywhere between $26,300 per year and $49,260 per year. The average salary reported in the field is $37,805, and growth in the field is average with an outlook of about 10%.

You have to consider a variety of factors when you choose which career you will pursue. While salary is important, you must consider far more than just the average salaries reported in any field. Take the time to understand the salary trends and why the average salary is changing over time for specific accounting jobs. After you understand employment and salary trends, you can take the time to gain the experience and skills you need to compete for the accounting job of your choice.