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Changing Careers from
Accountant to Project Manager

How you can utilize your skills in accounting for career success as a project manager

Switching careers from bookkeeping or accounting to project management opens a world of possibilities. The analytical skills in accounting work perfectly in project management and can be applied to a variety of industries—not just finance.

In this article, we’ll look at the skills that transfer appropriately into project management, what skills and education are required, and how you can start the path to a new career.

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Project manager leading team discussion taking notes on whiteboard

Day-to-day roles and responsibilities: what it’s like to work as a project manager vs. accountant

Accountants focus on the financial aspects of the organization. They play a crucial role in budgeting, forecasting, and financial reporting. They often work with internal and external stakeholders, such as auditors, to ensure financial transparency and compliance.

Accountant duties include:

  • Manage financial records
  • Prepare and analyze financial statements
  • Ensure compliance with tax regulations
  • Process financial transactions 
  • Reconcile accounts or “balance the books”

A project manager is primarily responsible for planning, executing, and closing projects. Their day-to-day tasks involve defining project scopes, setting timelines, allocating resources, and managing teams. Project managers are often problem solvers, dealing with uncertainties and adapting plans as needed.

Project manager duties include:

  • Define project scopes, objectives, and deliverables
  • Develop project plans, timelines, and resource allocation strategies
  • Lead and motivate project teams
  • Monitor and track project progress against timelines and budgets
  • Identify and mitigate risks 
  • Communicate effectively with stakeholders, updating them on projects
  • Adapt plans and strategies in response to changing project requirements
  • Oversee budget management and resource allocation.

Skills developed in an accounting role you can fully utilize in project management

Transitioning from an accounting role to a project management role can leverage several skills acquired in accounting. Here are some transferable skills:

  • Analytical skills: Accountants develop strong analytical skills to interpret financial data. This skill is valuable in project management for assessing situations, identifying trends, and making informed decisions.
  • Attention to detail: Precision is crucial in accounting to ensure accurate financial records. This attention to detail can be applied in project management to prevent errors, manage resources efficiently, and maintain quality standards.
  • Organizational skills: Accountants often handle multiple tasks simultaneously, requiring strong organizational skills. Project managers benefit from this ability to organize teams, prioritize tasks, and manage project timelines.
  • Problem-solving: Accountants often encounter complex financial issues that require problem-solving. Project managers can use this same skill when challenges arise.
  • Communication skills: Accountants must share and report financial information with various stakeholders. Project managers also need strong communication skills to keep team members on track and stakeholders informed.
  • Time management: Accountants and bookkeepers often have deadlines for financial reporting and tax filings. Time management skills are also crucial to project managers to help ensure tasks are completed on schedule and projects stay on track.
  • Financial management: Accounting roles involve budgeting, forecasting, and resource allocation. Project managers also oversee budgets and resource allocation.
  • Team collaboration: While accounting work may be individually focused, accountants often collaborate with colleagues and teams. This collaboration experience translates well to project management, where teamwork is essential for project success.
  • Adaptability: Changes in accounting standards, regulations, or organizational needs require accountants to be adaptable. This adaptability is a key skill in project management, where the ability to adjust plans in response to changing circumstances is critical.

New skills required for success as a project manager

Transitioning from an accountant to a project manager involves gaining and refining skills that are specific to the demands of project management. Here are some new skills for project management you might need to develop:

  • Leadership skills: As a project manager, you'll need to lead and motivate a team. Developing strong leadership skills will help you guide your team toward project success.
  • Negotiation skills: Project managers often need to negotiate with stakeholders and team members. Learning effective negotiation techniques is helpful for achieving project goals and resolving conflicts.
  • Stakeholder management: Identifying, engaging, and managing stakeholders is a key aspect of project management. Building relationships is essential for project success.
  • Project planning: Project managers are responsible for creating and managing project plans. Gaining expertise in project planning tools and methodologies is essential for effective project execution.
  • Communication and presentation skills: Project managers must communicate clearly and concisely with team members, stakeholders, and executives. Strengthening your communication and presentation skills will help you convey project updates effectively.
  • Conflict resolution: Project managers may deal with conflicts within the team or with stakeholders. Learning effective conflict resolution techniques can help maintain a positive working environment.

Job outlook: salary and employment expectations

The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides general salary estimates for these occupational categories in accounting and project management:

Average salaries*

Job / careerPer yearPer hour
Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks (source)$49,580$23.84
Accountants and Auditors (source)$90,780$43.65
Project Management Specialists (source)$104,920$50.44

Salaries can vary considerably across experience levels, educational backgrounds, and geographic location. In a general sense, you can potentially increase your salary potential by transitioning from accounting to project management—however, this may not be the case for senior-level accountants transitioning to their first job as a project manager. It all depends on your particular education, experience, and fit with the new job/employer.

Employment opportunities for project managers

The employment outlook for project managers is positive, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Employment is projected to grow 6% from 2022-2032, faster than the average for all occupations. Many of these job openings are expected due to people switching careers or retiring.

Education needed for project management jobs

The typical entry-level education for a project manager is a bachelor’s degree, though the specific major/focus area of that degree isn’t necessarily uniform.

However, having a solid understanding of project management fundamentals is highly beneficial. If you’re strongly considering project management as a new career path, a Bachelor of Science in Project Management curriculum offers extensive career-focused study to help you prepare. This includes courses such as:

  • Fundamentals of project management
  • Project estimation and budgeting
  • Project integration and scope management
  • Human resource project management
  • Project performance and quality assurance

Relevant industry certifications employers look for

Earning industry certifications in project management can help you stand out in a competitive job market. Two valuable project management certifications issued by the Project Management Institute (PMI) are:

The Herzing University project management bachelor’s degree program prepares you to sit for the CAPM exam. After graduating and gaining work experience, you can become eligible to take the PMP exam and expand your career opportunities.

Find your new career path

Moving from accounting to project management is an exciting career shift that can offer broader career opportunities. 

The experience and skills you gained in your accounting career—including attention to detail and precision—can well prepare you for a career in project management.

Ready to discover the path to a more dynamic and fulfilling career? Take the next step with Herzing University.

Learn more about Herzing University’s project management program options


* Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics 2023 / Occupational Outlook Handbook 2022. BLS estimates do not represent entry-level wages and/or salaries. Multiple factors, including prior experience, age, geography market in which you want to work and degree field, will affect career outcomes and earnings. Herzing neither represents that its graduates will earn the average salaries calculated by BLS for a particular job nor guarantees that graduation from its program will result in a job, promotion, salary increase or other career growth.

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