A bachelor's degree in accounting can provide students with a skill set and knowledge of accounting principles useful for entry-level careers in the discipline. The type of degree that a student earns varies according to the school. For example, some schools offer a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) or a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in accounting, while others require students to work toward a Bachelor of Science in business or business administration and concentrate their degree in accounting. Full-time studies typically last four years, during which students have the opportunity to take various accounting electives in addition to required business and general education classes.
Online Bachelor's Degree in Accounting: Coursework and Overview
Many colleges and universities offer a variety of accounting electives for students interested in the subject. While coursework varies by school, several classes are available across bachelor's degree programs. Below are examples of accounting electives and other classes that business and specialized accounting programs often require:
- Auditing: Students learn about the practice and procedures of auditing. Specific topics examined often include internal control and the ethical standards that auditors must uphold.
- Intermediate Accounting: Students build upon their knowledge of financial reporting acquired in introductory accounting classes. Examples of concepts reviewed include the generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) and requirements for reporting financial statements and accounting measures such as long-term assets and cash flows.
- Cost Accounting: Courses go over how to classify, report, and analyze cost accounting data, such as job order and process costing, budgeting, and standard costs.
- Accounting Information Systems: Students examine database management systems and their applications to accounting. Other concepts commonly discussed include internal control and the development of information systems.
- Federal Income Tax: Courses review federal income tax principles and concepts, such as gross income and deductions. Many schools offer specialized individual and corporate taxation courses, which typically cover individual tax returns and tax regulations for different types of corporations.
- Calculus: Courses typically cover calculations and applications for a variety of mathematical concepts, including limits, derivatives, and integrals. Calculus is often a required course for business and accounting bachelor's programs.
- Business Law: Classes evaluate the legal and ethical aspects of business. Examples of concepts applicable to business law include tort law, contracts, court systems, and regulations of the Uniform Commercial Code.
- Principles of Finance: Students explore financial analysis, management techniques, and a variety of finance topics, including the time value of money, risk and return, capital budgeting, and valuation of stocks and bonds.
Potential Careers for Individuals with a Bachelor's Degree in Accounting
Accounting electives teach students skills and knowledge pertinent to the everyday responsibilities of accounting professions. For example, knowing the regulations for and the procedures for developing balance sheets and income statements can benefit public accountants. Additionally, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov) states, a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related subject is generally required for accountant and auditor positions.
Below are a few careers that graduates can pursue after earning their degree:
- Public accountants undertake a variety of accounting, auditing, tax, and consulting responsibilities for individuals, corporations, and governments. They analyze financial documents, such as tax forms and balance sheets, which corporations disclose to potential investors. They may also specialize in a certain area of public accounting, such as forensic accounting or corporate taxation. Courses in intermediate accounting may help students gain comprehensive knowledge of accounting concepts that they can apply toward a public accounting career.
- Management accountants record and analyze organizations' financial information for a company's internal use. They may also assist with budgeting and performance evaluation and help assess the cost of doing business. Courses in managerial and cost accounting can help prepare students for certain responsibilities of a management accountant, such as budgeting.
- Government accountants examine financial records of government agencies and also audit individuals and private businesses. In addition, they make sure that revenue is obtained and spent legally. By taking classes in government accounting and auditing, students may learn about the accounting principles and requirements relevant to this area.
- Internal auditors make sure an organization's funds are appropriately managed and offer methods for improving the process of detecting and avoiding waste and fraud. In addition to taking an introductory auditing class, students interested in this career may benefit from taking courses focused on internal auditing. According to bls.gov, some schools even offer specialized bachelor's degrees in internal auditing.
- Revenue agents review tax returns for accuracy and also handle complicated tax returns for businesses and large corporations. They must stay up to date with changes in tax laws and regulations and often concentrate their work in a specific area, such as multinational businesses. According to bls.gov, individuals interested in this career need either a bachelor's degree in accounting, business administration, economics, or a related subject or a combination of related coursework and professional experience in business, accounting, or auditing.
Bls.gov reports that every accountant filing a report with the Securities and Exchange Commission must be a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Becoming a CPA may also help accountants increase their clientele or improve their career prospects.
While a bachelor's degree is often a prerequisite for accounting careers, some employers, as bls.gov notes, require accountants and auditors to have a master's degree in accounting or business administration. Students interested in working toward a master's degree should research potential employers' educational requirements and consult an admissions counselor before applying to a graduate program.
More information on online bachelor's degrees in accounting can be found in the Guide to College Majors in Accounting.
"Accountants and Auditors," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/accountants-and-auditors.htm
"Tax Examiners and Collectors, and Revenue Agents," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/tax-examiners-and-collectors-and-revenue-agents.htm