Accounting Majors Guide


Table of Contents

What Does it Mean to Study Accounting?

An accounting degree is one of the most versatile business degrees available. Accountants can be found working for businesses, individuals, and even the government. Because of the wide variety of jobs available, becoming an accounting major is an attractive course of study for many individuals.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job growth in accounting is expected to be at six percent, about as fast as average for all types of jobs, through 2028. The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), in its latest 2019 research, further shows that 58 percent of firms that hired accounting graduates in 2018 expected to do the same in 2019 and that 90 percent of CPA firms expected to employ the same number of CPAs or even more in 2019.

Accounting could be a great field for you if you have an aptitude and interest in mathematics. Successful accountants must be able to analyze, compare, and interpret facts and figures quickly. They must also possess the skills necessary to clearly communicate their results to clients and managers. Above all, maintaining high standards of integrity are especially important.

Certificate Programs in Accounting

Accounting and finance certificates at the undergraduate level can open up career opportunities within myriad organizations, requiring accurate financial recordkeeping, effective cash management and investment strategies.

Factors prospective students should consider

Certificate programs generally last from a few months to one year. They offer basic courses in the field and may suffice in helping you to find a job.

Type of courses and clinical experiences offered

Common courses in a certificate in accounting program might include:

  • Introduction to Accounting
  • Introduction to Auditing
  • Introduction to Federal Taxes
  • Fundamentals of Cost Accounting

Skills students can learn

In a certificate-level program, you might gain skills in financial statement analysis, principles of management and the fundamentals of managerial accounting

Jobs related to this degree

Certificates in accounting may help graduates land entry-level jobs in business administration, operations or finance.

Associate Degree in Accounting

If you are looking for an associate degree in accounting, you can find both online accounting degrees and campus-based programs available. These programs provide entry-level business based skills that may allow you to enter the workforce or prepare you to continue on to a bachelor's degree.

Factors prospective students should consider

Associate degrees generally require two years of full-time study to complete and focus mainly on basic accounting principles and tasks. Some courses taken at the associate level may later be transferable to a bachelor's level program.

Type of courses and clinical experiences offered

When enrolled in an associate degree in accounting program, you might take courses such as:

  • Business Law and Accounting
  • Computerized Accounting and Spreadsheets
  • Fundamentals of Accounting
  • Introduction to Management

Skills students can learn

Accounting degrees at the associate level can help you learn about financial accounting methods, principles of marketing and fundamental business law concepts.

Jobs related to this degree level

An associate in accounting degree program is a good way for students to learn skills used for entry-level jobs in the accounting field, such as accounting assistant, bookkeeper, tax preparer or management trainee.

Bachelor's Degree in Accounting

A bachelor's degree in accounting is a common degree that entry-level positions require. Earning one is also a requirement for certificate accounting certification exams. Additionally, the AICPA shows that of all colleges with accounting majors, the bachelor's degree in accounting has the most enrollees compared to higher-level programs — in other words, the bachelor's degree is a starting point for many students interested in the accounting field. More than 54,000 bachelor's degrees in accounting were awarded in 2017-2018, according to the AICPA.

Factors prospective students should consider

A bachelor's degree program typically takes four years to complete, but at this degree level, you may be able to choose a concentration or area of specialization. It can be helpful to seek a degree that has accounting accreditation, as this may be a requirement for certain types of certification.

Type of courses and clinical experience offered

Common accounting major requirements at the bachelor's level could include courses such as:

  • Auditing
  • Concepts in Financial Accounting
  • Information Systems for Accounting
  • Intermediate Financial Accounting

Skills students can learn

A bachelor's degree program in accounting can help you to develop decision-making and problem-solving skills in business law, microeconomics, leadership and management.

Jobs related to this degree level

Potential career paths for someone with a bachelor's degree in accounting include assurance specialist, risk manager, tax specialist or public accountant auditor.

Master's Degrees in Accounting

Earning a master's degree in accounting is an excellent way for working accountants to further their education and advance their careers. These degrees may also be a good fit for students who have a bachelor's degree in a related area, such as business or finance, but want to enter the accounting field. In fact, more than 21,000 master's degrees in accounting were awarded in 2017-18, according to AICPA data.

Factors prospective students should consider

Accounting programs may be available on a part-time or full-time basis. Students working full-time may find online accounting degree programs an attractive option. Additionally, coursework in a master's degree in accounting program could include an area of specialization, such as auditing, financing or government accounting.

Types of courses and clinical experiences offered

Classes at this degree level could include:

  • Accounting Research
  • Advanced Auditing
  • Advanced Financial Accounting
  • Advanced Taxation Topics
  • Principles of Fraud Examination

Skills students can learn

Usually, when finishing your master's degree in accounting, you are prepared to analyze, audit and prepare financial statements, follow regulations and rules in accounting and use technology and accounting techniques to solve real-world problems.

Jobs related to this degree

Occupations that you could qualify for with a master's degree in accounting could include accounting specialist, chief financial officer, visiting professor in accounting and project accountant.

Doctoral Programs in Accounting

Doctoral degree programs in accounting focus on academia and research. Generally, Ph.D. students specialize in the study of either managerial or financial accounting.

Factors prospective students should consider

Courses are largely theory-based, and research methods rely heavily on methods from economics, statistics, sociology and psychology. Doctoral students are typically required to complete a dissertation in order to earn their degree.

Types of courses and clinical experiences offered

Common courses at the doctoral level include:

  • Accounting Information Systems Research
  • Advanced Accounting Theory
  • Current auditing Issues and Topics
  • Data Mining
  • Microeconomic Theory

Skills students can learn

You could learn how to conduct research for public or private organizations and to take a multidisciplinary approach to accounting through economics, operations management and statistics.

Jobs related to this degree

Careers that you might seek include professor of accounting, research administrator, and financial management analyst or department administrator. In addition to seeking employment in the private sector, you might find opportunities on the federal plan.

Online or Campus-Based Accounting Programs?

Campus-based and online accounting degrees are available at almost every level, with both delivery types often offering concentrations with higher-degree level. Online programs also use a learning management system, such as Canvas or Blackboard, to enable students to post assignments, participate in discussions and read and respond to teacher questions. Multiple starts dates and shortened terms of 8 to 10 weeks can be other features of distance-based learning. And, just like campus-based programs, online degrees in accounting can help students to prepare for certain accountant exams, such as the Certified Public Accounting or Certified Management Accountant examinations.

Financial Aid for Accounting Students

Students can look for scholarships for accounting majors to help offset the costs of tuition. While scholarships are often available in minimal amounts, there is nothing that keeps you from applying for more than one scholarship or using scholarships in conjunction with financial aid. Some scholarships available to accounting majors are available through:

Loans are another way to help pay for your education, whether that's for an accounting degree or a degree in another field. However, loans do need to be repaid, but only often after your degree program is complete. If you are looking for more information on financing your education, our financial aid page can be a helpful resource.

What Can You Do With A Degree in Accounting?

If you want to know more about an accounting major salary, accounting employment and potential job growth, the chart below could be of particular help in figuring these things out. The data is research-based, provided by the BLS, and reflects useful guide points about careers. You can also find job descriptions for various occupations in the accounting field. One size never fits all in accounting or anything else - so look for a job that could meet your career goals.

CareerTotal EmploymentAnnual Mean WageProjected Job Growth Rate
Accountants and Auditors1,259,930$78,8206.4%
Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks1,530,430$42,110-3.9%
Budget Analysts52,810$79,8304.2%
Management Analysts684,470$94,39013.5%
Tax Examiners and Collectors, and Revenue Agents54,550$60,500-2.4%
2018 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2016-26 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Accountants and Auditors

Accountants and auditors examine financial statements for accuracy, determine the amount of tax owed, and prepare tax returns for individuals and corporations. They may also be tasked with keeping financial records and inspecting the bookkeeping records for an organization. Some accountants and auditors make financial and business recommendations to management based upon their findings.

  • Minimum Educational Requirement: A bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field is typically required. Some employers prefer candidates who have earned a master's degree.
  • Special Certifications or Licensures: Accountants and auditors may be required to be certified based on their area of expertise. Certifications include credentials like the Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Certified Management Accountant (CMA), Certified Internal Auditor (CIA), Certified Financial Services Auditor (CFSA), Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA), and more.

Tax Examiners, Tax Collectors, and Revenue Agents

Tax examiners, tax collectors, and revenue agents work for various local, state, and federal agencies. These professionals review tax returns and conduct audits for government entities. They may be charged with notifying taxpayers of taxes due, which they then attempt to collect on the government's behalf.

  • Minimum Educational Requirement: Minimum educational requirements vary, but most positions require at least a bachelor's degree in accounting.
  • Special Certifications or Licensures: No special certifications or licensure is typically required, although previous work experience in a related field is often desired.

Bookkeeping, Auditing, and Accounting Clerks

Bookkeeping, auditing, and accounting clerks record an organization's financial transactions and help produce any appropriate financial statements. These professionals do the actual preparation of the statements as opposed to analyzing them. They enter any appropriate information, typically into an organizations financial software, then proofread the statements for any errors.

  • Minimum Educational Requirement: Most positions require some type of educational training after high school, such as earning an associate degree in accounting. On-the-job training is also typically required.
  • Special Certifications and Licensures: No special licenses or certifications are usually necessary, although some choose to become certified by organizations like the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers or the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers.

Management Analysts

Management analysts are consultants hired to help an organization become more efficient. A large part of the process is often requires gathering and analyzing various financial reports and data. Based on their findings, management analysts can suggest recommendations to the organization's management team on ways they can improve efficiency or solve pressing organizational issues.

  • Minimum Educational Requirement: To become a management analyst, most positions require at least a bachelor's degree. Fields of expertise vary widely, but common degrees include those in business, management, accounting, and other business related topics. Some employers prefer those candidates holding a master's degree.
  • Special Certifications and Licensures: While not required, management analysts may choose to pursue certification in order to improve their competitiveness in the job market. The Certified Management Consultant (CMC) designation is available to those who pass an exam and meet the required levels of education and work experience.

Budget Analysts

A budget analyst helps to prepare and review an organization's financial proposals. They make recommendations on funding, monitor the organization's spending, estimate future expenditures and costs, and ensure that the organization's budget is accurate and falls within legal boundaries.

  • Minimum Educational Requirement: A bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field is generally the minimum requirement for entry-level employment. In some positions, master's degrees may be preferred.
  • Special Certifications and Licensures: Certifications are available to those that qualify, including the Certified Government Financial Manager designation.

Accounting Associations and Organizations

Accounting degree graduates have a number of organizations and associations available for continued education and professional development:

  • American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) - The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants supports advocacy and professional development for its members. It also administers the Uniform CPA Examination and confers the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation.
  • National Society of Accountants (NSA) - The NSA promotes high educational and ethical standards in the practice of accounting. They boast advocacy, educational opportunities and resources for their members.
  • Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) - The IMA is an association of accountants and other financial professionals working in business. They administer the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) exam and confer the designation upon those who meet the requirements.
Article Sources
Article Sources

Sources:

  1. Accountants and Auditors, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Accessed Jan. 16, 2020, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/accountants-and-auditors.htm#tab-6
  2. Accounting, Wharton, University of Pennsylvania, Accessed Jan. 13, 2020, https://doctoral.wharton.upenn.edu/programs-of-study/accounting/
  3. Associate of Arts in Accounting, Liberty University, Accessed Jan. 13, 2020, https://www.liberty.edu/online-at-liberty/associate-of-arts-in-accounting/
  4. BS in Accounting, Walden University, Accessed Jan. 13, 2020, https://info.waldenu.edu/walden-programs/business-management/bachelors/
  5. Indeed.com, Accessed Jan. 13, 2020, https://www.indeed.com/jobs?q=master%27s+degree+accounting&l=
  6. M.S. in Accounting, Hunter, the City University of New York, Accessed Jan. 14, 2020, http://econ.hunter.cuny.edu/accounting-program/m-s-in-accounting/
  7. "2019 Trends," American Institute of CPAs, Accessed Jan. 26, 2020, https://www.aicpa.org/content/dam/aicpa/interestareas/accountingeducation/newsandpublications/downloadabledocuments/2019-trends-report.pdf
  8. Undergraduate Certificate in Accounting, Liberty University, Accessed Jan. 13, 2020, https://www.liberty.edu/online/business/bachelors/certificate/accounting/
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