When working as an accountant, your job is to record and analyze the financial transactions of a business to make sure it operates efficiently and earns a profit. Accountants are needed in practically every industry and their record keeping is vital for a business to be successful.
With how important it is for a company to need an accountant, the position is constantly in demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states careers in the accounting filed are expected to grow at a relatively average rate up to 2028.
In order to become an accountant, most employers require that you have some sort of degree. There are many institutions offering a basic accounting degree and you can earn one at any level.
As an accountant, you have a large income potential. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states the median wage of an accountant is around $70,000, but that number can change significantly based on your experience, education and the industry you choose for work.
Below is our guide on accounting degrees, careers available and some of the best universities and colleges where you can earn your accounting degree.
Accounting Degree Levels
Because becoming an accountant requires you to earn an advanced education, you must earn a degree and formal certification, particularly from a well-established institution. While some students earn a degree at the associate’s or bachelor’s level, there are others that work toward earning a master’s degree or even a doctorate. Below is a list of the varying accounting degree levels and what career opportunities are available with each one you obtain.
Associate Degree: When earning your associate degree in accounting, you learn everything needed for various positions in the industry. This degree takes around one to two years to earn, which makes it viable for those who want to quickly get work in the industry. While it only takes half the time needed to earn a bachelor’s degree, students who earn their associate’s degree still learn a lot of the fundamentals of accounting. You will cover topics in business law, accounting technology, macroeconomics, microeconomics and much more.
Bachelor’s Degree: An accounting degree is typically offered as a Bachelor of Science to students. This degree takes an average of four years to obtain and requires students to partake in a specialized program that allows graduates to work in a wide variety of fields in the industry. This level of education may be ideal for many students and it is commonly what employers look for when seeking to hire an accountant.
Students gain an in-depth level of knowledge and understanding of the business cycle and accounting principles. Throughout the extent of the program, students will learn about auditing, preparing federal income taxes, cost accounting, financial statements and more.
Master’s of Accounting Degree: A master’s degree is a step beyond the bachelor’s program and is an even more specialized form of accounting degree. This is the ideal program for students who want to become a certified public accountant (CPA) or aspire to work as an accountant at a competitive firm.
If you have an existing background in accounting, it’s possible to obtain this degree within a year. Some of the programs offer students intensive internships as well, where they earn valuable hands-on experience and expand their industry network.
Students who want to work more in business can pursue an MBA in accounting as an alternative. While the program is similar to those that earn their Master’s of Accounting, there are some specific courses in business management and leadership.
Doctoral Degree: A doctoral degree is for accounting students who want to work in research or academia. It takes four to five years for students to earn their doctoral degree and receive their PhD. In most programs, students must complete their standard coursework, do research and a dissertation, and finally perform comprehensive examinations.
Currently, it is considered an excellent option to work toward your PhD in accounting if you are interested in becoming a professor. The United States is experiencing a shortage of accounting professors with the number of individuals retiring being larger than those earning their degrees annually.
Accounting Career Types
When pursuing your degree in accounting, it is best to determine your career path early on. Understanding the career path you wish to pursue in accounting is helpful when determining the level of degree you need to earn and what courses you need to take. It may even have an impact on where you choose to study. Below are some of the common occupations associated with accounting degrees.
Auditing: Auditors are tasked with monitoring businesses in terms of ethics and integrity. Auditors make sure companies meet their financial standards. Students who plan to work in auditing specialize in business law, accounting research and forensic accounting.
When working as an auditor, you’ll be sifting through financial records of companies, individuals and government organizations to make sure they followed tax law. Other positions involve working as an auditing manager and fraud examiner.
Taxation: Working as a tax accountant involves helping individuals, and small and large businesses, to make sure their tax documents meet federal regulations. If you are a personal accountant, you can work at an accounting firm or be self-employed. As a corporate tax accountant, your work involves making sure organizations meet federal standards when they file their taxes.
For both positions, you are typically expected to hold your CPA license. There are also tax consultant positions for those who are experts in the field. Tax consultants provide relevant and up-to-date information on tax issues to their clients.
Forensics: Fraudulent practices are increasing with the rise of online trading. This means forensic accountants are in demand now more than ever before. Forensic accountants perform forensic auditing, review financial statements and identify discrepancies in a company’s funds.
Just like with many of the other positions listed above, you must have a CPA or a license as a Certified Fraud Examiner to work in this field. However, you do not need a graduate degree to become a forensics accountant.
With that covered, let’s now turn to the best schools for you to attend and earn your degree in accounting.
Best Schools for Accounting Degrees
The University of Notre Dame is a private institution recognized for its accounting program. In fact, graduates from its program have a 98 percent placement rate. Even more impressive, those who earn their master’s degree have a 100 percent placement rate.
The University of Connecticut is recognized for having one of the most innovative accounting degree programs in the country. The university offers accounting programs up to the PhD level.
Lehigh University offers an undergraduate degree in accounting. The accounting major gives students the ability to explore multiple fields. The graduation rate for students enrolled at the school is 89 percent.
The University of Maryland offers a special program where students can earn their undergraduate and master’s degrees in accounting in five years. Students in the program must earn 150 credit-hours to sit for the CPA exam. The university has a graduation rate of 87 percent.
The University of Florida offers a Bachelor of Science in Accounting program for students who are eligible. Students may sit for the CPA exam after completing their master’s program. The graduation rate for the University of Florida is 87 percent.
Villanova is a Catholic university which allows students to earn their Master’s Degree in Accounting within five years. The graduation rate for the university is 90 percent. It’s suggested students studying business consider minoring in accounting since it complements the degree.
The University of Texas–Austin is one of the largest schools in the United States. With 18 schools and colleges, the university offers multiple degrees to its students. There are two programs for students who wish to study accounting. The first is a four-year bachelor’s program. The second is a five-year master’s degree program.
Earning your accounting degree places you on a clear career path. As businesses continue to earn and manage their funds, the need for an accountant will be there. You also have the potential to pursue work in practically any industry you like.
Accountants have the unique opportunity to perform their job in a wide array of fields. Some accountants work for large businesses and corporations. Others choose to work on a more personal level and help people with their individual taxes. There are even individuals who choose to work where they find fraudulent accounting information.
From being self-employed to working with some of the largest companies in the world, there is a lot available to someone who earns their accounting degree. If you love crunching numbers, analyzing data and helping things run more efficiently, consider earning your accounting degree.