A bachelor’s in accounting is the basic credential you need to get the necessary certification to become an accountant. Though you probably think of an accountant as the person who does your taxes, there are many different kinds of accountants and auditors.
To become a Certified Public Accountant, earning a Bachelor of Science in Accounting before taking your CPA exam makes sense. Below is a guide for bachelor’s in accounting degrees, including what to look for, some top colleges and universities, and career prospects.
What Is Accounting?
Accountants complete extensive reviews, analysis, and reports for local, state, and national tax reporting agencies. The two basic branches of accounting that every business needs to take care of are managerial accounting and cost accounting.
As an accounting student, you would learn about the different kinds of accounting. If you decide you want to become a CPA, most bachelor’s programs in accounting will prepare you to take and pass the exam.
What Is an Accounting Major?
Colleges and universities almost always offer accounting majors through a school of business. Sometimes, the actual major is a bachelor’s of business administration and accounting is available as a concentration. In some cases, colleges offer a major within the business school that is solely a major in finance.
It’s also important to note that some accounting degree programs are a Bachelor of Arts in Accounting while others are a Bachelor of Science in Accounting. The difference between the two is small but generally, a bachelor of science is more professionally-focused while a bachelor of arts has fewer major course requirements and more general distribution liberal arts requirements.
That said, most accounting degrees require 120 to 128 credits, with about half of those credits being required accounting courses. Below are some of the core courses you can expect to take as an undergraduate accounting major:
- Managerial Accounting
- Cost Accounting
- International Financial Reporting
- Accounting Information Systems
- Accounting Principles
- Financial Management and Accounting
- Federal Income Taxation
Accreditation and Paying for Your Degree in Accounting
Before you look too far into any college, university, or degree program, make sure to thoroughly research accreditation. Accreditation is one of the most important elements of education because without it, employers may not necessarily consider a degree legitimate.
Accreditation is basically like a stamp of approval that says your degree is of sufficient quality to be considered valid. Unaccredited programs are often associated with for-profit diploma mill institutions.
Meanwhile, you may be thinking about how you’re going to finance your degree. It is extremely important to do your research about tuition rates and the overall cost of different programs. Remember that online degree options can often be less expensive. If you think you will need help paying for your education, be sure to send in all necessary application materials for federal financial aid and other scholarships.
Top Colleges for a Bachelor’s in Accounting
There are so many excellent classroom, online, and hybrid programs to choose from in the accounting field. We have compiled a list below of just a few of these programs to get you started in your school and program search.
Remember that this list is not in any kind of ranking order. Instead, it is meant as a general sample of some of the highly-regarded bachelor’s degrees in accounting out there.
This online Bachelor of Science in Accounting is an exciting opportunity for remote learning. The degree, which requires 123 credits, requires a course called business ethics to make sure that in addition to gaining hard skills in accounting, all accounting graduates have the soft skills they need to succeed as ethical business professionals.
Texas’ flagship state university, located in the quirky and musical city of Austin, offers a top-notch Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting through its McCombs School of Business. The accounting department within this school of business is consistently ranked as one of the best accounting departments in the country.
Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, offers a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accountancy through its Harbert College of Business. The program is entirely online and is geared toward adult degree seekers who are looking to earn an additional bachelor’s degree so they meet the requirements to take the CPA exam. The program only requires 30 credits because it allows for a large portion of transfer credits from a previous degree.
Indiana University at Bloomington is Indiana’s flagship state university. It’s top-notch accounting department within its Kelley School of Business requires courses in major topics like taxation, auditing, and systems management. The program encourages students to take advantage of internship opportunities and gain professional experience to advance their careers. By the end of the degree, most students will be eligible to sit for the state of Indiana’s board CPA exams.
Los Angeles’ largest private research university, the University of Southern California houses an excellent undergraduate program in accounting. USC’s Marshall School of Business contains the Leventhal School of Accounting and offers a Bachelor of Science in Accounting. The program is highly-ranked in the country and offers students many opportunities for career growth. Because the program is so highly-ranked, many campus recruiters visit the university every year to directly hire graduating students.
What Can You Do with a Bachelor’s in Accounting?
There are many career paths to choose from in accounting. Let’s take a look at just a handful to get you started on your career research.
Certified Public Accountant
To become a Certified Public Accountant, all states require that you take a Certified Public Accountant exam and pass all four sections. The four sections are: Financial Accounting and Reporting, Auditing and Attestation, Regulation, and Business Environment & Concepts. You take each section one at a time and will be certified as long as you take and pass all four sections within 18 months.
Accountants work for all kinds of organizations, from private businesses to individuals and government agencies. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, accountants and editors have stable job prospects, with the overall job opportunities set to grow at an average pace from 2019 to 2029. The mean annual salary for accountants and auditors is also $71,550.
The demand for forensic accountants has grown in recent years since cybercrime has risen. Needless to say, cybercriminals often target individuals and their financial records so that they can gain access to their actual funds. Forensic accountants identify discrepancies in financial records and statements to pinpoint where there was wrongdoing.
Auditors usually work for external agencies or governments to conduct internal investigations into a company’s finances and tax records. Business law is an important aspect of this profession since auditors need to be familiar with the legal implications of certain business and accounting decisions. Auditors can spend weeks, months, or even years sifting through financial records and making sure they are in line with tax law.
A financial analyst is a consultant that advises companies and/or individuals about how to manage their finances. As a graduate of a bachelor’s degree program in accounting, you can work as a financial analyst that specializes in accounting issues. This is a great option for someone who is interested in working in the business world more generally but who wants to stay focused on accounting as a subfield.
Accounting is a stable profession that provides a solid standard of living and job security. Contrary to popular opinion, accounting isn’t just about taxes and it doesn’t have to be a stuffy desk job.
As an auditor, you can have a different office environment every day or couple of weeks when you go out for an external audit. As a financial analyst, you may consult many different companies on their accounting practices. This is all to say that it can be a varied, exciting field while still providing stability.
Master’s Degree in Accounting
It is quite common for CPA’s to want to seek out continuing education in the field. If you already have a bachelor’s in accounting, getting a master’s in accounting in a single year is quite common.
In fact, some universities offer a 4+1 program for BS/MS programs. A master’s degree will give you additional and specialized knowledge and a competitive edge when interviewing at major firms or companies for accounting jobs.
Use this guide as an introduction to the major and the different bachelor’s degree options out there. Then, if you’re still interested, check out our guide to accounting career paths.