Degrees in Accounting
While it may sound boring, accounting has multiple benefits as a career choice, and if you’re dedicated enough, it could be a fulfilling profession. To be able to practice it, however, you need a degree in accounting that will set you up for a stable career in business, finance, and virtually any field you can imagine. So, if you want to join the accounting community, scroll down for a detailed guide on degrees in accounting, including levels and types, job positions, average salaries, industry forecasts, and more.
What is an Accounting Degree?
Having an accounting degree lets professionals manage day-to-day financial records, prepare tax documents, mitigate financial risk, discover fraud, provide investment advice, and more.
A degree in accounting can open various business and finance career paths for you. Individuals with an accounting degree can work in companies of all sizes and industries, including government entities and non-profit organizations.
Accountant responsibilities typically include performing financial reviews, creating financial reports, preparing tax documents, ensuring compliance with regulations, and other tasks depending on the job position.
Levels of Accounting Degrees
With the accounting job applications being so versatile, it makes sense that this would also be the case with the relevant education and qualifications. Below, you can see a breakdown of the levels of the different certificates and degrees in accounting.
Certificate in Accounting
A Certificate in Accounting is a pass to the accounting industry without a degree. It’s an excellent option for those who want to try working in the industry before deciding to commit two or four years to obtain a degree. These programs teach the basic principles of accounting, including the most used accounting abbreviations and their meaning. There are also post-baccalaureate certificates that offer more specialized knowledge in a chosen accounting subject. Depending on the program, accounting certificates can take between 12 weeks and two years to earn.
Associate Degree in Accounting
Associates degrees in accounting are a great way to get into the accounting field. It’s a two-year, full-time commitment that familiarizes students with the basics of accounting, bookkeeping, economics, business principles, statistics, and the golden rules of accounting. The majority of associate’s degrees in accounting require a high-school diploma or GED.
Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting
A Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting is one of the most popular choices among students. It’s a four-year commitment that teaches basic and intermediate accounting. It’s also an excellent option for students who intend to become Certified Public Accountants (CPAs).
Master’s Degree in Accounting
A Master’s Degree in Accounting is a graduate degree that equips students with more advanced accounting skills. It’s also a great way to prepare for the CPA examination. Students are typically required to complete an undergraduate degree in accounting or another field to attain this level. Students without an accounting background might be asked to satisfy specific requirements before attending a master’s in accounting program. This degree level offers a variety of options for specialization and takes one to three years to obtain.
Ph.D. in Accounting
Ph.D. in Accounting is the highest degree in accounting, typically pursued by students who wish to teach in universities or dedicate their career to researching and advancing the accounting industry. The program involves studying advanced accounting concepts for two years and preparing a thesis in the final two or three years. It usually takes between four and five years to become a Ph.D. in Accounting.
Types of Accounting Degrees
With an accountant degree, your career can take on different paths. The direction you’ll go depends on your preferences and goals. You should carefully research your options, which range from general degrees in accounting to highly specialized ones. Maybe you want to work in a dynamic environment with higher levels of management, create financial reports that support the decision-making process, or master the area of taxation. The options are endless, but here are some of the most sought-after types of accounting degrees to consider.
Managerial Accounting Degree
A Bachelor of Science in Accounting — Managerial Accountancy is a degree that prepares grads to work as internal auditors and accountants alongside management teams in companies, helping them make critical business decisions. Their responsibilities may include preparing internal financial reports, forecasting, taxation, financial control, and risk identification. They can also get into the role of an outside accounting consultant. This accountancy degree is a great foundation for obtaining a master’s degree. Qualifying students can take the Uniform CPA exam with this degree in most states. Managerial accounting graduates also have the opportunity to get a Certified Management Accountant designation.
Accounting Information Systems Degree
An Accounting Information Systems degree prepares graduates to use technology to analyze and evaluate the accounting processes. They leverage information systems to make accountants’ work more efficient. Earning an Accounting Information Systems degree allows students to take on accounting or auditing roles or a combination of both.
Forensic Accounting Degree
A Bachelor’s Degree in Forensic Accounting qualifies students to join public and private organizations as auditors, forensic auditors, fraud examiners, and other auditing roles. It’s a specialized accountant degree that opens opportunities for entry to mid-level auditing and forensic accountancy positions. This degree makes a solid base for attaining a Master’s Degree in Forensic Accountancy.
MBA in Forensic Accounting Degree
Getting a Master’s Degree in Forensic Accounting could be your next challenge if you are ready to up your forensic accountant career. This accountancy degree combines specialized expertise in fraud detection, prevention, communication, and management principles, typically part of traditional business administration degree programs. It prepares students to detect fraud and create financial crime reports for executive-level management and investigative agencies. Forensic accountants can also use their knowledge to testify before courts of law.
CPAs can provide tax and accounting services, auditing, management, consulting services, and other expertise depending on their specialization. A CPA degree could be earned after gaining at least a bachelor’s degree, preferably in accounting or business accounting degree, and completing at least 150 credit hours of coursework.
If your major is something else, you must complete a minimum number of accounting-related credits, as specified by the accounting board in your state. After meeting these requirements, you can take the CPA exam, a four-part test issued by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). In most states, test-takers must complete all four parts of the CPA exam within 18 months. Some states require a specific number of years of professional experience to qualify for a CPA license.
MBA in Accounting Degree
A Master’s Degree in Business Administration focusing on accounting allows students to work in business management positions and jobs that require solid problem-solving and leadership skills. Individuals who have attained this degree can take on greater responsibilities within a company or use their knowledge to grow businesses.
Master’s of Science in Accounting
A Master of Science in Management with a concentration in accounting is a post-graduate degree that primes students to work in managerial and executive positions. These individuals have a deeper understanding of financial management, financial controls, corporate governance, and ethics.
How Long Does it Take to Get an Accounting Degree?
The time needed to get a degree depends on the type and level of degree you aspire to attain. Full-time students typically need two years for associate degrees in accounting, four years for bachelor’s degrees, two years for master’s degrees, and up to four or five years for Ph.D. in accounting. The time needed for getting an accounting degree might also depend on the school you choose, your program requirements, and whether you are a part-time or full-time student.
Requirements, Skills, and Qualifications
To start a career in accounting, you need at least an associate degree in accounting. This degree covers the basics, including accounts payable and receivable, tax returns, and financial statements. Graduates also must develop skills in applications like Microsoft Excel and in some cases, accounting software, and soft skills like critical thinking, communication, organizational skills, etc. These individuals typically assist accountants and auditors with administrative tasks, including basic bookkeeping, filing, answering phones, preparing financial documents, payroll accounting, and other clerical duties.
There are similarities between the skills and qualifications for associate and bachelor’s degree levels. Still, the latter requires more analytical thinking and understanding of more complex accounting fields such as international accounting, auditing, fraud examination, etc.
Higher levels of accounting degrees require highly specialized expertise, strong financial knowledge, and a problem-solving mindset, as these professionals deal with more complex day-to-day responsibilities rather than routine tasks.
Online Degrees in Accounting
Aspiring accounting students can choose between traditional, on-campus programs and online education. Although traditional programs are more popular among students, obtaining accounting degrees online is gaining momentum, especially with all the technological advancements in the past decade. These accountant degree courses are a great fit for working students who don’t live near their university and can’t fit traditional classes into their schedules. They can still learn through live and recorded video classes, join discussion forums to share and absorb ideas from the community and take online assessments to verify their knowledge.
No matter their nature, all accounting programs should be accredited by an entity recognized by the US Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). The accrediting authority in the accounting field is the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Online bachelor’s degrees in accounting and online master’s degrees in accounting can also get accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). Whether your program of choice has accreditation from one or both of these bodies, rest assured that employers and other relevant institutions will recognize your degree.
To find the best online accounting degree program for your needs, we recommend researching schools and requesting more information about the programs that interest you. It’s also helpful to read student reviews before investing time and money.
Degrees in Accounting Jobs, Salary, and Outlook
The demand for accountants is everywhere, and it’s enormous! As a worldwide force in business, the USA has complex laws and regulations businesses must respect. For that reason and many others, there isn’t a company that can operate without some type of accountant.
Accounting statistics show that only the Big Four accounting and auditing firms reported combined revenue of $167 billion and employed nearly 1.2 million people worldwide in 2021. A large chunk of the profits was generated from the US market.
The demand for accountants in the American market will continue to rise. In 2021, there were $1.32 million accountants and auditors and 1.51 million bookkeepers, accounting, and auditing clerks throughout the US. California has the highest number of accountants and editors, but the District of Columbia paid the highest salaries.
Finance and insurance, management of companies and enterprises, government, accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll services are the top industries that employ accountants and auditors. The average annual accounting degrees salary was $77,250 in 2021, earnings that provide a comfortable life in the US. The top 10 percent of earners made $128,970 on average, while the lowest ten percent made less than $47,970 on average.
The employment of accountants and editors is expected to grow seven percent by 2030, which translates into about 135,000 openings each year — and one of these accounting degree jobs could be yours!
Degrees in Accounting FAQs
What do accounting majors do?
Accounting majors provide students with knowledge in finances, business administration, and communicating financial data with all users of accounting information. Depending on the major, students can learn different aspects of the accounting field, from managing financial records to more complex topics like fraud examination, tax preparation, preparing financial action plans, reports, investing, etc.
Which is better, BA or BS in accounting?
A Bachelor of Science (BS) in Accounting is a four-year degree that focuses mainly on accounting principles and prepares students for entry-level roles in government, corporate, and non-profit accounting. A Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Accounting leaves more room for broader liberal arts education. It benefits students who want to choose a minor or double major. There is no official ranking of which degree is better. It all depends on your goals and career aspirations. Both accountancy degrees are valid and can open doors to a bright career.
What are the different degrees in accounting?
There are many different accounting degrees. Some of them include:
- Accounting Information Systems Degree
- Forensic Accounting
- MBA in Forensic Accounting
- CPA degree
- MBA in Accounting
- Master’s of Science in Accounting
What can I do with an accounting degree?
A degree in accounting creates opportunities to work in different industries, businesses, and positions. Every company and individual can benefit from an accountant in today’s complex bureaucratic world. Some of the jobs you can do with an accounting degree include:
- Tax Preparer
- Accounting Associate
- Payroll Clerk
- Auditing Clerk
- Accounts Payable/Accounts Receivable Administrator
- Staff Accountant
- Management Accountant
- Budget Analyst
- Financial Analyst
- Internal Auditor
- Loan Officer
- Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
- Chief Finacial Officer (CFO)
- Forensic Accountant
- Information Technology Accountant
- Corporate Controller
What qualifications do you need to become an accountant?
Bachelor’s degrees in accounting and finance or business are typically required to become an accountant. Depending on the position, other certifications may be required. An associate degree can also jumpstart your accounting career, especially if you wish to gain experience before deciding which direction your career should go.
Can you earn an accounting degree online?
Yes, you can earn degrees in accounting online. This is fitting for individuals who can’t be physically present on campus for whatever reason. If you need help with your online studies, you can also hire a virtual accounting tutor. You, however, need to ensure that the online courses are accredited by relevant institutions like the US Department of Education, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), or the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC).