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Learn about Earning an Accounting Degree

Accounting Degree Today is an all-inclusive directory for anyone interested in pursuing an accounting degree. In order to become an accountant, it’s crucial to find an accounting program that fits your individual needs and goals. Accounting Degree Today not only provides updated information on accounting programs throughout the US, but it also features student reviews and national school rankings to help aspiring students make an informed decision. Additionally, we list updated salary information, career descriptions, and ten-year employment estimations along with advice from professionals who currently work in or have extensive experience in the field of accounting. For new graduates or experienced accountants looking to move their career forward, our accounting job board provides employment postings for accounting jobs in your area.

What is accounting?

Essentially, accounting is a system used to track the activities of a business. This system allows managers to understand where money is being spent and how those expenditures work with the income of the business to affect its performance as a whole. It also helps managers make decisions that will lead to profitability and ensure that the business will continue to function with enough cash on hand. Another important element of accounting is understanding the US tax code and for business owners and managers to understand the tax implications of their decisions.

Why should I get an accounting degree?

Obtaining an accounting degree is an excellent start to a prosperous career in the business field. Because accounting is considered to be the “language of all business,” it is a valuable skillset for anyone wishing to work in the business field. A degree in accounting can offer many possibilities in today’s job market, and it can lead to jobs in a variety of different industries. People who graduate from accounting programs might find jobs in consulting or financial firms, tax departments, or manufacturing companies. In addition to the fact that they have many industries to choose from, people with a degree in accounting are also in high demand, as all businesses—public, private, and non-profit—have a need for accountants to evaluate how they are doing financially. An accounting degree can also be a springboard for becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, accounting can be a lucrative career as well, with accountants earning a median annual salary of $67,190 in 2015.1 The job outlook for accountants is also positive, with an 11% growth rate expected through 2024, which is higher than the average growth rate for all jobs at 6%.1

What kind of people choose to major in accounting?

The field of accounting typically attracts people who have strong math skills and who find it satisfying to balance budgets or to make numbers work. They are driven by facts and might prefer questions with a right or wrong answer to more subjective topics. Potential accounting majors should be highly organized, detail-oriented, and driven, and enjoy helping businesses and individuals thrive and grow. They should have sharp analytical and problem-solving skills, so that they can suggest ways for businesses to improve and run more efficiently. People who pursue a degree in accounting should also possess excellent communication skills, enabling them to listen to and understand clients or managers and discuss their findings clearly with a variety of audiences.

Types of Accounting Degrees

The field of accounting includes several different specialties, and schools offer programs focusing on each of those special areas of accounting. Choosing the right degree program for you involves understanding your goals and conducting research on the options available. There are dozens of types of accounting degrees ranging from general accounting to very specialized areas. For example, a bachelor’s of business administration with a concentration in accounting will provide a broad overview of accounting principles while a master’s in accounting with a tax specialization will concentrate primarily on the area of taxation. Types of accounting degree programs include:

Levels of Accounting Degrees

Like many other fields, the field of accounting includes ascending levels of degrees that range from associate-level to doctorate-level, with the curriculum becoming more specialized at the higher levels. There are also accounting programs that award an accounting certificate to graduates of other fields who wish to gain technical accounting skills to use in their career. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, advanced degrees in the field of accounting matter; in fact, graduates of a master’s in accounting program should have an advantage over candidates with lesser degrees when applying for a job. For more information on accounting degree levels, read our degrees pages:

Accounting Degree Requirements and Prerequisites

While the requirements to enter an accounting degree program vary by school, a high school diploma or a GED is typically the minimum requirement to be admitted into an accounting program. Each school will also have minimum requirements based on standardized test (ACT or SAT) scores, high school grade point average, and the overall strength of the college application (including the statement of purpose and letters of recommendation). Some prerequisite courses are also usually required, such as English, math, social science, and communication. Bachelor’s programs will typically be more selective than associate’s programs, but in order to become an accountant, a bachelor’s in accounting is usually the minimum requirement, whereas bookkeepers and accounting clerks typically start with an associate degree in accounting. To enter a master’s level accounting program, prospective students ordinarily must possess a four-year bachelor’s degree with a minimum GPA requirement and have passed the graduate management admission test (GMAT) exam.

Typical Coursework

The coursework required for accounting programs varies significantly based on the school or program. Undergraduate accounting coursework for a bachelor’s in accounting degree typically takes around four years to complete, while coursework for an associate degree in accounting takes closer to two years. Check with each school you are considering to learn more about the accounting coursework offered there.

Here are some sample accounting courses that you may find as part of an accounting curriculum:

  • Principles of Accounting
  • Professional Responsibilities in Accounting
  • Business Law
  • Accounting Communication
  • Ethics for Professional Accounting
  • Individual Income Tax
  • Management Strategy
  • Tax Research Seminar
  • International Taxation
  • Business Statistics with Computer Applications

Online Accounting Degree Programs vs. Traditional Degree Programs

Choosing the school that is best for you includes determining which format (traditional or online) will work best for your lifestyle and educational needs. Traditional (on-campus) programs are the most common offered by colleges and universities with an accounting program. Online accounting degree programs offer an alternative method for earning an accounting degree, and these have become more prevalent over the past decade due to improvements in technology. Online accounting degrees can now provide a rich learning environment with features like videoconferencing (VC), discussion forums, and online assessments that work together to create an online virtual classroom that can be accessed from anywhere. For students who are already working full-time or who do not live close to a traditional campus, an accounting degree online can provide the convenience and flexibility that make pursuing a degree more feasible. We recommend reading student reviews, talking to former students, and requesting information from schools of interest to help you decide which format will be the best match for you.

Research Your State

Learn about accounting degree programs in your state, local employment opportunities, salary by metro area, and top-ranked accounting schools in your state according to US News and Businessweek. Click on your state on the map or on one of the links below to find school information for your geographic location.

Top 50 Ranked Accounting Blogs

We ranked the top accounting blogs based on website popularity metrics such as website authority, number of linking sites, and Twitter followers. These accounting blogs provide insights into what it is like to work in the accounting field and discuss current topics including tax law changes, industry trends, and accounting technology.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How long does it take to get an accounting degree?

The length of time it takes to get your degree in accounting depends on a variety of factors, including the type of degree you are seeking, the specifics of the accounting program and school you choose, and whether you are attending full-time or part-time. In general, if attending school as a full-time student, an associate’s degree in accounting will take about two years, a bachelor’s in accounting will take four years, and a master’s in accounting will take two years.

2. Should I get my accounting degree online?

Whether you get your accounting degree online or go the more traditional route by seeking an on-campus degree is a personal choice. Some students prefer the traditional classroom and structure that it can provide, while others enjoy the flexibility that online accounting degrees can offer. If you are working your way through school or have a busy personal life, you may prefer to look into online accounting degree options. Some online programs will be cheaper than their on-campus counterparts, but will still provide the same level of training with the same caliber of instructors, ensuring you graduate as a competitive job candidate. Be sure to research each program and verify that it is regionally-accredited and consider reaching out to former or current students before applying or enrolling.

3. What is the typical accounting degree salary for a new or recent graduate?

Salaries vary widely based on the type of accounting job you are seeking. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks earned a median salary of $37,250 in May 2015.2 Bookkeeping and accounting clerks usually need some post-secondary education, so they most typically have an associate degree in accounting. Accountants and auditors, on the other hand, earned a median salary of $67,190 in the same year, and they typically require a bachelor’s degree at minimum, though many have a master’s degree in accounting.1 For more information on salaries for accounting degree holders, visit our Accounting Career Center.

4. What accounting degree jobs are available to graduates?

With a degree in accounting, you can seek a variety of different job titles. With an accounting certificate or associate degree, you may find a job as an accounting assistant, a bookkeeper, or an auditing clerk. If you get your bachelor’s in accounting or a master’s in accounting, you will be eligible for higher-paying jobs such as a public accountant, an internal or external auditor, financial analyst, or an investment banker. Read more about possible jobs for accounting degree holders on our Career Center, or, to find accounting jobs near you, check out our Jobs Board.

Additional Resources

  • The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business – AACSB is a non-profit worldwide business education network that connects students, schools, and businesses to advance business education. They also provide accreditation for business and accounting programs at the bachelor’s level and above.
  • The American Institute of CPAs – The AICPA exists to provide advocacy for certified public accountants, a sense of community among CPAs, discounts for members, professional development and guidance, and access to news and publications that serve CPAs.
  • The American Accounting Association – The AAA is a community for accountants who work in academia and offers subscriptions to several journals, a career center for accountants, and unique networking opportunities.

1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Accountants and Auditors: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/accountants-and-auditors.htm
2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/bookkeeping-accounting-and-auditing-clerks.htm