Do you have an affinity for numbers and problem solving? If so, you may consider pursuing a variety of bachelor’s degrees in professional accounting and other similar fields. Read on to find out what it entails and why you may want to obtain an online accounting degree.

Before taking the plunge and choosing a bachelor’s degree in any field, it’s helpful to have an idea of what you may be getting into in terms of future individual compensation, career growth, opportunities for certification, what companies might make offers when you graduate, and more.

Much like accounting as a career, the education path that will lead you to a future position as a practicing accountant is fairly cut and dry. You’ll have to complete a predetermined number of semester hours, whether you’re looking to stop at a bachelor’s degree or move on to a graduate program and/or CPA licensure. While you may be able to get into a lower level bookkeeping or other position with just a diploma, a bachelor's accounting degree or similar training will be required for most specialist positions and certainly for managers. Certification, such as that of a Certified Management Accountant, a Master of Accountancy, or a Master of Business Administration with a focus in accounting may round out your future goals.

No matter where your particular path takes you, your accounting career is likely to begin the same way, with a bachelor’s degree.

What is a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting?

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Getting a bachelor’s degree is the first step in the career path you’ll be following if you plan to practice accounting in the future. As a student, you will take coursework that will provide training in the generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), asset management, accounting systems and financial technology, how to balance a ledger, reviewing value and trends, budget management, differences between privately held and publicly traded companies, documentation, and more.

You’ll need to have an undergraduate degree at minimum to be eligible to sit for the CPA certification examination, which can prove you have the abilities to boost both your salary and your job security. Many employers prefer their accountants, controller, and finance consultants to have completed upper level graduate studies in the field, and this instruction is the cornerstone on which you’ll build your learning. Higher level positions you might hold with more study and skill development include accounts receivable and payable, managerial accounting, financial accountant, securities investment, asset management, controller, and more.

Bachelor’s degree programs in accounting, in general, consists of 120 semester hours, some of which are spent taking specialized accounting and business courses. At the end of their degree, students in the United States are expected to have a working professional knowledge of the following subjects:

  • Auditing
  • Managerial Accounting
  • Cost Accounting
  • Financial Accounting
  • Accounting Information Systems / Accounting Systems
  • Generally Accepted Accounting Principles

A bachelor’s degree in accounting also requires a certain number of credit hours in non-accounting curricula. It may be helpful to choose courses that will set you apart from the competition such as English, computer science, marketing, leadership, or data and business analytics.

For students who are still in high school, it’s important to prepare for each challenging class you’ll have to pass by taking honors and/or college level courses whenever possible. Higher-level math classes are especially important when it comes to giving you a leg up on your bachelor’s degree or hiring while you work to complete a degree.

Why Would I Want or Need a Bachelor of Science in Accounting?

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Obtaining a bachelor’s degree is undeniably hard work. However, due to the specialization of the job and the responsibilities it comes with, it’s essential to gain your degree before you can be hired at even an entry-level accounting position within a firm.

Life as an accountant consists of more than just crunching numbers all day long. With an accounting degree, you’ll have the opportunity to play a huge role in a business or firm by keeping finances straight and books in order. You’ll have the background you need to advise in matters of business or finance. You’ll also have job security and the knowledge that no matter what, companies will always need financial records to be kept and taxes will have to be filed. Other daily tasks you can perform will include tracking each transaction, taking time to balance the ledger, training or teaching incoming employees, reviewing the budget for projects pulling a report when asked and performing some quantitative analysis, etc.

As technology progresses, so does the job description of many accountants. We now have access to software that can handle many of the tasks that traditionally went to the accountants on a company’s payroll. The job widely consists of being a financial accountant and managing information instead of just running numbers and keeping books. Consulting and analysis are normal parts of the job, and a bachelor’s degree will make sure you lesarn the tools of the trade for when you need them.

Career Outlook

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The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected that jobs in the accounting and finance sector will increase by 10% by 2026. This bodes especially well for those who are still in the school stage of the career process.

A bachelor’s degree in accounting can open the door to obtaining jobs in a number of industries, including:

  • Publicly traded companies / public accounting
  • Education and school systems
  • Healthcare administration
  • Government
  • International trade industries
  • Privatly held companies and firms

Whichever industry you land in, you’ll be qualified for hire in an accounting or finance job. Some of the national or global positions that an accounting degree may qualify you for include:

  • Accountant
  • Actuary
  • Auditor
  • Analytics (budget and finance)
  • Bookkeeper
  • Credit examiner
  • Financial consultant
  • Forensic accountant
  • Payroll administrator
  • Risk assessment advisor
  • Tax advisor
  • Securities trader
  • Treasurer of an organization

Upon completion of your bachelor’s degree, you may be well on the career track to become a CPA. You’ll need an additional 30 semester hours under your belt before you’re eligible to sit for the examination, but obtaining a bachelor’s degree is the first big step in the right direction. Check with your state’s Accountancy Board resource for specifics on bachelor’s degree or master level degree requirements. You can earn these extra credits in a traditional classroom or online.

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Salary expectations

If you start working as an accountant immediately after completing your degree, you’ll find that entry level pay averages around $40,000 to $50,000 per year. The first five to ten years brings additional pay with experience, but doesn’t increase steadily after that.

If you decide to pursue a graduate degree or certification (such as a CPA license), you can expect to earn five to 15 percent more than accountants with just a bachelor’s degree.

School Curriculum

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After declaring your accounting major, you and your advisor will work together to create a plan that will make your bachelor’s degree attainable.

Your class load will consist not only of accounting, but also additional courses designed to round out your bachelor’s degree. Here’s what you can expect to take.

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Core courses

Every bachelor’s degree requires a certain number of core classes to ensure a well-rounded education. These provide a background in subjects that aren’t necessarily directly relevant to your major, but promote diversity and critical thinking as well as other applicable skills you’ll likely need in your career.

Examples of these subjects include:

  • Writing and English composition
  • Fine arts and humanities
  • Social sciences
  • Science and technology
  • History

These will allow you to receive a broader education than you would receive if you were only focusing on accounting.

The core curriculum will also include a number of elective credits (depending on the specific requirements of your school). You can choose topics of personal interest or ones that may benefit you in your chosen career.

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Business core courses

Since so much of your work as an accountant will involve finance and business, your bachelor’s degree will include a focus on classes that provide a solid background in business practices and principles. Here are some examples of what you’ll need to fulfill this requirement:

  • Business Law
  • Managerial Accounting
  • Financial Accounting
  • Introduction to Marketing
  • Principles of Finance
  • Business Statistics or Business Analytics

These courses will give you instruction in and a strong comprehension of business and finance topics. You’ll be able to complete a professional degree and comfortably perform financial analysis and provide valuable insight to future employers upon graduation.

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Accounting major courses

To complete your degree, you’ll need to have accumulated a certain number of credits in your chosen field. You can expect these to be more difficult than core classes and significantly more comprehensive. Examples of these include:

  • Federal Taxation
  • Intermediate and Advanced Accounting
  • Auditing Principles
  • Payroll Accounting
  • Financial Statement Auditing
  • Advanced Business Law

The classes you need to achieve your bachelor’s degree will vary based on your school, though they will likely be the same for online or traditional campus programs, so be sure to check with your advisor to find out exactly what requirements you’ll be expected to meet.

When you’re finished with your professional degree, you should be able to:

  • Prepare tax returns based on a thorough knowledge of current taxation laws
  • Understand the ins and outs of accounts receivable and accounts payable
  • Understand the laws and rules surrounding being a financial accounttant and how reporting works
  • Audit financial statements and ensure that the proper legal avenues are being followed
  • Create financial records and statements according to local and federal rules
  • Analyze and explain financial and investment trends and happenings to company stakeholders who may lack comprehensive knowledge of finance
  • Apply proper professional ethics in the finance and accounting field at all times using the generally accepted accounting principles

Though some employers prefer a graduate degree or additional licensing (and none require a doctoral degree), these credentials should be enough to get you through the door in many accounting firms and get started and advance in your career in finance.

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Choosing a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting

Gone are the days of accounting as a monotonous cubicle job. The long-standing stereotype of accountants as boring office drones, wielding calculators and pocket protectors, couldn’t be further from the truth.

Today, accountants are problem solvers and strategists. If you pursue a career as an accountant, you can expect to spend much of your time performing financial and taxation consulting. You’ll need to constantly be able to use sharp critical thinking skills, and no detail should slip past your radar. Numbers shouldn’t be the only thing on your mind, you’ll also need to hone excellent communication skills.

When considering a degree in accounting, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I a good problem solver?
  • Am I detail oriented?
  • Can I break down and explain complicated concepts to people?
  • Am I a logical decision maker?
  • Am I a planner by nature?
  • Am I good at extrapolating data from patterns and records?
  • Do I enjoy working with numbers?

If the answer to most of these questions is “yes”, accounting might be a good fit to match your personality type. People who are well-suited to FAME careers (finance, accounting, management, economics) tend to be logical thinkers who are willing to play by the rulebook and spend a lot of time dealing with data. They have above average organizational skills, and are extremely conscious of ethics and integrity.

Many accountants have a Myers-Briggs personality type of ESTJ (extrovert, sensing, thinking, judging). These personalities tend to be logical, clinical thinkers who are well suited to a career in accounting or finance and will do well as managers.

Accreditation

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Not just any establishment can open its doors and distribute college degrees. In order for your degree to be taken seriously by the academic world, it needs to come from an accredited college or university.

Accreditation is the process in which universities are verified as a valid institution. Schools must be evaluated every three to five years in a peer-review system made up of faculty from other accredited colleges to make sure regulations are being met and that students tuition dollars are well spent.

When looking at schools where you might get your accounting degree, you may encounter schools that are either regionally or nationally accredited. In order to qualify for federal financial aid, get the best curricula from the best professor, and make sure your transcripts are transferrable, you’ll need to make sure the school of your choice is accredited by an organization that’s accepted by the U.S. Department of Education.

National accreditation organizations include:

  • The Association for Advancing Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
  • The Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)
  • The International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE)
  • Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges
  • Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training
  • Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools
  • Council on Occupational Education
  • Distance Education Accrediting Commission
  • New York State Board of Regents, and the Commissioner of Education
  • Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, Accreditation Commission

Regional accreditation bureaus include:

  • Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools
  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges
  • North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, Higher Learning Commission
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools

While it may seem like nationally accredited universities would be more widely accepted in the academic world, that’s actually not the case. Regional accreditation is considered to be the gold standard in choosing a college that will truly give you the best education possible.

National accreditation is often associated with for-profit schools and vocational programs. That doesn’t mean you won’t get good credentials at a nationally accredited university; however, regionally accredited schools don’t always accept transfer credits from schools that only have national accreditation. If you’re planning to take the CPA exam and earn certification, this is particularly important to consider, since you’ll have to complete an additional 30 semester hours to qualify for the exam.

Especially if you’re seeking a degree in a field like accounting that has certain concrete requirements and a clear career path, such as data or business analytics, you’ll want to check with your state to ensure accreditation is accepted. Contact your state’s Accountancy Board for details. After obtaining your bachelor's from a traditional or online program you can further your education and career by completing a certification in accounting.


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