A degree may open the door to a variety of opportunities and diverse career paths. The degree programs offered at AIU will not necessarily lead to the featured careers. This collection of articles is intended to help inform and guide you through the process of determining which level of degree and types of certifications align with your desired career path.
Majoring in Accounting: What to Expect as an Accounting Major
You've decided to major in accounting. Maybe you enjoy working with numbers and reconciling mathematical data, you're interested in analyzing trends and helping companies make financial decisions, or maybe you like the idea of the stability and steady demand for accounting positions in the current job market.1 There are many reasons for majoring in accounting, not least of which is the versatility of an accounting degree.
What should you expect if you're about to begin an accounting degree program? Generally a degree program will cover basic accounting principles, processes, and software, as well as things like tax law, auditing, and cost/benefit analysis. Depending on the type of degree and concentration, if any, your program experience may vary to include courses and experience relevant to a specific type of accounting (such as forensic accounting or financial fraud investigation).
Should I Major in Accounting?
If you're still deciding whether or not to pursue an accounting degree, it may be worthwhile to think about some of your professional strengths and skills, as well as those you hope to develop further. Majoring in accounting may require students to spend a lot of time working individually, balancing records and working through formulas, but accounting jobs require more than just an in-depth knowledge of math and data organization. Accountants must also have strong interpersonal skills to be able to work with multiple departments throughout a company, and they should possess clear writing and research skills to communicate their findings to managers.
Essential skills for accounting majors may include1:
- Strong math and analytical skills
- Problem solving
- Strict attention to detail
- Organization and planning
- Familiarity with Microsoft Office Suite, Quickbooks, and other popular finance and accounting software
- Knowledge of GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles)
Types of Accounting Degrees
While accounting degrees are sometimes offered at the associate level, most common entry-level positions require at least a bachelor's degree, and some require a master's or even a doctoral accounting degree depending on the position.1 There are also a number of different types of degree programs specializing in different industries and areas of practice related to accounting such as a Business degree with a specialization in forensic accounting.
Bachelor of Accounting
A Bachelor of Accounting degree program typically introduces students to fundamental accounting practices as well as the many possible accounting areas and responsibilities they're likely to encounter in entry-to-mid-level positions. This may include how to prepare financial statements, basic accounting ethics and federal finance regulations, auditing methods, individual and corporate tax law, and a wide range of standard business principles and practices.
Standard core accounting courses for a bachelor's degree may include:
- Applied Business Mathematics
- Principles of Accounting I
- Introduction to Business
- Managerial Accounting
Master of Accounting
Similar to the bachelor's level, there are multiple ways to pursue a master's degree in the field of accounting. Some colleges and universities offer a Master of Accounting Degree, though an MBA with an accounting specialization which may also be an option to look into. Pursuing a master's level degree program in accounting offers students the chance to build on what they learned in their bachelor's program as well as courses which may typically be focused more on transitioning to upper-level management positions.
Courses in a MBA-Accounting program may include:
- Global Financial Management
- Accounting for Managers
- Accounting Information Systems
- Public and Not-for-Profit Accounting
Career Paths for Accounting Majors
An accounting degree can open up a number of different career paths beyond just that of a standard accountant. Below are some of the accounting positions that are projected to have significant job growth in the coming years2.
Certified Public Accountant and Certified Management Accountant1
There are several different types of accountant positions one may choose to pursue depending on the kind of responsibilities you want and the clientele you want to work with. Certified Public Accountants (CPA) work primarily with individuals filing tax returns and preparing financial documents, and may be employed independently or as part of a larger firm. Certified Management Accountants (CMA), on the other hand, work as part of a larger staff helping to keep a company's financial records in order and preparing documents for internal use.
- Degree Required: Bachelor's (though there are various certifications for CPAs and CMAs available)
- Projected Job Growth: 11% through 2024
Accounting majors who are interested in investigating financial records, identifying trends or discrepancies, and problem solving based on data may consider a career as a management analyst. Sometimes called management consultants, analysts review a company's financial statements and make recommendations to management about ways to improve efficiency and profitability.
- Degree Required: Bachelor's (the Institute of Management Consultants' Certified Management Consultant designation may also be helpful)
- Projected Job Growth: 14% through 2024
Like management analysts, auditors are tasked with reviewing financial statements and drawing conclusions about an individual or company's financial activity. However, where management analysts help make recommendations to improve a company's performance, auditors work to identify fraud, mismanagement, and other inconsistencies, as well as verifying that legally required documents have been prepared and submitted correctly.
- Degree Required: Bachelor's (the Institute of Internal Auditors also offers the Certified Internal Auditor designation)
- Projected Job Growth: 11% through 2024
Those with an interest in applying their accounting degree to investments and the financial market may choose to pursue a position as a financial analyst. Financial analysts monitor market trends alongside a company's financial statements and make recommendations to management about when and where to invest profits, as well as when to collect on previous investments.
- Degree Required: Bachelor's (often the CFA Institute's Chartered Financial Analyst certification may also be helpful)
- Projected Job Growth: 12% through 2024
Ready to learn more? Start exploring your options with AIU's Bachelor of Accounting degree program.
For important information about the educational debt, earnings, and completion rates of students who attended these programs, go to www.aiuniv.edu/disclosures. AIU cannot guarantee employment or salary. Not all programs are available to residents of all states.
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, "Accountants and Auditors," on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/accountants-and-auditors.htm (visited June 18, 2017).
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, "Management Analysts," on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/management-analysts.htm (visited June 18, 2017).
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, "Financial Analysts," on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/financial-analysts.htm(visited June 18, 2017).