Accountants are in high demand. They rarely lack job security and career advancement opportunities. According to one survey, most accountants believe they have better job opportunities now than they did in the past. Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that job growth for accountants and auditors will increase by 18 percent through 2020. It's a great time to begin a career in accounting.
Three types of certified accounts practice in the United States: Certified Management Accountants (CMAs), Certified Internal Auditors (CIAs), and Certified Public Accountant (CPAs). CPAs provide financial and tax planning, accounting, and auditing services. CIAs are hired by organizations to perform auditing, and CMAs are usually employed by corporations but also provide accounting and auditing services to non-profit organizations.
Each state has its own licensing requirements for CPAs, however, everyone aspiring to work as a CPA in the United States must earn a bachelor's degree in accounting. Most accounting programs are 150 credit hours long. Students are required to complete courses in auditing, taxation, and managerial and financial accounting. Accountants with professional certifications, or master's degrees, usually enjoy better job opportunities than those with an undergraduate degree in accountinng. Accountants submitting reports or paperwork with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are required to obtain their CPA designation.
Associates Degree in Accounting
Earning an associate degree in accounting from an accredited community college can give you the edge you need to get started in a career in accounting. An associate degree in accounting will introduce students to various accounting topics including payroll, statistics, taxation, basic accounting principles, financial statement analysis, and accounting software and technology. Earning an associate degree will prepare students to (1) apply for entry-level accounting and bookkeeping positions and (2) apply to a bachelor's degree program in accounting at a four-year college or university.
Graduates with an associate degree in accounting will find entry-level positions with accounting firms and in the accounting departments of businesses performing basic accounting, financial and bookkeeping responsibilities. Possible career opportunities for graduates of associate degree programs include:
- Account payable/receivable clerk
- Accounting assistant
- Administrative assistant
Students aspiring to a bachelor's degree program after completing their associate degree, need to make sure to earn their associate degree from a school or community college that is regionally accredited. Only credits earned at regionally accredited institutions are typically transferrable to a four-year college or university. If you even suspect that you'll want to earn a bachelor's degree sometime down the road, check to make sure the credits you earn via your associate's degree can be applied toward a bachelor's degree.
Bachelor's Degree in Accounting
Earning a bachelor's degree in accounting is typically the mininum entry-level requirement for a career in accounting. While earning a bachelor's degree in accounting provides greater career opportunity than an associates degree, it still isn't as advantageous as a master's degree in accounting. Earning a bachelor's degree in accounting is also a prerequisite to earning a master's degree in accounting.
The bachelor's degree in accounting is a four-year program composed of general education and core accounting courses. The bachelor's degree requires the completion of 120 semester credit hours. There are now a few accounting bachelor's degree that offer 150 credits, the minimum requirement for licensure as a Certified Public Accounting (CPA). However, the more traditional method for becoming a CPA is to earn a master's degree in accounting.
Earning a bachelor's degree in accounting will prepare students for entry-level career opportunities in the accounting departments of corporations and government agencies.
Master's Degree in Accounting
A master's degree in accounting is the degree of choice among accounting firms and corporations seeking full-time accountants, auditors and finance professionals. While a bachelor's degree in accounting offers career opportunity, earning a masters degree in accounting, and becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), fully opens the door to everything a career in accounting has to offer.
Requirements for becoming a CPA vary by state, but most states require candidates to have completed 150 credits of relevant college coursework and pass the national CPA exam. A few states still allow qualified work experience to substitute for college credit, but the majority of states do not. Earning a master's degree is often the best choice for students seeking to obtain CPA certification.
In addition to becoming a CPA, earning master's degree in accounting has other advantages. In an industry teaming with accounting bachelor degree holders, having a master's degree in accounting will really set you apart from the competition. Earning a master's degree or becoming certified in a specialized area of accounting will also set you apart from other job seekers. The following are some of the more popular, and useful, accounting specializations.
- Internal Audit
- Assurance Services
- International Accounting
- Personal Financial Planning
- Environmental Accounting
Top Accounting Degree Programs
Explore degree and certification programs in accounting offered by accredited colleges and universities that can be completed online or at campus locations nationwide. Specialized accounting programs in finance, managerial accounting, and other specialties are also available. To learn more about a school of specific program, click on the "Request Info" button to the right. To view more programs, scroll to the next page of listings.