Accounting Programs and Schools

Earning a degree in accounting opens doors for a variety of jobs in public accounting, government accounting, international accounting as well as the private sector. As of May 2020, accounting professionals held about 1.3 million jobs in the United States alone. The number of accounting jobs is projected to increase by about 4% between 2019 and 2029, making it a great career choice for college students.

Like many majors, accounting programs are typically offered at the associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate level. Earning a degree in accounting, at any level, includes a mixture of courses in business, ethics and math and statistics in addition to accounting courses.According to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, many colleges and universities across the country now require students to obtain 150 credit hours before applying for their CPA exam by getting a master’s degree education or by taking graduate level courses while working towards a bachelor’s degree. Regardless of the level of education acquired by students, accounting programs will help students refine their skills in communication, presentation and interpersonal relations.

Although a master’s degree is not required, the AICPA has found that first year accounting professionals who have held a higher degree make approximately 10 to 20 percent more starting off and are more likely to be promoted to management positions than those students with a bachelor’s degree.

Accounting professionals who are employed as international accountants, either overseas or with companies located in the United States but that deal mainly with international transactions, typically hold a graduate level degree. Courses generally covered in this accounting specialization include:

  • Social Entrepreneurship
  • Foreign Languages
  • International Business Law
  • International Auditing, Finance and Taxation

Online Opportunities:

To obtain an online degree in accounting and finance, students must complete a comprehensive course load consisting of business courses such as business ethics, business theory, business management and marketing as well as finance courses like accounting, statistics and micro and macroeconomics. Online institutions vary in length, difficulty, coursework and price, and as with any college, students should compare the various institutions in order to find the right fit for them.

Licensing Requirements:

According to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, everyone who acts in an official accounting capacity in the United States must pass the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam, after completion of 150 credit hours. This includes people who already possess a license in their home country. If you plan to work as an accountant outside of the United States, you need to meet that country’s requirements before you can work as a CPA.

For those looking to land a higher salary job or to have an edge in the competitive job market, becoming a Certified Management Account (CMA) or Certified Financial Manager (CFM) can greatly benefit any accounting and finance graduate. The CMA and CFM exams and licenses are sponsored by the Institute of Management Accountants.

In order to receive a CMA license, applicants must first meet several requirements including:

  • Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college
  • Proven knowledge in economics, statistics and financial accounting
  • Two years of professional experience

Professionals who want to work towards becoming CFM’s must:

  • Hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college
  • Have two years of professional experience
  • Pass four exams that test knowledge in economics, management, corporate finance, decision analysis and ethics
  • Abide by the Statement of Ethical Professional Practice

Once certified, both CFMs and CMAs are required to complete 30 hours of continued education annually as well as maintain membership with the IMA. According to recent Institute of Management Accountants Salary Guide, the highest salary jobs in the accounting and finance industry are held by dual holders of the CMA and CPA.

Career Outlook:

Those graduating with a degree in accounting have the potential to land a wide variety of jobs in positions such as:

  • Accountants
  • CPAs
  • Staff Accountants
  • Business Analysts
  • Financial Reporting Accountants

The median salary for CPAs and other accountants was $73,560 as of May 2020. Accountants at the top of the pay scale (90th percentile) earned about $128,680, while those at the bottom of the pay scale (10th percentile) earned about $45,220 during this time. Some of the top salaries for accountants are found in the computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing industry, the federal government, and the securities and commodity contracts industry. Some of the top-paying regions for accountants during this time were Washington D.C., New York, and New Jersey.

May 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and job market trends for accountants and auditors represent state and national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data Accessed May 2021.