An accounting degree is a type of academic degree awarded to students who have completed an accounting education program at a college, university or business school. Accounting is the study of financial reporting and analysis. Accounting courses vary by school and level of education, but you can almost always expect to take a combination of business, accounting, and general education courses as part of an accounting degree program.
Types of Accounting Degrees
There is an accounting degree for every level of education. The three most common degrees earned by accounting majors including:
- Associate Degree - An associate degree is an undergraduate degree that is designed for students with a high school diploma or GED. This degree takes two years to complete and may qualify you for entry-level positions, such as accounting clerk.
- Bachelor's Degree - A bachelor's degree is an undergraduate degree for students with a high school diploma, GED, or associate degree. This degree takes three to four years of full-time study to complete. You need at least a bachelor's degree to become a certified public accountant.
- Master's Degree - A master's degree or MBA is a graduate degree for students who have already earned a bachelor degree. Most master's degree programs take two years of full-time study to complete, but there are accelerated MBA programs that can be completed in as little as 11 months. A master's degree or MBA will qualify you for most management positions in the accounting field.
Which Degree Option Is Best for Accounting Majors?
A bachelor's degree is the most common requirement in the field. The federal government, as well as many public and private firms, requires applicants to have at least a bachelor's degree to be considered for most entry-level positions. Some organizations also require special certifications or licenses, such as the Certified Public Accountant designation.
What Can I Do With an Accounting Degree?
Business majors who earn an accounting degree often go on to work as an accountant. There are four basic types of accounting professionals:
- Public Accountants - These accountants may work for non-profit organizations, for-profit organizations, governments, or individuals. Public accountants typically perform accounting, auditing, and tax work. However, they may also provide advice, consulting, or auditing services to their clients.
- Management Accountants - Sometimes known as private or cost accountants, management accountants record and analyze financial information for their employers. Management accountants sometimes specialize in a particular area, such as cost accounting, financial analysis, or planning and budgeting.
- Government Accountants - Government accountants can work for federal, state, or local governments. They often maintain revenue and expenditure records. Those who work for the federal government may serve as agents for the Internal Revenue Service. Jobs are also available in areas of financial management, administration, and budget analysis.
- Internal Auditors - These specialized accountants examine records for the firms they work for to ferret out waste or fraud. They also review operations for efficiency, accuracy, and effectiveness.
See a list of other common job titles for accounting grads.
Top Jobs in Accounting
Accountants who have advanced degrees, such as a master's degree, are often eligible for more advanced career positions than accountants with an associate or bachelor degree. Advanced positions may include supervisor, manager, controller, chief financial officers, or partner. Many experienced accountants also choose to open their own accounting firm.
Job Outlook for Accounting Majors
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for individuals who specialize in accounting is better than average. This field of business is growing and should stay strong for quite a few years to come. There are plenty of entry-level opportunities, but Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) and students with master's degrees have the best prospects.