When most people think of accounting, they envision some nerdy guy with his face in a calculator punching buttons and writing numbers. True enough, accounts perform a lot of computations and work with numbers, but there’s a lot more to accounting than most of us imagine. Simply speaking, accountants are responsible for tracking the income, assets, and liabilities of a business over time. They prepare financial statements and record business transactions. But they also participate in developing merger and acquisition strategies, information systems for tracking and analyzing financial performance, cost-benefit analysis for new technologies, and complex tax strategies. It’s been said that accounting is the language of business. If that’s true, then accountants are an integral part of just about every business function and are vital to every successful business.
Probably the most valuable aspect of pursuing a career in accounting is that you’ll gain an in-depth knowledge of how business works. Since accountants are constantly reviewing the inner workings of companies, they gain insight, knowledge, and skills that few other business professional possess. It’s no surprise that many successful businessmen and entrepreneurs began their careers as accountants. It’s also no surprise that the CFOs and upper management in most large corporations have strong backgrounds in accounting. Experienced accountants have an intimate understanding of what drives business and profitability in a company. Consequently, skilled accountants are sought after by just about every major player, in every industry worldwide.
It’s also worth noting that there seems to be a never ending shortage of good accountants. Even in a weak economy, job opportunities for skilled accountants are never in short supply. Bookkeeping, taxes, audits, and financial management always have to be done–rain or shine. In addition, the field of accounting is expanding and career opportunities are diverse and endless. Accountants work for large public accounting firms, financial planning companies, major corporations, in law enforcement and criminal justice agencies, with government, non-profit, in consulting and just about every other field imaginable.
Not only can you look forward to job security, but as an accountant, you can expect very attractive compensation packages. Most entry-level accountants with either a bachelor’s or master’s degree can expect to make between $50,000 and $70,000 a year. With 2 to 5 years of experience, most accountants working with a major accounting firm make between $65,000 and $95,000 a year. But the sky is the limit. Many accountants after 7 to 10 years in the industry can make over $200,000 a year, and if you run your own business or make partner at an accounting firm your salary can reach into the seven digits. But the big bucks don’t come without a cost. Accountants are some of the most highly educated people in the world of business.
Most entry-level accounting positions require at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting. And these days, most employers (especially public accounting firms) require candidates to possess a master’s degree in accounting or business administration with an accounting concentration. Earning a specific accounting certification, such as Certified Public Accountant (CPA), will also greatly improve job prospects. Certification is advantageous because it shows competency in a specialized field of accounting. The most common accounting certifications include Certified Public Accounting (CPA), Certified Management Accountant (CMA), Certified Internal Auditor (CIA), Certified in Control Self-Assessment (CCSA), Certified Financial Services Auditor (CFSA), Certified Government Auditing Professional (CGAP), Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP), and Personal Financial Specialist (PFS). Many certifications required a CPA as a prerequisite.
Accounting degrees, programs, and certifications are offered at most four-year colleges and universities and many local community and junior colleges. If you plan on earning an associate’s degree in accounting from a two-year community college, you’ll want to make sure the school you attend is regionally accredited. Regional accreditation will ensure that you’re able to transfer the credits earned through completion of an associate’s degree to a four-year university that offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting. Below you’ll find a directory of our editor’s pick of some very reputable and accredited colleges and universities offering campus-based and online degree programs in accounting.
Accounting Degrees and Programs
|Southern New Hampshire University You have goals. Southern New Hampshire University can help you get there. Whether you need a bachelor's degree to get into a career or want a master's degree to move up in your current career, SNHU has an online program for you. Find your degree from over 200 online programs. Learn More >|
|Grand Canyon University (GCU) With a spotlight on intellectual creativity and innovation for the 21stcentury, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at GCU provides a job focused education. It blends the study of traditional humanities in a modern context. Through academic inquiry and beyond the box thinking, the college advances our society and its accomplishments. Learn More >|
|Purdue University Building on Purdue’s mission to provide greater access to affordable, world-class education, Purdue University Global delivers a fully personalized online experience that’s tailored to working adults. By opening the doors to adults who need flexibility to fit learning into their busy lives, we make it possible to achieve a high-quality education from the prestigious Purdue University system—completely online. Learn More >|
|Northcentral University Northcentral University (NCU) was founded to provide accessible, high-quality, online graduate degrees to working professionals. As a regionally accredited, online university, NCU serves students worldwide, focusing on Doctoral and Master's degree programs in the Schools of Business and Technology Management, Education, Psychology, and Marriage and Family Sciences. Learn More >|
|Colorado Technical University (CTU) CTU could help you connect to what matters most: a powerful professional community, faculty who are real-world professionals, and innovative technology. Learn More >|