Why to Consider an Accounting Degree
If you enjoy working with numbers and analyzing data, an accounting degree could land you a job with a government agency, multinational corporation, or nonprofit organization. According to the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, enrollment in four-year accounting degrees is at an all-time high.1 That’s not surprising because there’s consistent demand for accountants. Plus, these financial professionals earn 45 percent more than the average American worker.
The Benefits of an Accounting Degree
Accountants don’t have the most exciting image, but the career offers quite a few benefits. Accountants can choose from positions in all types of industries where they’ll receive competitive compensation and excellent benefits. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the National Center for Education Statistics, four-year accounting degrees yield the sixth fastest ROI.2 Accountants pay off their college education costs faster than dentists, family physicians, lawyers, teachers, and other skilled professionals.
Check these five other benefits.
1. The Variety of Accounting Specialties
If you pursue an accounting degree, you can choose from an infinite array of career opportunities that complement your skills and interests. Accountants work for individuals, international corporations, and government organizations at all levels. Accountants also help research groups, universities, and nonprofits with funding, budgeting, and investing.
2. Work Environment and Telecommuting
As an accountant, you can decide where you want to work. Most professionals have offices, but a significant number of self-employed accountants work remotely or travel to their clients. According to research from FlexJobs, telecommuting opportunities for accountants have increased by 20 percent in just one year.3
Lucrative pay could be one reason why accounting is such a popular profession. With a median annual salary of $69,350, accountants rake in $31,000 per year more than the average American worker. Plus, there’s room for advancement. The top 10 percent of accountants and financial managers earn $122,000 annually.
4. Consistent Job Growth
Because accountants work for individuals, businesses and the government, there are plenty of job openings in every part of the country. The BLS projects that more than 140,000 new accounting jobs will be created between 2016 and 2026.4 Overall, demand for accountants is increasing faster than average.
5. Room for Advancement
Experienced financial professionals have access to a variety of career advancement opportunities. Accountants frequently move into management positions, and some become executives and chief financial officers. Professionals with supervisory duties and at least five years of experience earn nearly $100,000 annually according to data from the BLS.
Education Required to Become an Accountant
Becoming an accountant isn’t easy. Most people in this field complete at least four years of college with a focus on finance, business, or economics. Some employers prefer applicants who have MBAs or advanced degrees in math. Junior accountants or bookkeepers may have an associate degree only, but that’s less common.
The typical curriculum for an accounting major focuses on math, statistics, analytical skills, communications, economics, and business management. At the bachelor’s level, students may complete general business coursework or choose an area of focus, such as taxes, audits, or corporate accounting. Most accounting courses require students to be extremely organized, focused, and detail oriented. Strong non-algebraic math skills are essential.
Certifications for Accountants
Many accountants earn additional certifications after graduation. These may be optional or required depending on their job duties. In general, certified public accountants (CPAs), certified internal auditors (CIAs), and other chartered professionals earn more than their noncertified peers. However, the process is rigorous. To become a CPA, applicants must complete five years of college coursework or 150 credit hours.5 They must pass a 16-hour exam and work under a licensed accountant for at least 1,800 hours.
Careers in Accounting
Accountants work in a diverse variety of industries. You’ll find them anywhere there are numbers to be counted. Accountants may specialize in one discipline, such as corporate accounting or taxes. Others are responsible for a certain business area, such as accounts receivable or financial reporting.
Here are three in-demand careers that require different types of accounting skills.
1. Financial Analyst
Median Salary: $84,300
Qualifications: Bachelor’s degree
Financial analysts work for individuals and corporations. These professionals analyze clients’ finances and develop strategies for achieving long-term growth. They may be responsible for making investment decisions, identifying economic trends or preparing monthly, quarterly and annual reports. Financial analysts also estimate the value of companies and the performance of investments.
Financial managers typically earn more than $80,000 per year, and there’s room for growth. Professionals with at least five years of experience may be promoted to managerial positions that have a median annual salary of $125,000.6
2. Forensic Accountant
Median Salary: $81,690 per year
Qualifications: Bachelor’s degree plus certifications
Fraud examiners and forensic accountants help insurance companies, government agencies, consulting firms, and attorneys detect and prevent financial fraud. These professionals may conduct investigations, examine financial records, help clients recover assets, or testify in court. Demand for financial examiners is increasing faster than average. The median salary for this profession is $81,690 per year. However, some certified fraud examiners (CFEs) earn as much as $147,000 annually.7
Accountants with advanced credentials and strong work experience may advance to senior-level positions within corporations and private firms. Managers lead investigations and supervise junior investigators. In these positions, accountants earn substantially more. Forensic accountants who work as freelance consultants set their own rates.
3. Budget Analyst
Median Salary: $75,240
Qualifications: Bachelor’s degree plus certifications
Budget analysts prepare and review institutional budgets, monitor spending and make financial recommendations. Analysts who work in the corporate sector for science and technology companies typically have the highest median salary. They earn more than $82,000 on average. Those who are employed by state, local and federal government agencies earn anywhere from $64,000 to $80,000 per year.8
Budget analysts who work in the public sector may be required to become certified government financial managers. Accountants who have two years of professional experience plus a bachelor’s degree with a focus on financial management may sit for the exam.
How to Start Your Career in Accounting
If these jobs sound appealing, accounting might be the ideal career for you. You can begin the journey today by exploring business degree programs offered by accredited colleges online and in your local area.
Students who have an associate degree or high school diploma can advance their education by enrolling in a four-year business program. Five-year master’s degrees are also a popular option because they prepare graduates to sit for the CPA exam.
If you already have a four-year degree, you may enroll in a Master of Accounting program or decide that you’re ready to enter the workforce. As an entry-level accountant, you’ll gain valuable work experience while taking the next step toward becoming a CPA. With an accounting degree, you can enjoy a rewarding and well-paying career.