Is an Accounting Degree Worth It? Statistics You Should Know
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Editor & Writer
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More than 1.4 million people were employed as accountants or auditors in 2021.
By 2031, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the number of working accountants will rise by 6%.Note Reference 
On average, financial specialists — including accountants, auditors, analysts, advisors, and more — earn 69% more than the average worker across all industries in the U.S.
While the average total cost of attendance for any degree is high at an average of nearly $36,440 a year as of 2021-2022, accounting majors have a high return on their investment., 
Two years after graduating, graduates who earned a bachelor's degree in accounting earn approximately $39,600 net of their debt payments.Note Reference 
In 2022, accountants and auditors earned median salaries of $78,000 a year.Note Reference 
Financial risk specialists had the highest average salary of all financial specialists at $102,120 a year.Note Reference 
By earning a master's degree in accounting, graduates can increase their average earnings by 33%.Note Reference 
Accounting degrees are often touted as a great return on investment for students as they can lead to lucrative careers. But are they actually worth the cost and effort?
Below we explore the possible career paths for students who obtain degrees in the field, potential salaries, and what the future of the accounting industry holds.
What Can You Do With An Accounting Degree?
As a degree program and area of study, accounting encompasses finance, economics, statistics, business, and general accounting principles.
Students who obtain accounting degrees develop a wide range of knowledge and skills, giving them a variety of career paths to choose from, including:
- Loan Officer
- Accounting Clerk
- Financial Advisor
- Financial Analyst
- Budget Analyst
- Real Estate Appraiser
- Tax Manager
But potential career paths can vary greatly depending on what type of degree or credential a student obtains.
Is an Accounting Degree Worth It?
There are a number of pros and cons to choosing any major. Here, we examine the advantages — and disadvantages — of pursuing accounting.
You Can Earn Licenses to Advance Your Career — And Earning Potential
There are four types of accounting degrees — associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctorate. Those interested in accounting can also obtain a variety of credentials allowing them to become a certified public accountant (CPA), certified financial analyst (CFA), certified internal auditor (CIA), and more.
Certified licenses in accounting may help increase job opportunities and earning potential as most employers looking to bring on an accounting specialist will only hire someone who is licensed.
|Certified Accounting License||Average Salary|
|Enrolled Agent (EA)||$56,592|
|Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)||$63,102|
|Certified Management Accountant (CMA)||$70,000|
|Certified Financial Planner (CFP)||$71,435|
|Certified Public Accountant (CPA)||$74,233|
|Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)||$81,984|
|Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)||$89,401|
By obtaining a CPA certification, for example, a professional is telling their prospective employer that they have confirmed skills in taxation, auditing, regulatory compliance, and analysis.
Accounting Majors Often Show Up in Surprising Sectors
Though it may seem like becoming an accounting professional only allows students to work in one type of industry, there are a number of unique opportunities for accounting majors.
Some unexpected professionals that utilize accounting principles include fashion purchasing managers, film production managers, nonprofit development managers, and even private investigators.
Due to accountants' financial knowledge and analytical skills, other unexpected career options could include real estate agent, fraud investigator, or consultant.
Accounting Majors May Earn Competitive Salaries
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the annual median salary accountants and auditors was $78,000 as of May 2022.Note Reference 
However, students who graduate with a degree in accounting may pursue other careers that fall under the category of
financial specialists who have a slightly higher average salary at $78,180 a year. Among this group — which includes accountants, auditors, analysts, advisors, and more — financial risk specialists have the highest average annual salary at $102,120.Note Reference 
By comparison, the average annual salary for all occupations during the same year was $46,310 — that's 41% lower than accountants' average salary.Note Reference 
The Cost of a Degree Is Expensive — And Getting Pricier
The cost of an accounting degree can vary depending on the type of institution a student chooses and the degree they pursue. During the 2021-2022 academic year, the average total cost of attendance at four-year undergraduate institutions was roughly $36,440.Note Reference 
At public institutions, average total costs were about $26,030, but at private nonprofit institutions, average total costs were $55,840 a year.Note Reference 
Tuition and fees also differ depending on if students choose to attend a four-year or two-year institution.
Average total costs were the lowest for students who chose fully online programs.
|School Type||Four-Year||Two-Year||Online Learning|
|Private Nonprofit Institutions||$55,840||$33,007||$15,000|
|Private For-Profit Institutions||$32,895||$27,214||$17,000|
ROI of an Accounting Degree
According to a 2022 Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce report, which analyzed business programs at more than 1,700 institutions, accounting degree holders at all levels have a higher than average annual income net of debt payment just two years after graduating.
For students who obtain an associate degree in accounting, average earnings two years after graduating total $31,200. And for students at the highest degree level, annual earnings net of debt two years post-graduation total $52,800.Note Reference 
Graduates of Georgetown University bachelor's program have the highest average annual earnings net of debt payments two years after graduating at $75,600.
For master's degree-holders, earnings net of debt are highest for graduates of New York University at $73,200. And for associate degree-holders, earnings are highest for graduates of Dakota County Technical College in Minnesota at $40,800.
|School||Degree||Average Salary Net of Debt|
|New York University||Master's||$73,200|
|University of Massachusetts, Boston||Master's||$69,600|
|University of Hartford||Master's||$68,400|
|Seton Hall University||Master's||$68,400|
|Santa Clara University||Bachelor's||$67,200|
|Central Connecticut State University||Master's||$67,200|
Graduates of the top online master's and bachelor's programs in accounting can anticipate that their average earnings net of debt will fall between $45,600 and $64,800 two years after graduating.
|School||Degree||Average Salary Net of Debt Program|
|University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign||Master's||$64,800|
|Golden Gate University, San Francisco||Master's||$64,800|
|SUNY College at Old Westbury||Master's||$55,200|
|North Carolina State University at Raleigh||Master's||$54,000|
|University of Miami||Master's||$54,000|
|University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill||Master's||$51,600|
|Florida Atlantic University||Bachelor's||$45,600|
|University of Arkansas at Little Rock||Bachelor's||$45,600|
What the Future of the Accounting Industry Holds
As of 2021, there were nearly 1.45 million accountants and auditors working in the financial industry.Note Reference  By 2031, the BLS projects that this will rise to 1,531,600 — a 6% increase. That's slightly higher than employment projections for all occupations.
That may be one reason why new graduates with bachelor's degrees in accounting enjoy lower unemployment than other bachelor's degree earners. A 2022 National Association of Colleges and Employers report found that just 6.4% of accounting majors were seeking employment versus 12.5% of all bachelor's degree earners.
So, while demand for financial specialists — particularly accountants — continues to grow, it's clear that studying accounting is a promising career path for those looking for longevity in their profession.