Accounting ranks among one of the oldest fields in business. Like economics and finance, accounting is at the core of commerce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), accounting outpaces the national average for job growth, beating many popular occupations with respect to jobs added and expected in the near future.
Part of the reason for accounting's growth and popularity is that it allows people to enter many areas of business. The BLS projects faster than average growth for financial managers, a position for which an accounting degree provides training. The same holds true for budget analysts and cost estimators.
Should I Get a Bachelor's in Accounting?
Today's accountants can choose from an array of exciting fields and hold the highest offices in modern workplaces. The information age ushered in profound change to many occupations, including accounting, and highlighted the need for people who can read, interpret, and utilize accurate data. Computers now handle much of the number crunching, allowing accountants to spend most of their time making sense of those numbers. Board members know the value of people who understand finances and financial planning, and accountants often move into executive suites.
The best accounting colleges teach skills that translate to all business professions, including finance, communication, critical thinking, and economics. Enrolling in an on-campus program allows you to network with like-minded peers and professors and learn from people of diverse backgrounds. These programs usually include internships, which give you experience in the field and boast strong career services departments to help you secure a job after graduation. If the world of business appeals to you, an accounting degree provides a great base from which to start.
What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Accounting?
Accounting schools prepare you to work in many occupations. You might take a job as a traditional accountant for a major corporation, working in an entry-level position in a downtown office. You might also travel the country as a fraud investigator for the government. You can also land a high-level position as a finance manager or find employment in a nonprofit for a cause you support. The point is, an accounting degree gives you a strong foundation on which to build a career tailored to your interests and goals.
Accountants work on financial records for corporations, nonprofits, and government agencies. They generally work in offices and ensure a company stays on top of its fiscal demands. A bachelor's is the entry-level degree for the field. At some corporations, accountants may become part of the administrative team.
Median Annual Salary: $69,350
Projected Growth Rate: 10%
- Financial Manager
Also known as chief financial officers, financial managers manage the finances of an organization. They make budgets, analyze payments, plan investments, and manage the financial strategy. Many do so with a bachelor's degree, though some corporations require a master's. Financial managers often serve in upper management.
Median Annual Salary: $125,080
Projected Growth Rate: 19%
- Cost Estimator
Cost estimators study the resources needed to produce goods or services, including financial outlay, personnel, and materials. They look for efficiencies, manage growth, create budgets, and prepare reports. Many specialize in industries or types of products, and most start with a bachelor's degree.
Median Annual Salary: $63,110
Projected Growth Rate: 11%
- Budget Analyst
Like financial managers, budget analysts watch over the spending habits and receivables of public and private corporations, government agencies, and nonprofits. They examine budgets and relay the implications to a company's management team. Sometimes they sit in management themselves. Most have at least a bachelor's in accounting degree.
Median Annual Salary: $75,240
Projected Growth Rate: 7%
- Tax Examiners and Collectors
Cities, states, and the federal government employ tax examiners and collectors to calculate how much businesses and individuals owe in taxes. They study tax returns, perform audits, and analyze data, determining how much to collect. Most of these agencies require a bachelor's degree.
Median Annual Salary: $53,130
Projected Growth Rate: -1%
Best States for Accountants
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for accountants and auditors should grow by 10% through 2026, significantly faster than the average occupation. Experts attribute much of this growth to an expanding economy and increasingly complex tax and regulatory policies.
On top of strong job prospects, qualified accountants command above-average salaries. The BLS reports that accountants earned a median salary of $69,350 in 2017, roughly $30,000 more than the median salary for all other occupations. The highest 10% of earners, typically those with advanced degrees and several years of professional experience in accounting, brought in just over $122,000 that year.
Near universal demand for accounting services means that these professionals can enjoy lucrative careers almost anywhere in the country. Still, some states stand above the rest when considering potential earnings, career opportunities, and relative purchasing power. Whether looking for your first job after earning your degree, a new professional challenge, or just a change in scenery, our ranking of the top 25 best states for accountants can help you plan the next step in your career.
As an accountant, we know you appreciate the certainty of numbers. In creating this ranking, we primarily explored three figures: projected growth in employment for accounting professionals by both percentage and number of jobs, the median and average salaries for those working in the field, and median housing prices as an indicator of your purchasing power in a given state.
To help break ties and add further context, we also explored which states boast the most prestigious accounting firms, as well as those with the most elite degree programs for aspiring accountants.
When it comes to compensation and professional opportunities for accountants, few states can compare to New York. New York ranks second in median salaries for accounting professionals, trailing only New Jersey. In 2017, the accountants in the Empire State earned a median salary of $82,000 per year.
Much of the demand for accountants centers around New York City, where all of the Big Four accounting firms maintain at least one office. Accounting students also have their pick of programs in the state, whether they pursue a bachelor's at a public university like the City College of New York or an advanced degree at an elite private institution like New York University. Taken altogether, it should come as no surprise that New York tops our list of best states for accountants.
New Jersey, thanks in large part to its proximity to New York, takes the second spot on our ranking. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, accountants in the Garden State earn slightly more than accountants in New York with median salaries of $82,310 and $82,090, respectively. New Jersey also boasts more affordable homes than its neighbor, with a median listing price of $334,900 compared to New York's $385,000.
Still, employment growth helps New York edge out New Jersey for the top spot. While the BLS projects a respectable 8% growth in employment for accountants through 2026, this translates into only 4,090 new positions in the state, given its smaller population and lower overall demand for the services of financial professionals.
New Jersey boasts many major accounting firms, such as WithumSmith+Brown, and top schools, like Princeton and Rutgers Universities.
By a count of the total number of openings, California should experience the highest annual demand for accountants and auditors through 2026. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the state should create just shy of 17,000 new jobs for accounting professionals each year, or an employment growth rate of almost 11%. California also ranks seventh on the list of median salaries for accountants at slightly more than $75,000 per year.
Like New York, California hosts representatives from many of the largest and most prestigious global accounting firms, with Ernst and Young, Deloitte and Touche, KPMG, and PricewaterhouseCoopers all maintaining at least one office somewhere in the state. The Golden State also offers one of the best public university systems in the country, making California an ideal destination for both established accounting professionals and those looking to develop the knowledge and skills needed to break into the field.
Virginia also lays claim to some of the best public universities in the country, with the flagship University of Virginia offering bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in accounting through its McIntire School of Commerce. Future accountants in Virginia can also study at some of the top private colleges in the country, including William & Mary, the second oldest institution of higher education in the country.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 14% employment growth for accountants in Virginia through 2026, or about 4,700 new positions each year. At $75,760, Virginia also ranks fifth on the list of highest median salaries for accountants across the country. This exceptional compensation can also go farther in Old Dominion, as Virginia's median housing price of $314,970 sits well below states like New York, New Jersey, and California. Continuing your career in Virginia may prove one of the safest bets you can make.
Everything is bigger in Texas. This axiom certainly holds true when observing the demand for financial professionals, as Texas sits second only to California in the number of new positions available to accountants each year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Texas will see approximately 14,500 accounting jobs open annually, or roughly 19% employment growth through 2026, which stands as one of the highest growth rates in the country for those in the accounting profession.
Accountants in Texas tend to benefit from strong earnings potential as well, cementing the state's position in the top five of our ranking. In 2017, the BLS reported a median annual salary of nearly $73,000 for accountants working in the state. When you consider that Texas also has a median home price of only $279,900, accountants can enjoy a quite comfortable lifestyle in the Lone Star State.
Massachusetts offers accountants high salaries and excellent job prospects. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment growth of 8.5% through 2026, with the state adding close to 3,700 accounting positions each year. In 2017, the accountants in Massachusetts earned a median salary of $73,680, ranking it at eighth on the list of highest salaries across the country.
All of the Big Four accounting firms operate in Massachusetts, employing close to 2,500 certified public accountants and roughly 9,000 other professionals in the state. The Harvard Business School and the MIT Sloan School of Management also stand as two of the top business programs in the world.
Massachusetts falls to number six on our ranking due to its home prices. With a median listing price of $450,000, the Bay State proves more expensive to live in than all but two other states in the country.
Colorado cracks the top 10 of our ranking due to the exceptionally strong employment growth projected for accountants in the state. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Colorado will add more than 4,500 accounting jobs each year through 2026, expanding the field by close to 25%.
The state performs less impressively when considering compensation, however. Although accountants earned a respectable median salary of $70,300 in 2017, this puts it at number 12 on the list of highest median salaries in the country. Coupled with a median housing price of $419,000, accountants in Colorado may find it more difficult to purchase a home than those working in other states. While higher housing costs in areas like Denver, Colorado Springs, and Boulder may skew this figure, these cities also lay claim to the majority of new jobs available to accountants.
Like Massachusetts, Connecticut combines high salaries and solid job prospects to earn its spot on our ranking of the best states for accountants. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the Constitution State will need about 1,850 new accountants each year, with a growth rate of close to 9%. In 2017, accountants in Connecticut earned a median salary of $74,800, putting the state roughly on par with much larger competitors like California and Virginia.
As Connecticut sits between New York City and Boston, it benefits from growth in both of these urban areas, particularly as a cheaper option for those willing to commute for work or pleasure. While Connecticut's median home price of $327,950 greatly exceeds the national average, it still pales in comparison to the cost of living in some of its neighboring states.
Connecticut also boasts an exceptional higher education network, including top-ranked public colleges and elite private institutions such as Yale University.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that Illinois will add roughly 5,500 jobs for accountants each year through 2026, putting it behind only five other states in total growth for this profession. Still, while the Land of Lincoln may offer work to many new and transplanted accountants in the coming years, it falls to ninth on our list because of its relatively lower salaries. According to the BLS, accountants in Illinois earned a median salary of $69,670 in 2017, trailing 12 other states.
Illinois makes up for low earnings with an equally low cost of living, however. With a median home price of only $236,490, the state represents one of the cheaper options in the country, regardless of your profession.
In addition, the CPA Endowment Fund of Illinois ensures its state's place in the top ten of this ranking by offering scholarships to students pursuing both undergraduate and master's-level degrees in accounting.
Rhode Island rounds out the top ten of our ranking, making up for meager employment growth with the third highest median salary for accountants in the entire country, at slightly more than $77,000 per year. Despite lucrative compensation for existing roles, however, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the need for only 500 new accountants in the state each year through 2026. To improve your prospects of landing one of these few available positions, you should consider earning an advanced degree or sitting for the certified public accountant (CPA) exam.
Students pursuing a degree in accounting can attend the state's top-ranked private colleges, including Quinnipiac University, Providence College, and Brown University. To learn more about becoming an accountant in Rhode Island, or to apply for scholarships to help finance your education, visit the Rhode Island Society of Certified Public Accountants' website.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), approximately 26,000 accountants worked in Maryland in 2017, earning a median annual salary of just under $73,000. While accountants in the state enjoy wages higher than the national average for their field, they should not expect to see job growth at the same level as the rest of the country. The BLS projects that Maryland will add roughly 2,700 accounting positions at a rate of growth lower than 7%. In comparison, national employment for accountants and auditors will grow by at least 10% through 2026.
Maryland's metropolitan centers, including Baltimore and Silver Spring, should experience the majority of this somewhat muted growth. Maryland may also benefit from individuals who live in the Old Line State but work in Washington, D.C., as the district should add slightly more than 1,200 jobs annually by itself.
Maryland's major cities host many world-class institutions of higher education, such as the University of Maryland and Loyola University. Johns Hopkins University also offers fully online programs in business and finance, making it an ideal choice for working professionals looking to change careers.
As a percentage of its current accounting workforce, Delaware should experience above-average growth through 2026, with the sector expanding by almost 14% during that time. However, percentage growth can prove deceiving in this case, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that Delaware will add only 570 accounting jobs annually in the coming years.
While new opportunities may be few and far between, Delaware still boasts exceptional salaries for accountants and auditors. According to the BLS, accounting professionals earned close to $73,000 in 2017, putting wages well above the national average and tenth on the list of highest median salaries across the country.
Delaware can also point to relatively low home prices to help attract qualified accountants. In 2018, the median listing price for a home in the Diamond State approached only $286,000.
In 2017, accountants in North Carolina earned a median salary of only $68,180, or about $1,000 less than the median pay for the occupation nationally. However, North Carolina boasts the lowest median housing price on this ranking so far, making it an ideal destination for accountants tired of paying exorbitant rents and mortgages in more costly areas like New York, Boston, and San Francisco.
The Tar Heel State should experience above-average growth for accountants in the near future. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that it will add approximately 3,800 jobs annually through 2026, with a growth rate of just under 14%.
Florida trails only New York, California, and Texas in terms of the number of new positions available to accountants each year. Through 2026, the BLS projects that the state will need just under 10,000 new accountants annually. This strong demand may convince many aspiring accounting professionals to move to the Sunshine State, especially those looking to enjoy Florida's natural beauty and vibrant nightlife.
However, the median salary for accountants in the state sits well below the national average. At only $61,530 per year, compensation for accounting professionals in Florida remains lower than all but 16 other states. Poor wages may hamstring the state's attempts to attract enough qualified accountants to meet the strong demand.
The Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) provides many resources specifically for accounting students, including scholarships, a mentorship program, and advice for taking part in the CPA exam.
With close to 13 million residents, Pennsylvania currently ranks as the fifth most populous state in the United States. It should come as no surprise, then, that the Keystone State should add more new accounting jobs through 2026 than all but four other states. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Pennsylvania will need to fill approximately 5,750 open accounting positions each year, or a growth rate of almost 9%.
Pennsylvania finds itself squarely in the middle of the pack when it comes to compensation. The BLS projects that accountants in the state earned a median salary of $67,490 in 2017, less than the national average, as well as the median pay for much smaller states like Vermont and Delaware.
Accounting students can choose from a wealth of higher education options in the state, including private Ivy League schools in Philadelphia such as the University of Pennsylvania, or Pennsylvania State University, a public institution with campuses throughout the state.
Computer and technology professionals may flock to Washington to work for companies like Microsoft and Amazon, but the state offers solid job prospects to those in accounting as well. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, accountants and auditors in Washington should see employment growth of about 18% through 2026, or the equivalent of more than 4,000 open positions each year.
Still, the Evergreen State lags behind the national average when it comes to accountant salaries. In 2017, accountants in Washington earned a median salary of $67,440, trailing 16 other states that pay more.
Accountants may choose to work in the state and accept a lower salary if they know they can graduate from college with less student debt. To that end, the Washington CPA Foundation plans to award over $400,000 in scholarships each year to students pursuing an accounting degree in the state.
Through 2026, Georgia should see about 4,200 open accounting positions annually, according to BLS projections. Given the state's comparatively small existing workforce of accountants, this translates to roughly 17% growth for the field over the coming years. And while accountants working in the state earned only $67,420 in 2017, the low cost of living in the Peach State makes for a surprising amount of purchasing power. For example, the state's median home price of $259,000 places it among the top 25 least expensive states in the nation.
>U.S. News and World Report ranks the bachelor's in accounting program at the University of Georgia's Terry College of Business as the 13th best in the nation. The Big Four firms also maintain offices in Atlanta, with those companies employing roughly 1,500 certified public accountants and 6,500 other financial professionals in the state's capital.
Though not a destination you might consider at first glance, Alaska makes our ranking due largely to the exceptional salaries earned by accountants in the state. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median Alaskan accountant earned $75,400 in 2017, putting it behind only New York, New Jersey, Virginia, and Rhode Island for annual compensation. The state's median home price of $287,700 allows accountants in Alaska to stretch their earnings farther than in many other states, as well.
With that said, the BLS projects that employment opportunities in Alaska will not become any less scarce throughout 2026. Only 2,040 accountants currently work in Alaska, and the state should see only about 190 positions open up annually in the coming years.
If you have patience and a taste for adventure, however, an accounting career in Alaska may prove worthwhile.
While the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects that Ohio will add roughly 4,500 new accounting jobs each year through 2026, this represents an increase of only 5.3% over current employment. This slow overall growth, coupled with the state's middling salaries for those in the profession, places Ohio 19th on our ranking of the best states for accountants. The state's median housing prices prevent it from slipping further, as data from Zillow shows that Ohio trails only West Virginia as the least expensive state in the country.
Aspiring accountants in Ohio can select from many top-notch schools, including highly-ranked public institutions like The Ohio University and Miami University of Ohio, as well as private universities like Case Western Reserve and Oberlin College. Students enrolled in an accredited accounting program in Ohio can also apply for one of two $2,000 scholarships from the Ohio CPA Foundation.
Strong projected growth in employment for accountants in Michigan propels it to number 20 on our ranking, despite below-average pay for those working in the field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the state will need to fill roughly 3,500 accounting positions annually through 2026, a rate of growth of 9.4%. Still, Michigan continues to lag behind other large states regarding compensation, with a median salary of only $66,100 for accountants in 2017. Residents of the state enjoy a median housing price of only $185,000, helping to offset these comparatively low wages.
The University of Michigan system includes some of the best public schools in the country. The Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor offers high-quality training for accountants at the bachelor, master's, and doctoral level. Students can also pursue an accounting degree at Michigan State University's Broad College of Business.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for accountants and auditors in the state of Minnesota should grow by approximately 9% through 2026. While this falls roughly in line with the growth projected across the country during that same timeframe, accountants in Minnesota earn markedly less than the national median salary for their occupation, or just over $65,000 per year. Average growth and lackluster salaries earn Minnesota a spot near the bottom of our ranking of the best states for accountants, though low housing costs help it from slipping even further.
Minnesota could rise several spots on this ranking with a greater investment in accounting education. While the Minnesota Society for Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) curates valuable resources for aspiring accounting professionals, including a list of national scholarships, the organization provides no scholarship money to students specifically in the state, unlike many other CPA societies.
Accountants in New Hampshire earned a median wage of just under $67,000 in 2017, the 19th-highest median salary in the country at that time. This relatively impressive level of compensation helped to counteract the state's flat employment growth when compiling this ranking. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, New Hampshire will need to fill only 530 open accounting positions each year through 2026.
The state does benefit, however, from strong higher education options. For example, students can pursue a fully online bachelor's or master's degree in accounting at Southern New Hampshire University. The flexibility and low cost of these programs make them ideal for working professionals or primary caregivers looking to develop the skills needed to start a new career. New Hampshire also participates in the New England Regional Student Program, which allows its residents to receive substantial tuition discounts at public universities in other New England states.
Over the next few years, Oklahoma should see about 1,700 accounting positions open up annually, leading to moderately strong job prospects for recent graduates and experienced accountants. These positions, however, likely will not come with high salaries, as Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that accountants in the state earned a median salary of $63,850 in 2017. This trails the national median salary for accounting and auditing professionals by roughly $6,000.
Oklahoma owes its position on this ranking of the best states for accountants mostly due to its low cost of living. The state's median house listing price of $183,421 makes it one of the five least expensive states in the nation.
Oklahoma also lays claim to one of the top professional schools devoted entirely to the study of accounting, the University of Oklahoma's John T. Steed School of Accounting. Students at the Steed School can pursue a fully online master of accountancy, as well as on-campus degrees at the bachelor and doctoral level.
Renowned for natural wonders like Mount Hood, the Columbia River, and Crater Lake, Oregon also merits consideration as one of the best states for accountants. Through 2026, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the state will need to fill almost 1,500 accounting positions each year, or a rate of employment growth of almost 17%. While this demand should lower competition in the job market, it has not yet led to higher salaries. In 2017, the accountants in Oregon earned a median salary of $63,110, significantly lower than the national average.
Oregon also wrestles with a high cost of living, with its median home price approaching $380,000. Individuals looking to work in Oregon may consider seeking a position outside of the Portland metropolitan areas, where housing prices tend to outpace smaller communities like Eugene, Salem, and Gresham. To learn more about becoming an accountant in Oregon, you can visit the state's Board of Accountancy website.
With just over 2,600 accounting openings expected annually through 2026, Missouri earns the final spot on our ranking of the best states for accountants. The Show-Me State's somewhat paltry $63,000 median salary for accountants holds less significance when considering Missouri offers the fourth-lowest median home prices in the country.
Future accountants can pursue a postsecondary degree with Missouri's top-ranked schools, including Washington University, Saint Louis University, and Truman University. Its residents can also receive a significant in-state tuition discount at the University of Missouri's Trulaske College of Business in Columbia.
The Missouri Society of Certified Public Accountants Educational Foundation offers roughly $25,000 per year in scholarships to accounting students. In addition to awards for high school seniors and current college students, the organization offers funding specifically to minority students as well, helping to draw more members of underrepresented groups into the profession.
How to Choose a Bachelor's in Accounting Program
Selecting the right accounting program takes careful thought and research. Many factors come into play that involve a lot of important decisions. For example, do you prefer an online school or an on-campus program? Would you rather study at a big state university or a small private college? Do you want to attend a business school or a liberal arts college? These are just a few of the questions you face, and many of them raise additional questions.
The price of your education is also an important factor to consider. Online programs and state schools tend to cost less than on-campus and private schools. Web-based schools might allow you to proceed faster and continue to work while you attend school, which helps with the bottom line. You also must decide whether you want to attend full time or part time, which will impact the length of your studies.
Once you answer these questions, you can start comparing schools. Carefully review the type of curriculum each offers and its accreditation. Make sure the schools that interest you feature the concentration or specialization you want to study. Find out if you must submit a written thesis, a final project, or do an internship to graduate. Review the number of credits you need to graduate and whether the accounting degree program will allow you to sit for your state's CPA exam, if that interests you.
Accounting schools come in so many varieties that it takes time to sort them all out. However, if you do your homework you can find the perfect school for your needs.
Programmatic Accreditation for Bachelor's in Accounting Programs
Accreditation is among the most critical considerations when selecting an accounting school. Make sure prospective schools have appropriate credentials from a reputable agency. Most graduate programs and many employers only honor a degree from an accredited university, and most states require that CPA-exam applicants hold a degree from an accredited accounting program.
The U.S. Department of Education makes accreditation verification simple thanks to its database of accredited postsecondary institutions, which lists all the accredited schools in the nation. Look for regional or national accreditation status. Most of the best colleges and universities carry regional accreditation by one of the six main accrediting agencies. Some schools, especially vocational colleges and institutions that represent a single industry, may hold accreditation with a national agency.
In the case of accounting, you can also look for programmatic accreditation, which is granted when industry-specific agencies recognize the quality of a particular university's course of study. Look for accounting programs with accreditation by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs, or the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education.
Bachelor's in Accounting Program Admissions
Once you decide where you want to go, you must submit an application. College admissions are competitive. Many people think online programs offer easier admission, but the admissions process is typically the same regardless of whether it's an online or on-campus program. In general, the internet has made the application process simpler, but it still involves careful thought and preparation.
It's a good idea to apply to at least three schools: a safety school, a mid-range school, and a “reach” school. Regardless of how many schools you apply to, keep in mind that each application costs money, so choose your prospective schools thoughtfully.
- Minimum GPA: To maintain program quality and standards, many schools require applicants to have a certain minimum GPA. The most competitive business colleges require a 3.6-3.8 GPA or better, and the less competitive state schools require about 3.2. Students with a lower GPA can often offset this requirement with high SAT scores.
- Application: Take your time and give careful thought and consideration to your application. Write an essay that highlights the qualities that make you unique. Pay close attention to the application's questions and answer them truthfully. The CommonApp allows students to apply to multiple colleges and universities at once. If you use the CommonApp, visit the school's admissions page to make sure you don't miss additional questions listed there.
- Transcripts: Most schools want a copy of your transcripts from any prior education you received. Often, your alma mater will provide these for free. Some will give them to you online, while others will send them to an address you provide.
- Letters of Recommendation: Most colleges request two or three letters of recommendation. These letters ideally come from teachers who know you well that will speak of you in a positive light. If you're applying to accounting school, consider asking a business teacher or math teacher, and give them as much lead time as you can.
- Test Scores: Most schools require the SAT for accounting programs. Some colleges specify the range they will accept, which varies by school. Most require at least a 1200 score. A score of 1500 is likely to get you into the most competitive schools.
- Application Fee: Application fees vary by school, typically starting around $45 and up to around $90. Some schools waive the application fee for eligible students.
What Else Can I Expect From a Bachelor's in Accounting Program?
Because accounting schools vary so much, students can pick and choose the features they want in a program. Details of each accounting program differ by school, but most schools share some core similarities.
|Financial Analysis||Students in financial analysis learn to read and manage a company's fiscal statements. They study investments, budgeting, and portfolio analysis. They also learn skills in reasoning and strategy, data preparation, decision making, and critical thinking.||Accounting, financial planning, financial management, investment banking|
|Information Systems||In this concentration, degree candidates learn how to work with business systems. They use computers to enter, process, and manage accounts and financial data. They learn how to use accounting software like ERP and AIS and how to design and manage databases.||Data analysis, IT consulting, IT auditing, data security analyst|
|Nonprofit Accounting||This specialization familiarizes students with the financials of government and nonprofit agencies. They explore the ins and outs of nonprofit companies and how to prepare information for public accountability. Though designed for use in nonprofit agencies, the skills degree seekers learn can translate to private business as well.||Budget manager, grant accountant, nonprofit CEO, public auditor|
|Forensic Accounting||Students in this concentration study how to detect and investigate fraud in the financial industry. They learn traditional accounting techniques and examine how individuals and companies conceal illegal activities. Skills like critical thinking, data analysis, and financial strategy are combined with investigative techniques and creative thinking to prepare accountants to identify fraudulent activity.||Auditor, insurance company accountant, criminal investigator, and traditional accountant|
|Tax Accountancy||In this concentration, students study tax code and how tax laws affect public and private corporations and nonprofits. Focus areas include tax planning and preparation, auditing, and researching. Students examine taxes as they relate to investments, estates, trusts, and other entities.||Tax accountants, auditors, financial managers, nonprofit managers|
Courses in a Bachelor's in Accounting Program
Every accounting program takes its own approach to provide education, but most share similar core curricula. Required classes may differ from accounting school to accounting school. Specialties and concentrations may affect requirements, and some programs create curricula to prepare students for the CPA exam, but most schools have the following classes in common.
- Cost Accounting
This three-credit course prepares future accountants to oversee an organization's costs and payments. Students in accounting programs study the use of costs in making decisions and managing finances, and they examine budgeting, job orders, and a variety of other processes on the debit side of the ledger.
- Intermediate Accounting
After a review of basic accounting principles, intermediate accounting takes students through more complex financial statements. They learn accounting for assets, liabilities, and equity in addition to learning about pensions, benefits, leases, and CPA exam material.
- Federal Taxation
This semester-long course teaches learners about tax preparation. They'll become familiar with tax code, tax laws, and federal income tax conventions. They'll also study the methods used, including software, for preparing individual and corporate taxes.
Providing a look at the auditing process from the perspective of both the client and the auditor, this class explores the various types of audits accountants commonly encounter. Students work through the basics of auditing, legal liabilities, ethics, and recording procedures using case studies and practical application.
- Accounting Information Systems
These days, accounting and IT go hand in hand, and accountants must understand the basics of the equipment they use to crunch numbers. This course teaches learners how to use databases and software in accounting positions. Degree candidates learn common trade software for word processing, spreadsheets, databases, and presentation.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor's in Accounting?
Most bachelor's in accounting programs follow the traditional undergraduate pace of four years. However, this is not true of every accounting school. Some allow students to earn their degrees in three years with an accelerated approach, while others stretch the credit load to 150, from the normal 120, to meet state requirements for the CPA exam. Some schools tack another year on to the end of a bachelor's program to create a “master's in five” accounting program.
Many factors can affect the length of a college program. Online students often move faster than their campus-based counterparts because some web programs allow degree seekers to proceed at their own pace, sometimes even doubling the number of credits that a student can earn in a semester. Depending on the school and its tuition structure, this can result in a less expensive course of study. If you continue to work full time while taking courses, then it may take you longer than four years to graduate. Students can select from many quality options, and the amount of time it takes to graduate becomes a matter of preference.
How Much Is a Bachelor's in Accounting?
Many factors affect the price of an accounting degree, such as whether you're attending a state university, private college, or taking classes online or on campus.
According to the College Board's Trends in College Pricing report for 2017-2018, the average public school costs about $10,000 per year for in-state students and more than $25,000 for nonresidents. Private schools cost around $35,000 per year.
Many schools offer very attractive prices for their online programs, and they often charge the same flat rate no matter where you live. Add this to commuting and housing savings, and online programs often provide cost-effective options compared to on-campus programs. Furthermore, most web-based accounting programs accommodate work schedules, allowing you to earn while you learn, making school even more affordable.
When pricing accounting degrees, don't forget to include expenses in addition to tuition, such as books, housing, and technology.
Certifications and Licenses a Bachelor's in Accounting Prepares For
- Certified Public Accountant
The most basic certification for accountants, the Uniform CPA exam shows potential employers your professional status, and many require it for upper-level jobs. The test requires 150 hours of education before you can take it in most states. Many who sit for the exam only hold a bachelor's, and most accounting degree programs provide preparation.
- Certified Management Accountant
An alternative to the CPA, the CMA is the standard for management-level accountants and finance executives. It only requires a bachelor's to get started, but then you must accrue two years of experience and pass the two-part exam. The test typically takes 12-18 months to pass.
- Certified Internal Auditor
Candidates for this credential must hold at least an associate degree. At the bachelor's level, candidates must have two years of experience. The test sets the bar for professionalism in the field of internal auditing, and many companies require it. Overseen by the Institute of Internal Auditors, the exam offers a professional advantage to anyone interested in auditing or risk management.
- Certified Financial Analyst
This exam consists of three levels, and it represents the highest achievement in investment management. Candidates must hold a bachelor's, and most candidates take four years of additional schooling to pass all three exams. The CFA Institute runs the program.
- Enrolled Agent
This credential is an alternative to a CPA for tax preparers, and the program is run by the IRS. The credential tells clients that you have the approval of the federal government for representing taxpayers. Candidates must pass the Special Enrollment Examination, a three-part test.
Resources for Accounting Students
A blog run by accountants for accountants, this site has a lot of useful information, including accounting basics, Q&As, video tutorials, and career advice. Students can also sign up for a free accounting and bookkeeping course.
The AICPA hosts education and career resources on its site, including classroom materials, fellowship opportunities, the University of Mississippi's AICPA library service, textbook guides, and certification information.
Learning the vernacular of any subject makes life easier for students, which holds true for accounting. This handy online accounting dictionary, hosted by the New York Society of CPAs, allows accounting degree students to check word usage and look up terms.
Designed as a teaching site where anyone can learn accounting and finance principles for free, MissCPA works just as well as a resource for students in accounting degree programs. The site features blogs on such topics as bookkeeping, careers, financial accounting, managerial accounting, and accounting basics.
A site devoted to online calculators of all kinds, Calculator.net includes an array of financial calculators ideal for accounting students. These include calculators for investment, amortization, interest, inflation, and finance.
Professional Organizations in Accounting
Professional organizations provide new accountants with invaluable resources. They offer exceptional opportunities to meet colleagues, network, and gather for continuing education and professional development. Many organizations host conferences and seminars, publish journals with the latest information, and provide members with career services, like job boards. Some offer mentor opportunities and coaching while others allow members to advertise for free or provide referrals.