Earning an accounting degree is a smart decision for people who want a career with staying power despite a down economy, as the field consistently adds jobs over time. Accounting and related financial services will continue to be necessary as long as there are businesses and other organizations with complex finances that require professional management. An accounting degree is also a good fit for people who want the choice of working in a wide variety of industries, as nearly every industry requires skilled accountants. Accounting also provides the flexibility to be able to seamlessly switch careers, as an accountant's skills can be applied across state lines, in cities in all sizes, and even internationally.
Earning an accounting degree can lead to a respectable salary. The average annual salary for accountants and auditors was $71,040 as of May 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In addition, hiring prospects and starting salaries for graduates with accounting degrees are more positive than previous years, according to Accounting Today. Keep in mind, though, that individual job prospects and earnings will vary depending on location, experience, and employer.
Accounting majors complete course work in financial reporting and analysis, cost accounting and management, tax accounting, financial management, and auditing. Students are also exposed to the latest accounting technology and software through course work in accounting information systems. Financial accounting skills are gained sequentially, with students starting out with introductory courses in accounting and moving on to intermediate and advanced accounting courses. An accounting degree will also include general business courses in management, marketing, economics, business law and ethics, and statistics.
Students pursuing this degree can pursue a variety of specializations within accounting, depending on their career interests. A few of those specializations include government accounting, forensic accounting, nonprofit accounting, and corporate accounting. Other specializations include managerial accounting, auditing, or management information systems (MIS)
Accountants and auditors are some of the most fitting careers for graduates of bachelor's degree programs in accounting. This profession is projected to experience 16% employment growth between 2010 and 2020, according to the BLS. Since becoming licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) often leads to better job prospects, this is a common career choice for accounting graduates. However, qualifying for a CPA typically requires additional course work beyond the 120 credits required for a bachelor's degree.
At the associate degree level, graduates may pursue careers as bookkeepers, para-accountants, and accounting clerks. With a combination of graduate school and/or experience, students may even transition into careers in consulting or academia, where they can teach accounting principles to college studnts, conduct research in accounting, or choose their own accounting clients to whom they provide specialized accounting services.
An accounting degree can also lead to careers outside accounting because of the broad business training students receive in an accounting degree program. Some accounting graduates pursue other careers in business and finance, such as personal financial planning, financial management and analysis, business valuation, or financial risk management.