Getting a job in the field of accounting depends on your education and work experience. In most cases, this means holding a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related business field. Some advanced positions require a master’s degree in accounting for consideration. Many jobs also require additional certifications, especially if you want to work as a Certified Public Accountant, or CPA.
While obtaining these degrees, you can work as a junior accountant if you hold an associate’s degree. Sometimes, simply having experience as a bookkeeper or holding a similar position developing accounting skills is enough to get your foot in the door. However, advancing within the accounting field is virtually impossible without at least a bachelor’s degree. For this reason, pursuing your degree is a worthwhile endeavor.
An Accountant’s Education
Accountants must possess a variety of qualifications. First and foremost, they must have a degree. Additionally, they must have at a few of the natural characteristics that make for a great accounting professional.
- The first of these is a love for math—or at least a natural understanding of how numbers work. In the accounting world, you’ll need to be able to interpret figures and their meanings very quickly.
- You’ll also need to be able to share what these figures mean with others. Therefore, strong communication skills are a must.
- A meticulous attention to detail is also a plus, since leaving off one little number in a spreadsheet can cause huge problems.
- Finally, accountants must be computer literate, especially in today’s world. Nearly all financial records are kept on computers now, and you’ll be expected to know the ins and outs of many of the different accounting software programs available today.
Anyone who pays their taxes or works for a company of any kind knows what accounting is all about. We know, for instance, that it involves juggling a lot of numbers. And we know that it involves keeping track of money.
There is, of course, more to it than that.
Accounting is actually a business practice, one in which an accountant or a group of accountants monitor and record the financial transactions of a given entity. This involves not just a bottom-line sum but the ins and outs of assets, earnings, expenses, and any other information that might affect a financial situation.
Accounting is an important field—every business needs an accountant, and many individuals enlist their services, as well—so it’s always a viable career option, even in a lousy economy. But it does require some formal training. Selecting an accredited accounting program will help you secure a stable position in the workforce, and will also enable you to perform your job with confidence and skill.
Is It Easy to Obtain an Accounting Degree?
To answer that question, you need to understand the characteristics successful accountants possess and the classes you must take. Accounting work requires certain aptitudes and traits, but if you put forth the required effort you will be rewarded with an outstanding degree that puts you on the path to a successful and lucrative career.
Details, Details, Details
Certain people naturally make excellent accountants. They possess traits that adapt well to the rigorous educational requirements of an accounting degree. The same traits required to succeed in school are needed to succeed in the accounting field. Your college classes teach you how to turn your natural traits into a profitable career by helping you develop industry-specific skills. These traits and skills include:
|• Honesty and strong ethical beliefs||• Patience|
|• Analytical skills||• Goal-oriented and determined work ethic|
|• Methodical problem solving||• Self-motivation|
|• Time management||• Strong mathematical skills|
|• Natural curiosity||• Computer literacy|
|• Strong verbal and written communication skills|
Getting a degree in accounting requires the ability to master complex subject matter. For example, you will be required to perform many mathematical and statistical calculations. Some of the material, like management theory or general accounting, may come naturally to you; however, some subjects may prove to be more difficult, like tax accounting or statistics.
Anyone pursuing an accounting degree must be able to effectively manage time—and you certainly must be willing to complete detailed work. Accuracy and thoroughness are of utmost importance in the accounting field!
What Does It Take to Become a Certified Public Accountant?
Becoming a CPA is a kind of specialization that requires additional coursework. To become a CPA, you must pass a rigorous national test and meet specific state requirements.
Usually, you must have your bachelor’s degree to become a CPA, although a few states recognize work experience in place of a degree. Many states, in fact, actually require CPAs to take an additional 30 course hours on top of their bachelor’s degree. Because of this, many universities have designed their accounting programs with a fifth year option. Completing this fifth year not only qualifies students to become CPAs, it earns them a master’s degree in accounting.
But even if you take this fifth year and earn a master’s degree, do not expect the CPA exam to be a mere formality. In fact, less than half of those who take the test pass all four parts during their first try.
Fortunately for many students, you aren’t required to pass the four sections at once. Most of the time, you’ll have at least 18 months to successfully pass the entire CPA examination. Of course, it’s in your best interest to thoroughly prepare for the exam, and you’ll find that many professional accounting organizations offer study programs or practice tests to help you with your preparations.
Earning your accounting degree will take hard work, but it is worth it. Though the specific courses in a program may vary, you will have to pass classes like the following:
- • Database Management
- • Microeconomics
- • Statistical Analysis
- • Managerial Accounting
- • Information Systems
- • Financial Accounting
- • Business Law
- • Cost Accounting
- • Finance
- • Marketing
- • Tax Accounting
- • Auditing
- • Management
- • Business Law
In addition to these core accounting courses, you may also take specialized courses. For example, someone who wants to become a forensic accountant may take a class in investigative accounting or accounting research. Or you could choose to take a class in compensation management or international accounting, depending on your interests.
Start Accounting School in Three Easy Steps
A degree in accounting is a key that opens the door of opportunity. As an accountant with the right qualifications, you can work with virtually anyone, anywhere in the world. To do so, you must find the right university or college. Picking the right school may seem overwhelming, but these three easy steps will have you enrolling in classes in no time.
1. What Kind of Accounting Work Interests You?
The first step to choosing an accounting school is deciding what type of accounting work you would like to do. Your career path may impact your choice of schools. For example, if you intend to become a CPA, you will want to attend a school that offers a bachelor’s degree program that includes CPA preparation courses. Likewise, if you want to be a tax accountant, you should consider schools that let you major or minor in tax accounting.
Perhaps you want to earn both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from the same school. In that case, you should choose a school that has a graduate program in business. Maybe you want to blend an accounting major with another field, like criminal justice or pre-law. You will need to look at schools that offer both programs.
2. Narrow Your List of Schools
The second step to choosing the right accounting school is to narrow your list of schools down to those that meet your criteria. These criteria will include program offerings, location, cost, reputation, and accreditation. There are several agencies that grant accreditation to higher education programs, including:
- Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International)
- Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)
- Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)
- Distance Education and Training Council (DETC)
You may find that a business school is accredited and accounting is just one of the business disciplines offered. In this case, accreditation attests to the quality of all the business programs. Accreditation should be your first criterion. After making a list of accredited schools in which you are interested, apply the rest of your criteria to narrow your search.
3. Apply to a School and Get Started on Your Career
The third step is to apply to the schools on your list. After enrolling, you will initially work on core curriculum courses, like English, foreign language, beginning business, etc. As your education progresses, you will add upper level courses in accounting, economics, information systems, and marketing.
Many colleges and universities offer degrees in accounting. If you discover that your first school of choice has a waiting list, consider your other options. Do not forget that online schools, if accredited, are a wonderful alternative to traditional colleges. The message is this: There is no reason to let obstacles stop you from pursuing a career in accounting.