Compiled and Written by Accounting.com Staff
Last Updated: March 2020
What is a Bachelor's Degree in Accounting?
A bachelor's degree in accounting is typically a 4-year degree that prepares students for careers in a range of industries. Individuals with a bachelor's in accounting take on roles as accountants, tax preparers, and bookkeepers in the private and public sectors. A bachelor's degree in accounting also qualifies students to become Certified Public Accountants (CPA).
The field of accounting is rapidly evolving due to the affordability and
availability of accounting software. Gone are the days of green visors
and adding machines; computers have taken the fiscal calculating out of
the hands of people. With programs busy crunching the numbers,
accountants are now expected to take on a variety of responsibilities
that previously lay outside the scope of their job description. This
change was highlighted in a recent
describing how the modern conception of an accountant has become one of
a trusted business advisor who interprets finances to guide
"financial planning, analysis, forecasting, internal controls and
This evolution poses a new set of challenges for undergraduate
accounting majors looking to enter the field with either a Bachelor of
Science (BS), a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) or a Bachelor
of Accountancy (BAC). To become marketable job applicants, students must
demonstrate not only a well-balanced curriculum, but also professional
experience that grants an understanding of the role an accountant plays
in the current business climate. Luckily for students, most accounting
programs understand the skills that need to be imparted to an individual
upon graduation, and they have adapted their curriculum to involve the
broad spectrum of materials that should be covered. Additionally,
students may want to consider a minor in a subject like history, English
or political science to further differentiate themselves from other
It is more important than ever for young degree seekers to choose the
proper school and education plan if they want to land an accounting
position upon graduation. To maximize success, we have compiled a
selection of critical information and online resources that will help
guide prospective accountants to become the successful business advisors
demanded by today's top firms.
Common Career Paths for Accounting Majors
While some employers prefer to hire accountants with master's degrees,
earning a bachelor's in accounting or a related field can lead to
employment in a variety of industries and workplace settings. Explore
several of the most common accounting opportunities available to
Public Accountant or Auditor
Public accountants and auditors work for accounting firms, but they
can also establish a private practice. Their primary role involves
reviewing financial information, preparing related reports and
maintaining financial records.
demand for accountants and auditors
is expected to increase 13% from 2012 to 2022. Accounting
professionals who are also CPAs are likely to have better hiring
potential, as are accountants who go on to complete master's
With companies frequently expanding into overseas markets,
accountants and auditors are increasingly required to have knowledge
and skills related to international business and finance. They can
also specialize in areas such as forensic accounting.
Accountants who sign and file documents with the
Securities and Exchange Commission
for their clients must be licensed Certified Public Accountants
(CPAs). This certification process includes an exam, as well as
education and experience requirements that vary by state.
Also referred to as management accountants or private accountants,
corporate accountants work within a company or organization to
manage financial records and transactions such as payroll, accounts
receivable, accounts payable, financial analysis and asset
demand for accountants and auditors
in general is expected to increase 13% from 2012 to 2022. Those who
have earned the CPA credential or completed graduate-level education
may be more desirable on the job market.
According to the Institute of Management Accountants, the median
annual salary for accountants working in business was $96,000 in
In addition to pursuing the Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
license, management accountants can also become
Certified Management Accountants
through the Institute of Management Accountants. Employers in
different industries may prefer a specific certification option.
Tax Examiner, Collector or Revenue Agent
These accounting professionals work for government agencies at the
local, state and federal level to review, audit and collect taxes
and levies owed by individuals and business organizations.
In addition to a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field
(e.g. business, finance, business, economics), tax examiners and
collectors hired at the federal level must have relevant work
Specific certifications and licenses are not required to enter this
Internal auditors work within a company, organization or
governmental agency to review processes and recommend improvements.
In the context of accounting, internal auditors evaluate financial
reports, systems and functions to assist managers with decisions
related to regulatory compliance, risk management and business
for accountants and auditors
is expected to rise 13% from 2012 to 2022. Those who have completed
specialized training or a related credential may have a hiring
advantage with some employers.
The need for qualified internal auditors is predicted to increase in
part due to the dynamic nature of compliance laws and regulations.
Accountants and auditors in this career path are expected to provide
the best business recommendations to their employers by staying
up-to-date with the latest industry developments.
In addition to the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensure,
internal auditors may choose to become
through the Institute of Internal Auditors. Employers hiring
internal auditors may prefer a specific type of certification or
specialized training related to their industry.
Bachelor's Degree in Accounting
1. Bachelor's in Accounting: Student Expectations
A bachelor's degree in most majors includes a mix of required and
elective courses, and accounting is no exception. While specific degree
requirements vary by school and program, students can expect to complete
approximately 120 credit hours, including a general education curriculum
(i.e. communications, math and science, social science, arts and
humanities, health and wellness), as well as specialized courses related
to the accounting major.
Full-time students can expect to complete a bachelor's in accounting in
four years, though some programs offer accelerated three-year degrees.
Those entering school with an associate degree or transfer credits may
also complete their programs in fewer than four years. Part-time
degree-seekers can expect it to take longer than four years to complete
a bachelor's and should check with a specific school to find out if
there are time limits for degree completion.
Students who choose to pursue a bachelor's degree in accounting have
several options, although not all are available at each school. Before
deciding what program is best for you, explore the following accounting
Bachelor of Science in Accounting (BSACC):
Coursework with a focus on the technical and analytical aspects of
accounting, including advanced mathematics
Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration
in Accounting (BSBA):
A curriculum centered on business practices and management functions,
with an emphasis on accounting topics
Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting (BBA):
A core curriculum of business courses with a major in accounting; less
intensive math requirements.
Bachelor of Accounting/Accountancy (BAC):
Coursework provides a foundation in accounting topics; often presented
as academic preparation for advanced degrees, such as an MBA or an
MAcc (Master of Accounting).
2. Core Concepts
Students graduating with bachelor's degrees in accounting are expected
to have knowledge and skills in these basic areas of the accounting
Ongoing financial data analysis, interpretation and reporting (e.g.
weekly, monthly); provides information related to profit, debt and
inventory, which assists management personnel with business decision
Analysis of costs associated with the development of a product or
provision of services; informs organizational efforts related to
budget management and planning, as well as cost reduction
Review of financial documents and processes to ensure accurate
results and compliance with internal policies and external
Analysis, interpretation and reporting of corporate-level financial
data, which is provided to stakeholders such as shareholders,
employees and clients often on a quarterly and annual basis
Accounting Information Systems
Cohesive set of tools and procedures used to monitor accounting
tasks and processes, as well as the technology used to manage them
A widely adopted framework used to guide practice and procedures
throughout the U.S. accounting industry
While each student works with faculty members and academic advisors to
create a degree plan comprised of a specific sequence of courses, you
can generally expect to encounter the following types of classes.
Students completing a bachelor's degree program in almost every
field are required to complete a set of courses designed to promote
critical thinking skills and enhance knowledge in a variety of
disciplines. These courses often represent the arts and humanities,
math and science, social sciences, writing and communication and
other areas as determined by the school and program. Example
Contemporary World Literature II
Introduction to Human Biology
Students majoring in accounting are required to complete a set of
courses designed to provide knowledge and skills regarding basic
accounting concepts. Example Courses:
Federal Taxes I
Financial Statement Auditing
Internal Reporting Issues
Accounting Information Systems
Business and Math Core
Accounting professionals are employed in a wide range of settings
from government and public organizations to corporations and private
practices. The work usually takes place in a business context and
requires some level of skill in math. The level and intensity of
business and math courses vary based on degree type and emphasis.
Organizational Behavior and Leadership
Principles of Marketing
Applied Business Statistics
Fundamental Principles of Calculus
Business Law II
This category includes a part of the degree plan in which students
are free to choose which courses they take to fulfill the
requirements. The number of elective credits and diversity of topics
that are approved varies by program, but they usually allow students
to focus on areas of special interest or career preparation. Example
Government and Not-for-Profit Accounting
Investment Portfolio Management
Business of Healthcare
Accreditation is the process through which higher education institutions
and programs are evaluated against an established set of quality
standards by independent, external reviewers. These standards vary by
accrediting agency but include components related to curriculum
development, faculty qualifications, student support services, financial
resources, academic resources and student achievement.
Not all schools and programs have current accreditation, but this status
is important for students who are interested in:
Transferring Credits: Most schools will not accept
transfer credit from institutions that are not accredited.
Receiving Financial Aid: The U.S. Department of
Education does not provide federal financial aid to schools that are
not accredited by a
recognized accrediting agency.
Applying to Graduate Programs: Graduate school
applications include submission of transcripts from accredited
Becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA): To take
the CPA licensing exam, most states require completion of 150 credit
hours from a school accredited through an agency recognized by the
State Boards of Accountancy.
Students should verify that the schools in which they are interested
national-level accreditation. Individual academic departments and degree programs can have
additional accreditation from agencies that specialize in specific
subject areas and career fields. Accounting programs are often
accredited through one or more of the following organizations:
– Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business
– Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs
– International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education
Students considering a bachelor's degree program in accounting should
identify their own priorities and review and compare multiple options.
Rankings are one tool students can use to compare academic degree
While finding a bachelor's in accounting program may be your immediate
goal, it's never too early to begin planning your career in accounting.
What will you do after you graduate? Consider the following
possibilities as you clarify your goals and research the options:
Enter the workforce. Many employers are interested in
hiring recent accounting graduates. Work with your school's career
center to learn more about current hiring practices, connecting with
hiring managers and exploring the different career paths for
accounting majors. Alumni can also provide information about their
work, as well as provide a resource for professional networking.
Become a CPA. Licensure is required for some
accounting positions. Not all bachelor's-level accounting degrees are
designed to meet the
Accountant (CPA) Examination requirements, which, in most states, includes 150 credit hours of
states use the same CPA exam, but additional requirements related to
relevant experience and education vary by state. If becoming a
licensed CPA is your goal, review exam, state and academic program
details for more information.
Our program database allows you to filter search results based on your
goals and interests, including, type of program and institution, online
or on-campus delivery, location, school size, tuition and accreditation.
Explore all of the options available through our interactive search and
add the school profile pages to your research of associate degrees in