Bachelor's Degree in Accounting


Updated May 10, 2024

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Are you a math-minded person who always makes sure to balance your finances? The accounting profession may offer an ideal pathway. Start with a bachelor's degree in accounting. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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At the core of every business is cash flow — money in and money out. Companies must stay solvent, ensuring their employees and clients receive timely payments while meeting legal compliance standards.

Humans have recorded their financial transactions for thousands of years, with records dating back to 8,000 B.C.E., though our current methods are a bit more sophisticated.

With so much money changing hands, businesses need a watchful eye to ensure accurate record-keeping and reporting. Enter: accountants.

An accountant typically starts their professional journey by earning a bachelor's degree in accounting. These programs cover various areas of financial reporting and bookkeeping to prepare students for the workforce.

Many schools now feature distance programs for many majors, including online bachelor's degrees in accounting. Online education grew significantly in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and though many schools have returned to campus-based learning, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that more students than ever are taking online classes. (Note: these numbers are still influenced by pandemic-era data.)

Discover details on undergraduate accounting programs in this helpful guide. Explore information on accreditation, common coursework, delivery methods, and more.

Popular Online Accounting Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Why Get an Accounting Bachelor's Degree?

  • Meet Professional Qualifications: Many accounting roles require a bachelor's degree in accounting. These undergraduate programs also set you on a path to earn 120 of the required 150 credits for certified public accountant (CPA) licensure.
  • Boost Earning Potential: Entry-level accounting roles that require a bachelor's degree deliver higher salaries than roles with more lenient educational standards. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that, in general, professionals with bachelor's degrees can earn more than $20,000 more each year than workers with associate degrees.
  • Increase Job Security: BLS projections indicate that employment for accountants and auditors will grow by 4% from 2022-2032, slightly outpacing projections for all occupations. As the profession continues to grow, employers will likely seek graduates with bachelor's degrees in accounting to fill vacant roles.

What to Expect From a Bachelor of Science in Accounting

A bachelor's degree in accounting is a four-year undergraduate program, typically comprising around 120 credits. Like most bachelor's degrees, these programs begin with general education credits to provide a foundation in subjects like liberal arts, science, and math. After completing these requirements, enrollees commit to their accounting majors with core coursework.

An accounting core includes various business, math, and finance classes. Courses typically cover areas like cost accounting, financial analysis, taxation, and auditing. Through these classes, learners develop their ability to assess clients' financial health in theoretical and real-world scenarios. Some programs allow students to focus their work through concentrations in forensic accounting, financial accounting, and managerial accounting.

Schools may also accept transfer credits from applicants' past educational institutions to cover general education classes and other courses. However, these applicants' former schools must be accredited in order for the new institutions to accept and honor the transfer credits.

Accreditation is a process through which third-party organizations evaluate institutions (and their programs) for student resources, curricular offerings, and graduation outcomes. Prioritize accredited schools, as they have demonstrated that they meet industry-wide standards.

Degree and Format Options

You will likely encounter several types of bachelor's degrees in accounting, including the typical bachelor of science in accounting (BS) and bachelor of arts (BA) programs. However, two other undergraduate accounting programs are the bachelor of business administration (BBA) in accounting and the bachelor of accountancy (BAcc).

Fortunately, there aren't many key differences among these programs, and each degree type can prepare you to pursue accounting roles after graduation. BS and BAcc programs are largely used interchangeably. BA degrees take a more liberal arts focus in their curriculum, and BBA programs include more business courses.

Schools may offer these degrees through various delivery methods, such as online, in-person, and hybrid learning. Consider your personal learning style to find a program that best aligns with your ideal format. For example, if you prefer the close attention and set schedule of in-person learning, then a traditional program may offer the best pathway.

However, if you have a busier schedule due to professional or personal obligations, online learning can open the door to otherwise unavailable programs. Distance programs may offer synchronous courses (with set class schedules) or asynchronous classes, which require you to view recorded lectures and meet specific assignment deadlines without ever having to log on at specific times.

Hybrid learning blends in-person and online instruction, which may occur asynchronously or synchronously.

Admissions Process

Most schools offering bachelor's degrees in accounting share similar admission requirements. Institutions will usually require you to submit all transcripts from past education, including evidence demonstrating completion of a high school diploma or GED certificate. More competitive programs may set GPA minimums of 3.0 or higher, but some schools may only require that you possess around a 2.0.

Though many colleges and universities are becoming test-optional, some programs may want to see SAT scores for accounting students. Admissions departments also commonly require you to submit a letter of recommendation and a personal essay, along with a resume or CV detailing relevant professional experience.

After gathering your materials, it's time to apply. Many schools accept Common App, which allows you to send applications to several schools at once with a single document.

Popular Accounting Undergraduate Courses

In a bachelor's degree in accounting, you'll need to complete general, core, and elective courses. Some schools may require a capstone experience at the end of the program, which may require a research project and/or presentation.

Core courses apply to your major, while electives allow you to tailor your degree to your interests beyond or within major requirements.

  • Financial Accounting: This course covers generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), along with accounting fundamentals across various industries. Topics include income statements, balance sheets, and the revenue process. Students learn to handle assets, liabilities, and equities for individuals and businesses. This course may appear at the beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels.
  • Auditing: In this course, enrollees typically learn how to design and conduct a financial statement audit. This process requires an understanding of business risks and ethics, and the ability to analyze financial reports. The goal of a successful audit is to provide reasonable assurance that a company's financial statements are correct and free from material misstatements.
  • Data Analytics: In this elective class, accounting students can develop familiarity with programming and big data sets to improve their decision-making skills. They learn to collect and format data using various programming tools, and coursework may use real-world business scenarios for enrollees to apply their findings as creative problem-solvers.
  • Business Policy Capstone: A bachelor of science in accounting may culminate in a capstone course, in which students take what they've learned throughout the program and synthesize their knowledge in a single research project. In this capstone, learners may use case methods and research to focus their efforts on a presentation covering organization-wide business strategies.

How Much Do Accounting Bachelor's Programs Cost?

Tuition costs vary significantly among accounting programs, but attending any level of higher education requires a serious investment of time, energy, and finances. For example, annual tuition may cost around $5,000 to $30,000 or more, based on prestige, location, and other factors.

Private institutions typically charge higher tuition rates than public institutions. Public schools also may feature tuition discounts for in-state learners. Distance learning factors heavily into cost — some online programs may still charge based on in-state vs. out-of-state status, though others offer a flat, per-credit rate to level the playing field for all students.

Online learning can also allow for greater savings by removing the need for transportation, additional housing, and other costs. However, distance programs may charge additional tech fees for online students.

Regardless of your chosen method, there are several types of financial aid to make college more affordable. Most college students take out loans of some kind, whether they are from private lenders or federal aid. Before relying entirely on loans, which require repayment with interest, make sure to research available scholarships. This form of aid does not require you to pay it back, making it an ideal source of funding.

Should You Get Your Degree Online?

Online learning can offer some distinct benefits over the traditional college experience, but you need to consider your personal learning style before committing to any level of higher education. Fortunately, with emerging collaboration tools for group projects and cutting-edge software, accounting programs transfer seamlessly to the virtual space.

Among the reasons to earn an accounting degree online is that you can get the same level of education as an in-person program, often from the same faculty. If you prefer the structured environment of a traditional degree, you can prioritize online programs with synchronous coursework.

Before committing to an online degree with a more flexible schedule, make sure that you can handle the additional time management and self-motivation required to stay on top of coursework.

Accounting Jobs and Salaries

After completing your undergraduate program, you may want to pursue a graduate education or enter the workforce. With a bachelor of science in accounting, you can apply for various entry-level positions in accounting. More advanced positions require experience in the field and will not be available immediately upon graduation.

Though many positions for graduates with bachelor's degrees in accounting focus on financial reporting, bookkeeping, and management, there are nuances among these roles. The following list of occupations is not exhaustive — there are many accounting-related positions that you can pursue after graduation.


Accountants use GAAP to maintain financial records for public and private organizations, thereby ensuring compliance with legal requirements. They compile and analyze financial statements, presenting their findings to management to assess risk and make suggestions for improved efficiency or profits. Some accountants may focus on taxation to assure that businesses properly file their annual taxes correctly.

CPAs have additional education requirements beyond the typical 120 credits provided by a bachelor's degree in accounting. They must also pass a four-part certification exam and meet state requirements to practice professionally.

  • Job Outlook (2022-32): +4%
  • Median Annual Salary (2023): $79,880

Source: BLS

Accounting Clerk

Accounting clerks assist in keeping financial records for entire organizations and departments within companies. They may create and process receipts for any money coming in and out of organizations. These entry-level bookkeepers may have bachelor's degrees in accounting, but many employers seek candidates with high school diplomas or associate degrees.

  • Job Outlook (2022-32): -6%
  • Median Annual Salary (2023): $47,440

Source: BLS

Financial Analyst

These professionals assist clients with making financial decisions, typically through investments. Their work typically falls under two categories: buy side and sell side. Buy-side analysts create investment roadmaps for groups such as pension funds, insurance companies, private equity, and hedge funds. Sell-side analysts take a more short-term view of stocks, researching investments in specific industries and presenting their findings to clients.

  • Job Outlook (2022-32): +8%
  • Median Annual Salary (2023): $99,890

Source: BLS

Financial Manager

These managers oversee financial information for entire organizations. They assist with legal compliance, forecast financial trends, consult with executives, and develop strategic plans to maximize profits. Along with a bachelor's degree in a field like accounting, financial managers typically must possess five or more years of relevant experience.

  • Job Outlook (2022-32): +16%
  • Median Annual Salary (2023): $156,100

Source: BLS

Selecting the Right Undergraduate Program

Each student has specific needs and preferences, making choosing an accounting program a bespoke experience. There are several considerations to keep in mind for all learners, allowing them to identify their priorities and research schools that meet their requirements.

Take stock of your professional goals. If you know the role you'd like to pursue after graduation, along with where you'd like to work, use this information to guide your college search. An accounting program may offer an appealing concentration that aligns with your professional aspirations, like taxation.

Some schools maintain extensive alumni networks, allowing you to connect with current professionals and locate internships to get your foot in the door while still pursuing a degree. If you're planning to pursue graduate education after your bachelor's degree in accounting, it may make sense to search for universities with relevant master's programs, too.

Common Questions About a Bachelor's Degree in Accounting

What is a bachelor's degree in accounting?

A bachelor's degree in accounting is a four-year undergraduate program that prepares graduates to pursue entry-level roles in accounting through courses in auditing, taxation, and finance.

Which bachelor's degree is best for an accountant?

The best bachelor's degree for an accountant covers topics such as finance, mathematics, and business. A BA, BS, BSBA, or BBA can fit the bill for a prospective accountant — the ideal program depends on their personal and professional aspirations.

Is a BA in accounting worth it?

For prospective accountants, completing a BA in accounting is typically a worthwhile venture. Most accounting roles require a minimum of a bachelor's degree. More advanced accounting positions, like CPAs, must possess more than 120 credits, making a bachelor's degree an ideal program to accrue credits on your way to certification.

How many years does it take to get your bachelor's degree in accounting?

A bachelor's degree in accounting typically takes four years to complete. However, some schools offer accelerated timelines, allowing you to graduate in just three years. Transfer-friendly programs allow you to bring credits from past education to potentially shorten this timeline.

Can you get an accounting bachelor's degree online?

Yes — as many schools have expanded to the virtual space, accredited colleges and universities have grown to offer online bachelor's degrees in accounting. These programs offer greater flexibility than their in-person counterparts but may require more careful time management and organization.

Page Last Reviewed Feb. 21, 2024.

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