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A bachelor’s in accounting prepares students for lucrative careers as certified public accountants (CPAs) and meets the minimum education requirement for employment as an auditor, financial manager, or financial advisor. Accounting program graduates also qualify to work as bookkeeping clerks and chief financial officers (CFOs).
We ranked the nation’s most noteworthy accounting degrees to guide students toward programs that align with their career aspirations. Accountants and auditors enjoy steady job growth and relatively high salaries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that these professionals earned a median annual wage of $71,550 as of 2019, projecting a 4% increase in employment for accountants and auditors from 2019-2029.
Read on for more information about the nation’s best accounting degrees.
What Is Accounting?
Accountants play a crucial role in nearly every type of business. These critical thinkers helped shape ancient civilizations’ economies and continue to serve this necessary function today. Organizations of all sizes require skilled accountants, sometimes with specialized expertise in fields like healthcare or forensics, to maintain operations.
Any accountant who files reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) must hold CPA licensure, which also increases employment and earnings potential. Nationally, accountants see the highest employment rates in California, Texas, and New York.
BLS data indicates that the highest concentrations of accountants and auditors work in accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll services.
Accounting program graduates may also qualify for fast-growing, high-paying jobs in finance. BLS data indicates that the highest concentrations of accountants and auditors work in accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll services.
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Why Get an Accounting Bachelor’s?
A bachelor’s in accounting meets the minimum education requirement for most jobs in accounting and financial management. Accounting schools typically develop their programs to provide fundamental business leadership skills and prepare graduates for CPA licensure.
Though programs vary, many accounting programs allow students to tailor their degrees to pursue work as accountants, tax examiners, or financial advisors. Benefits of these bachelor’s degrees include:
Professionals equipped with bachelor’s degrees in accounting earn salaries of $70,000-$130,000 in accounting and finance positions. One of the most common career paths for accounting program graduates, accountants often earn higher salaries as CPAs, and they can further increase their earnings as financial managers and CFOs.
The best accounting degrees cover broad skills and offer diverse applications across business and finance sectors. While most students complete bachelor’s in accounting degrees on the path to becoming CPAs, many accounting programs offer niche concentrations in particular types of accounting.
Accounting degrees typically stress CPA certification preparation, as most accounting students pursue CPA licensure post-graduation. A bachelor’s in accounting offers a sensible starting point for aspiring CPAs — qualifying for the exam requires more credits (150) than the typical 120-credit, four-year accounting degree.
What To Expect From Bachelor’s in Accounting Programs
Accounting degrees are popular and widely available at most colleges and universities. Though programs vary by school and type, accounting degrees include a bachelor of science (BS), bachelor of arts (BA), bachelor of accountancy, and bachelor of accounting science. Schools commonly offer BS in accounting or bachelor of business administration (BBA) degrees with concentrations in accounting or other accounting specialties.
Most bachelor’s in accounting comprise 120 credits. Some programs include optional practicums or internships, and many culminate in capstone seminars, exams, or senior projects. While college programs strongly recommend practical experience, many bachelor’s in accounting degrees lend themselves to the virtual learning experience and offer the majority of coursework entirely online.
Most accounting degrees emphasize core business skills, including communication, leadership, and attention to detail. A bachelor’s in computer forensics typically takes four years to complete, though online programs may offer accelerated paths to graduation. Online programs may employ synchronous (live) or asynchronous (pre-recorded) course delivery.
The admission requirements for accounting degrees vary but typically share commonalities. Most bachelor’s in accounting programs require a high school diploma or GED certificate, along with high-school-level course requirements in subjects like English, math, and science. Some require SAT or ACT scores. Like many undergraduate programs, accounting degrees generally prefer applicants with minimum GPAs of 2.0-3.0.
Accounting schools offering BBAs may require applicants to satisfy prerequisites in business or accounting. Completing an associate degree or accounting certificate may cover some general education requirements of the bachelor’s degree.
Bachelor’s programs may require additional application materials like essays, statements of purpose, or letters of recommendation. While some schools require an application fee, most programs waive costs based on need. Schools increasingly encourage students to apply online through platforms like Common App.
Accounting Degree and Concentration Options
BBAs and business programs commonly offer accounting as a concentration, and some degrees feature specializations like cost accounting, forensic accounting, and taxation. A bachelor’s in accounting typically includes core business coursework emphasizing management, communication, and leadership skills.
Some programs offer sub-concentrations in particular areas of accounting expertise. Enrollees can align their coursework with their career goals by specializing in forensic accounting, mergers and acquisitions, or international tax law. Degree-seekers can also choose electives in specializations like healthcare, construction, or corporate accounting.
The best accounting degrees also prepare students for CPA licensure. At 120 credits, a typical bachelor’s in accounting does not meet the 150-credit requirement for CPAs. However, a bachelor’s program can provide foundational training and introduce students to potential field experience options.
Popular Accounting Classes
Accounting degrees emphasize core concepts in finance and business. A bachelor’s in accounting typically includes business core, major, and elective courses. Though not always required, some programs feature optional internships and may culminate in a capstone or final project. Common courses include:
Typically delivered in multiple parts, this course introduces students to theoretical accounting scenarios and practical financial statement preparation. Topics include accounting cycles, error corrections, and executive communication of financial information.
Most accounting degrees emphasize business law and ethics coursework, preparing students for any occupations involving corporate and personal accounting. This course covers real estate, bankruptcy, estate planning, and government financial regulations. Some accounting degrees, especially BBAs, feature multi-part business law courses.
Critical for aspiring CPAs and tax preparators, this course covers the latest tax laws. Students learn the legal steps to prepare and file tax returns for clients. Some programs require an enrollee to complete a prerequisite in managerial accounting before this course.
This subject requires a working knowledge of standard cost, budgeting, and job order and process. Learners apply cost behavior analysis to management and planning tasks within the accounting process. Students also record, classify, and report cost data.
Financial Statement Analysis
Degree-seekers learn to make predictions regarding future financial prospects by computing free cash flows, interpreting financial statements, and integrating SEC filing information. Coursework explores common methods in accounting for determining the value of publicly traded entities.
How Much Will a Bachelor’s in Accounting Cost?
Students surveyed by The Princeton Review reported “level of debt” as their biggest consecutive worry from 2013-2020. Since aspiring accountants need at least a bachelor’s degree to become CPAs, accounting programs provide a significant return on investment following graduation.
Accounting schools vary their tuition rates based on location, reputation, and public or private status. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, tuition and fees for undergraduates at public, four-year institutions in the 2018-19 academic year cost an average of $9,212 for in-state students and over $26,000 for out-of-state students.
Online learners often enjoy significant financial benefits, including set or in-state tuition rates. Many online accounting degrees offer the same need-based federal financial aid as on-campus programs. Additionally, students can qualify for merit-based scholarships and grants in their accounting specializations. Most enrollees pursue scholarships and grants — which do not require repayment — before loans, which borrowers must repay.
An accounting degree can prepare students to enter finance and business roles. Graduates can pursue CPA licensure to become accountants and auditors or enter the fields of financial planning and management or tax examination. Students may work as accounting clerks to gain experience while earning their bachelor’s in accounting. Seasoned accountants may qualify for positions in private financial management. Common accounting careers include:
Accountants and auditors prepare and inspect financial records, including filing taxes, for individuals and corporate clients. They must understand the latest financial regulations and tax laws to ensure the accuracy and timeliness of their clients’ financial statements and taxes. Any accountant who files a report with the SEC must hold CPA licensure.
Required Education: Bachelor’s degree Job Outlook (2019-29):+4% Median Annual Salary:$71,550
Tax Examiner and Collector or Revenue Agent
A tax examiner/collector or revenue agent determines the amount of taxes owed by individuals and businesses and collects overdue tax payments for the IRS and state and local governments. They examine tax returns and conduct audits to identify overdue balances. These professionals typically handle simple tax returns filed by individuals and small businesses, while revenue agents work on behalf of the IRS for complex tax cases.
Required Education: Bachelor’s degree Job Outlook (2019-29):-4% Median Annual Salary:$54,890
Financial analysts evaluate the performance and earnings of investments like stocks and bonds. They often work in banks, securities firms, and insurance companies, guiding individuals and businesses in making investment decisions. Sometimes called “securities analysts” or “investment analysts,” most financial analysts hold bachelor’s degrees in accounting, economics, finance, or related fields.
Required Education: Bachelor’s degree Job Outlook (2019-29):+5% Median Annual Salary:$81,590
These professionals manage the financial fitness of businesses and organizations. Financial management occupations include controllers, treasurers, and corporate credit managers. Financial managers working in fields such as healthcare or government may require specialized industry-related skills. Employers require each candidate to possess a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field, along with five years of work experience.
Required Education: Bachelor’s degree Job Outlook (2019-29):+15% Median Annual Salary:$129,890
Personal Financial Advisor
These advisors guide clients in financial matters, including retirement, estate planning, and investment opportunities. Some PFAs specialize in areas like retirement or risk management. Though flexible, most employers require a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field. Many advisors seek professional certification as certified financial planners.
Required Education: Bachelor’s degree Job Outlook (2019-29):+4% Median Annual Salary:$87,850
While ranked school lists offer a great starting place for prospective students, enrollees may consider other factors in their selection process. Accreditation should top the list of key considerations. The Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation recognize accrediting agencies that bestow this status on institutions across the country.
School Size: Some learners may prefer a more intimate learning experience
Student-to-Teacher Ratio: Some students require more personalized attention than others for an optimal learning environment
Cost/Financial Aid: Many degree-seekers choose programs based on their financial aid packages.
Location: The availability of local career opportunities after graduation is a critical consideration for some learners.
Program Culture: Students commonly pursue bachelor’s in accounting programs for their CPA licensure preparation coursework.
Earning Potential: Prospective enrollees should research student success rates of each school.
Alumni Network: Accounting alumni may help usher in recent graduates to professional networks and members’ organizations.
Required Admission Material: Applicants may prefer schools with test-optional admissions policies or essay requirements.
Future Education Opportunities: Graduates can pursue master’s degrees or assistance in completing additional necessary credits for CPA licensure.
Should You Get Your Accounting Degree Online?
A bachelor’s in accounting features lecture-focused and seminar-oriented coursework, which translates smoothly to distance learning. Many online accounting programs feature the same core courses and faculty as their on-campus counterparts.
Online programs continue to increase in popularity. Schools tend to offer more flexible enrollment and scheduling options, often including a choice of full-time or part-time coursework, fully online or hybrid study, and accelerated paths to graduation. Additionally, many online students pay set or in-state tuition, regardless of their location.
However, online students must adapt to stricter time management requirements and less face-to-face interaction than in traditional programs. Some learners may prefer in-person delivery over distance learning.
Our rankings below describe the best bachelor’s in accounting programs for 2021. All the schools we rank hold regional accreditation from one of the following regional accrediting bodies:
Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
Regional accreditation verifies that the degree-granting college or university meets stringent academic standards. Fourteen of the accounting programs on our list also hold subject-specific accreditation from one of the following national accrediting bodies:
Accreditation from AACSB conveys that a degree satisfies the highest industry standards for business schools. Accreditation from ACBSP and IACBE signals that a degree meets rigorous academic standards for business and accounting programs. Finally, accreditation from SHRM provides evidence that a degree satisfies demanding educational standards for human resource management programs.
Founded in 1836, Wesleyan is a private liberal arts women's college in Macon, Georgia, affiliated with the United Methodist Church. The school was the first in the world chartered to award degrees to women. Today, the college enrolls approximately 700 undergraduate students across 23 majors, 30 minors, and eight pre-professional programs.
With a student-to-faculty ratio of 8-to-1 and an average class size of 21 students, Wesleyan provides a personalized AB accounting degree rooted in a traditional liberal arts education. Learners entering in their first year must spend at least six semesters in residence at Wesleyan as full-time students.
This 120-credit accounting program offers a diverse curriculum with classes in accounting, the humanities, and the social sciences, thus helping graduates adapt to the changing needs of corporations. A major in accounting requires 60 credits: 36 in business and 24 in accounting.
Wesleyan is home to the Wesleyan College Alumnae Association, the world's first alumni society. The association, which comprises nearly 9,000 members, promotes interaction among current and former Wesleyan students.
Applying to Wesleyan
Applicants must submit an online Wesleyan, Common App, or transfer application. Required materials include official high school transcripts or a GED certificate, plus a deposit of $300 for first-time college students or $200 for transfer students. SAT or ACT scores are optional.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Private Accreditation: SACSCOC Tuition: $25,190/year Required Credits: 120 credits Program Length: 4 years Delivery Format: 100% online (synchronous and asynchronous), hybrid, or on campus
A public university in Aberdeen, South Dakota, NSU is home to nearly 3,500 national and international students across 38 majors, 42 minors, six associate degrees, eight pre-professional programs, and nine graduate degrees. The school reports that 82% of enrollees receive financial aid.
NSU's BS in accounting program at the ACBSP-accredited School of Business provides a comprehensive, professional accounting degree. The curriculum prepares students to work in private industry accounting, managerial accounting, auditing, federal taxation, financial analysis, and bookkeeping.
This 120-credit accounting degree satisfies the requirements to sit for the exams for certified bookkeeper, certified management accountant, certified internal auditor, and certified information systems auditor credentials. While the BS in accounting major does not include sufficient credits to qualify for the CPA exam, NSU recently added a master's in accounting analytics that satisfies the CPA preparation requirements.
NSU also hosts an accounting club offering opportunities for industry knowledge, professional networking, and community service.
Applying to NSU
Applicants must submit an online application, official transcripts, personal essays, letters of recommendation, and an application fee. ACT/SAT scores are not required but must be submitted for most scholarships.
Admission to NSU requires an ACT composite score of 18 or higher, an SAT score of at least 960, a high school GPA of at least 2.6, or a rank in the top 60% of the high school graduating class.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Public Accreditation: HLC, ACBSP Tuition: $7,540/year (South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana residents); $8,520/year (Minnesota residents); $10,611/year (residents of other states) Required Credits: 120 credits Program Length: 4 years Delivery Format: 100% online, hybrid, or on campus
A federally designated Hispanic-serving public institution with its main campus in Portales, ENMU is New Mexico's largest and most recently founded state university. In addition to its academic and athletic achievements, the school is known for its two mascots, the greyhounds Ralph and Roxy.
ENMU's bachelor's in accounting prepares students for a professional career in the field. The coursework focuses on cultivating a basic understanding of business administration and in-depth knowledge of advanced accounting principles and practice.
The 48-credit accounting major includes 21 credits of core business courses, 24 credits of accounting classes, and three credits in international and advanced accounting concepts. The degree fulfills a portion of the academic requirements required for several professional accounting certification exams.
The curriculum encompasses core business courses such as marketing management, business research and analysis, and managerial finance. Accounting classes include auditing, income tax accounting, and accounting information systems.
Applying to ENMU
Applicants must submit an online application, a scholarship application, transcripts, essays, letters of recommendation, SAT/ACT scores, and an application fee. Homeschooled applicants must obtain a composite ACT score of at least 17 or an SAT score of at least 900.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Public Accreditation: HLC, ACBSP Tuition: $2,037/semester (in state); $3,057/semester (out of state) Required Credits: 120 credits Program Length: 4 years Delivery Format: 100% online, hybrid, or on campus
Founded in 1885 by the Sisters of Charity, Seton Hill is a private Catholic university in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. The school enrolls approximately 2,000 students across 100 undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs.
Seton Hill's bachelor's in accounting program at the IACBE-accredited school of business prepares students for careers in government, corporate, and public accounting. Learners must complete core business and accounting courses and a capstone, including preparation of a showcase portfolio.
The 120-credit curriculum comprises courses in managerial accounting, auditing, business law, data analytics, principles of micro- and macroeconomics, business communication, and calculus. Graduates may elect to complete a supervised internship through Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, a program operating under IRS guidance.
Seton Hill's career and professional development center collaborates with local, regional, and national employers to help graduates secure employment. Many Seton Hill alumni work in Fortune 500 companies such as Amazon, Boeing, and PNC.
Applying to Seton Hill
Applicants must submit a Seton Hill or Common App online application, a personal statement, transcripts, SAT/ACT scores, and an application fee. Letters of recommendation are optional.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Private Accreditation: MSCHE, IACBE Tuition: $18,698/semester Required Credits: 120 credits Program Length: 4 years Delivery Format: On campus or hybrid
Established in 1840, SMWC is a Roman Catholic liberal arts college in West Terre Haute, Indiana. The oldest Catholic school in the state, SMWC enrolls around 1,700 students across more than 30 undergraduate programs. The school holds recognition for its online degree program, which ranks among the largest in Indiana.
SMWC's BS in accounting degree prepares students for a professional accounting career rooted in a traditional liberal arts education. The program provides a core foundation in accounting, including elective specialization options in internal auditing, forensic accounting, financial advising, and new accounting technologies.
This 120-credit accounting program satisfies many of the educational requirements for certifications such as certified management accountant, certified financial manager, and certified internal auditor. While the BS in accounting does not fulfill the 150 credits required to sit for the CPA examination, learners who aspire to become CPAs can add courses to their major for an extra fee.
Applying to SMWC
Applicants must submit an online application along with official high school transcripts or GED certificate (for first-time college students) or college transcripts (for transfer students). Other requirements include essays, letters of recommendation, and a nonrefundable deposit.
Scholarship applicants must submit SAT/ACT scores. The school gives preference to students demonstrating specific high school curriculum patterns, grade trends, and participation in extracurricular activities. Ninety-five percent of enrollees receive some form of financial aid.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Private Accreditation: HLC, SHRM Tuition: $29,950/year Required Credits: 120 credits Program Length: 4 years Delivery Format: 100% online or on campus
Frequently Asked Questions
Is accounting a good degree?
Yes. Earning an accounting degree can prepare students for lucrative and enduring careers in finance. A bachelor’s in accounting can lead to CPA licensure and entry-level accountant and auditor positions.
Is an accounting degree hard?
The best accounting degrees challenge students through varied coursework. Driven individuals with strong time management skills can thrive in online accounting programs.
How long does it take to get an accounting degree?
Most bachelor’s in accounting degrees take four years to complete, though many online programs feature accelerated paths to graduation. Additionally, some programs enable students to choose part-time enrollment, which offers added flexibility but extends the degree timeline.
What can you do with an accounting degree?
A bachelor’s in accounting meets the minimum education requirement for occupations such as accountant, auditor, tax examiner, and financial manager. A bachelor’s in accounting can also provide initial CPA licensure training.