Types of Accounting Degrees


Updated March 27, 2024

check mark Edited by
check mark Reviewed by

Our Integrity Network

Accounting.com is committed to delivering content that is objective and actionable. To that end, we have built a network of industry professionals across higher education to review our content and ensure we are providing the most helpful information to our readers.

Drawing on their firsthand industry expertise, our Integrity Network members serve as an additional step in our editing process, helping us confirm our content is accurate and up to date. These contributors:

  • Suggest changes to inaccurate or misleading information.
  • Provide specific, corrective feedback.
  • Identify critical information that writers may have missed.

Integrity Network members typically work full time in their industry profession and review content for Accounting.com as a side project. All Integrity Network members are paid members of the Red Ventures Education Integrity Network.

Explore our full list of Integrity Network members.

When is an accounting certificate enough? Is a master's degree in accounting necessary? Discover different types of accounting degrees and how they fit into the career landscape.

Accounting.com 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.

Are you ready to discover your college program?

woman holding a laptop Credit: The Good Brigade / Getty Images

Most accounting jobs — even entry-level roles — require a relevant degree. An associate degree in accounting provides a helpful starting point for a career.

Moving up the career ladder into higher-level roles, like accounting managers or firm partners, often requires a bachelor's or master's degree.

Fortunately, many degrees and concentrations can lead to an accounting career, giving students several options when choosing their best educational path. For example, a finance or economics degree could qualify someone for an accounting position as much as an accounting degree.

Additionally, many schools offer multiple accounting concentrations, like sports accounting, taxation, or management accounting, allowing students to specialize in an area of interest.

For instance, someone interested in government accounting might specialize in forensic accounting or auditing, while a financial accounting concentration could be best suited for someone who plans to work for a private organization's accounting department.

Continue exploring this guide to discover various types of accounting degree levels, specializations, and programs.

Popular Online Accounting Programs

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

Accounting Degree Levels

Although all types of accounting degrees can lead to an accounting career, higher levels of education can prepare learners for more advanced roles and certifications.

An undergraduate certificate and associate degree are for entry-level positions, ideal for introducing students to the accounting world. A bachelor's degree is more commonly required by employers seeking a higher level of knowledge in topics like taxation and business finance.

Students interested in becoming a certified public accountant (CPA) or having a managerial role in accounting should consider a master's degree and, later, a graduate certificate for additional education in a specialty area, like auditing or public accounting. Meanwhile, a Ph.D. in accounting can pave the way for a career as an accounting professor or researcher.

Learn more about each degree level in detail below.


An accounting certificate offers focused coursework with a shorter time commitment than a degree. Program lengths vary: An undergraduate certificate may require as few as nine credits or as many as 45 credits. Accounting graduate certificates typically require 12-20 credits. Most certificates require one year of full-time study or less.

Accounting programs offer certificates in concentrations like bookkeeping, public accounting, and auditing. An undergraduate certificate can lead to careers as a bookkeeper, while a graduate certificate helps accountants specialize their career path.

Unlike full accounting degrees, certificate programs do not require general education courses. Students can usually transfer credits from their accounting certificate toward a degree program.


An associate degree in accounting introduces learners to foundational concepts in accounting, finance, and business. Associate programs typically require 60 credits and take two years for full-time enrollees. Typical curricula include general education and accounting classes. Schools may award an associate of arts, associate of science, or associate of applied science degree.

After completing an associate degree, graduates can qualify for entry-level roles like bookkeeper or accounting clerk.

Often, learners can transfer their associate degree coursework toward a bachelor's program. Some four-year institutions even maintain partnerships with two-year schools to help students transfer their credits and pursue a bachelor's.


A bachelor's degree in accounting meets the educational requirement for careers like accountant and auditor. Earning a bachelor's degree takes four years of full-time study, though some institutions offer accelerated programs. Accounting majors complete a minimum of 120 credits to graduate. Graduates may earn a bachelor of science, bachelor of accounting, bachelor of arts, or bachelor of business administration degree.

During a bachelor's program in accounting, undergrads complete courses in areas such as financial accounting, auditing, managerial accounting, and accounting information systems. Accounting majors also complete general education courses that encourage critical thinking and analytical skills.


A master's degree in accounting includes advanced coursework in public accounting, forensic accounting, or other specializations. Master's students complete 30-36 credits of graduate-level accounting coursework in their specialty area.

With a master's degree, professionals often pursue careers as CPA, controller, or accounting manager jobs.

Most accounting master's programs take two years of full-time study, though some universities offer an accelerated one-year master's degree. These programs often end in a thesis or capstone project. Graduates may earn a master of science, master of accounting, or master of business administration degree in this field.


The Ph.D. in accounting is a terminal degree. Professionals with a doctorate in accounting work in academic, research, and leadership roles. For example, most accounting professors hold a Ph.D. in accounting.

Accounting Ph.D. programs typically require 70-120 credits. Doctoral students generally spend 4-7 years of full-time study pursuing this degree.

During a Ph.D. program, doctoral students focus their studies on a subfield of accounting. After meeting coursework requirements, they must pass comprehensive examinations and write a dissertation that poses new questions about or proposes new solutions to problems in the field.

Accounting Degree Concentrations

Students can choose between an accounting-related degree or an accounting degree concentration, both of which schools offer for in-person and online programs.

An accounting-related degree provides a comprehensive curriculum in another field onto which students can add an accounting specialty, like taxation.

In contrast, an accounting degree with a concentration in taxation primarily follows a general accounting curriculum, along with a few courses pinpointing taxation concepts, like individual and corporate tax.

An accounting concentration gives learners some wiggle room to explore areas of interest while developing advanced accounting skills.

Auditing, financial accounting, taxation, forensic accounting, and management accounting are among the most common concentration options. Find descriptions for these and other accounting concentrations below.

Actuarial Science

Courses in an actuarial science concentration teach students to calculate risk and determine the financial costs associated with insurance.

Enrollees who specialize in actuarial science take classes in probability, statistics, modeling, and financial mathematics. This concentration can help prepare graduates for actuary certification exams.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), actuaries earned a median salary of $113,990 in 2022. These professionals usually need at least a bachelor's degree, and most work in finance or insurance.


Auditors evaluate financial documents to ensure their accuracy and regulatory compliance. Auditing concentration classes strengthen learners' analytical and investigative skills and explore best practices for internal and external auditing. Enrollees may also study forensic accounting and fraud examination, which can lead to fraud and forensic auditor jobs.

Auditing roles typically require at least a bachelor's degree. Graduates can qualify for careers like internal auditor, tax auditor, external auditor, and government auditor.


Bookkeepers work for organizations, recording financial transactions and maintaining accounting documents. A concentration in bookkeeping strengthens financial reporting and accounting skills. Students learn to manage a general ledger and report financial information. Coursework in this specialization also covers career-focused math and auditing skills.

An undergraduate bookkeeping certificate or an associate degree with a bookkeeping focus both prepare graduates for careers as a bookkeeper. These programs typically take 1-2 years to complete.

Cost Accounting

A cost accounting concentration focuses on internal accounting operations, including financial planning and budgeting. Cost accounting classes explore evaluating operational metrics, identifying inefficiencies, and making decisions based on cost accounting information.

In addition to accounting classes, learners pursuing a cost accounting concentration study operations management.

This specialization prepares graduates for jobs as cost accountants in diverse fields like government, manufacturing, and construction. Cost accounting training can lead to careers in analysis, management, and consulting.


Economics studies how society allocates goods and services. An accounting degree with an economics concentration is designed to examine how businesses make economic decisions. Courses in microeconomics, investment finance, macroeconomics, and global commerce introduce concepts like resource allocation and financial markets.

Adding economics coursework to an accounting degree can improve skills like logical reasoning, statistical modeling, and cost-benefit analysis. An economics concentration also helps graduates pursue careers in corporate finance, international business, and accounting.

Environmental Accounting

Environmental accounting applies accounting principles to the environment. Classes in this concentration train learners to determine businesses' environmental impacts. Organizations rely on environmental accountants to minimize these impacts. This specialization is also called sustainable or green accounting.

With an environmental accounting concentration for their degree, graduates can pursue careers as sustainability analysts, environmental accountants, and conservation fiscal specialists. They may also work in auditing roles.


Accounting programs explore financial analysis and reporting, while the discipline of finance focuses on investing, forecasting, and financial management.

A finance concentration for an accounting degree blends these two knowledge bases together. Students explore corporate finance, financial modeling, and international financial management while developing analytical, decision-making, and management skills.

Professionals who add a finance concentration to their accounting degree can qualify for roles like financial analyst, personal financial advisor, and financial accountant.

Financial Accounting

Financial accounting emphasizes reporting financial information — especially external reporting. In financial accounting courses, enrollees learn to use accounting principles to evaluate organizations' financial health and report their findings.

While accounting majors often take several financial accounting courses as part of their degree, this concentration offers greater depth into the analytical and reporting knowledge for financial accountant roles.

With a financial accounting specialization, graduates can qualify for auditor, financial accountant, and budget analyst jobs.

Forensic Accounting

Forensic accountants investigate financial crimes using accounting skills. Classes in a forensic accounting concentration explore techniques for examining fraud, financial cybercrime, and related crimes. Students learn to identify evidence for financial malfeasance and collaborate with law enforcement, including acting as expert witnesses in court.

After graduating with a concentration in forensic accounting, professionals can work as fraud examiners, auditors, and forensic accountants.

Information Systems

Financial and accounting organizations increasingly rely on technology to manage information. An information systems concentration adds technology skills to an accounting degree.

Students pursuing this specialization learn to manage accounting databases, use financial software, and manage IT teams. They also study accounting networks and security procedures.

Bachelor's programs typically offer upper-division information systems classes, and students can also earn a master's in accounting with an information systems focus. With both accounting and tech skills, graduates can qualify for accountant, accounting systems manager, and management analyst roles.

International Tax

Global corporations rely on international tax professionals to manage complex tax issues that cross national borders. Courses in an international tax specialization examine financial regulations for companies with international operations. This includes foreign companies with U.S. operations and domestic companies operating abroad. This concentration is typically offered at the graduate level.

With an international tax accounting degree, graduates can work as international tax analysts, tax consultants, and compliance officers. A master's degree can also lead to roles such as international tax manager.

Management Accounting

Management accounting draws on financial information to make managerial decisions. In management accounting courses, learners explore financial planning, accounting controls, and strategic problem-solving.

While most accounting majors take a management accounting course as part of their graduation requirements, this concentration adds additional upper-division classes. Degree-seekers can also earn a master's in management accounting.

With a management accounting specialization, graduates can qualify for management accountant, cost accountant, and accounting manager careers. The concentration can also help learners prepare for credentials like certified management accountant.

Mergers and Acquisitions

Accounting professionals play an important role in corporate mergers and acquisitions. Pursuing a concentration in this area typically includes taking classes about corporate restructuring, business valuation, and mergers and acquisitions modeling.

This specialized path of study trains graduates to evaluate corporate merger plans, recommend acquisition strategies, and shepherd organizations through an acquisition. These skills help prepare professionals for careers in mergers and acquisitions, financial management, and risk analysis.

Public Accounting

Public accounting focuses on financial transaction disclosure, including taxation and auditing services. In a public accounting concentration, students learn to prepare financial statements such as individual and corporate tax returns, audit financial records, and consult on public accounting issues.

Accounting students who specialize in public accounting often pursue CPA careers. In addition to an undergraduate accounting degree, CPAs typically need 30 additional credits to satisfy their state's educational requirements for licensure. Learners can meet this requirement by earning a master's degree in accounting.

Sports Accounting

Accountants help sports teams manage their finances, payroll, and budget. While completing a sports accounting concentration, students learn about financial reporting for sports organizations. Classes cover sports-specific management operations, financial analysis, and accounting issues.

Because this concentration is specific to one industry, only a few schools offer it at the undergraduate level. Some institutions offer graduate levels of this specialization. A degree with this concentration can prepare graduates to work as sports accountants, merchandise accountants, financial controllers, and payroll accountants.


A taxation concentration adds more public accounting and taxation coursework to a general accounting degree. This specialization prepares graduates for careers as tax professionals, including CPAs.

During a taxation accounting degree program, students take courses in corporate taxation, income tax law, and real estate tax regulations. They learn to evaluate tax regulations and prepare tax returns and other financial documents. In addition to the CPA career path, graduates can work as tax analysts or personal financial advisors.

Questions About Types of Accounting Degrees

How many types of accounting degrees are there?

There are dozens of accounting degree types, including financial accounting, international taxation, sports accounting, and cost accounting. However, most schools offer just a few types of accounting degrees or concentrations.

How many degrees are there in accounting?

Learners can study accounting at the associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. Multiple concentrations and types of accounting degrees exist within each degree level. Schools usually offer the highest number of accounting-related degrees and concentrations for their bachelor's and master's programs.

What is a two-year accounting degree called?

A two-year accounting degree is known as an associate degree in accounting. This degree teaches the basic principles of accounting, introducing learners to key concepts and skills they'll need for entry-level accounting jobs.

The insights on this page — excluding school descriptions — were reviewed by an independent third party compensated for their time by Accounting.com. Page last reviewed Feb. 29, 2024.

Recommended Reading

Search top-tier programs curated by your interests.

Let us know what type of degree you're looking into, and we'll find a list of the best programs to get you there.