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Accounting Degree Overview for Tennessee

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Students can choose from plenty of accounting degrees in Tennessee, which features more than 100 colleges and universities. Many schools in the state offer online accounting programs, which learners often prefer for their convenience and flexibility. 

All degree levels can open doors to accounting careers in Tennessee. Accounting graduates may pursue positions as bookkeeping and auditing clerks, financial managers, or cost estimators. Tennessee is home to more than 22,300 accountants and auditors, and Projections Central forecasts a 16.4% (much faster than usual) job growth rate for these professionals from 2018-2028. 

In this guide, we explain why students should consider pursuing a Tennessee online accounting degree, what to expect from a typical program, and career and salary potential for graduates who stay in the state. At the end of the page, we provide a list of some of the best accounting schools in Tennessee.

Tennessee at a Glance

Per Capita Income$29,284
Fortune 500 Companies20
Number of Higher Learning Institutions105
ClimateAverage Annual Temperature: 57.6℉

Annual Precipitation: 54.2 inches
Major Sports TeamsMemphis Grizzlies, Nashville Predators, Tennessee Titans
Accountants in Tennessee22,580

Featured Online Programs

Find a program that meets your affordability, flexibility, and education needs through an accredited, online school.

Top Tennessee Schools for Accounting

  • Union University
  • Lipscomb University
  • The University of Tennessee-Knoxville
  • Christian Brothers University
  • Belmont University
  • Milligan College
  • Trevecca Nazarene University
  • Freed-Hardeman University
  • Southern Adventist University
  • Lincoln Memorial University

Why Go to College for Accounting in Tennessee?

Tennessee offers an array of potential benefits to prospective accounting students. Students in the state face average tuition rates, but many still find Tennessee relatively inexpensive due to its low cost of living. Students can save money on housing and other basic essentials if they live in Tennessee, where those expenses cost less than they do in most other places.

Tennessee offers promising career options to graduates with all levels of accounting degrees. The state employs large numbers of accountants and auditors, bookkeeping and auditing clerks, and financial managers.

Tennessee hosts more than 100 colleges, located all over the state. The cities of Nashville, Knoxville, and Memphis feature some of the state’s largest universities. School location can still affect those who plan to earn their accounting degrees online, because some distance education programs require on-campus components.

Earning an accounting degree in Tennessee yields additional benefits for those who plan to stay in the state after graduation. Graduates can take advantage of the networks they developed in college, which may connect them with internship or job opportunities.

Education Statistics for Tennessee

Tennessee goes above and beyond when it comes to postsecondary education appropriations, exceeding the national average allocation by more than $1,000. The state also devotes an above-average percentage of tax revenue to higher education. The percentage of Tennesseans with a college education falls below the national mean, but as the state continues to ramp up investment in postsecondary schools and students, this may change.

Higher Education in Tennessee

Tennessee DataNational Data
Number of Four-Year Colleges723,004
Number of Two-Year Colleges331,579
Percentage of Students Enrolled in Distance Education36.8%34.7%
Postsecondary Education Appropriations per Full-Time Student$9,291$8,196 
Percent of Tax Revenue Allocated to Higher Education7.5%5.8%
Percentage of Adults Over 25 With an Associate Degree7.1%8.4%
Percentage of Adults Over 25 With a Bachelor’s Degree 16.8%19.4%
Percentage of Adults Over 25 With a Graduate Degree or Higher9.8%12.1%
Sources: NCES, SHEEO, U.S. Census Bureau – American Community Survey

Accreditation for Tennessee Schools

Accredited schools are more likely to give their students a high-quality education and adequately prepare them for careers in their chosen fields. Schools can hold regional or national accreditation. 

Regional accreditation is generally more popular and prestigious than national accreditation. Regionally accredited schools undergo a rigorous process of evaluation of their academic programs, faculty, campus resources, and student services. Students who attend regionally accredited universities can more easily qualify for financial aid, transfer credits to other colleges, apply to graduate school, and meet requirements for professional certifications after graduation. 

When looking for online accounting degrees in Tennessee, seek schools accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, the agency responsible for providing accreditation to colleges in the region. Students can find out if a prospective school holds accreditation by looking it up in the Council for Higher Education Accreditation’s searchable directories.

Considerations for an Accounting Degree in Tennessee

Students must consider many factors when choosing online accounting degrees in Tennessee. The right school for one person may not be the best choice for another. The data below can help prospective learners decide whether Tennessee is the right state in which to seek accounting programs. We discuss the types of accounting degrees in Tennessee, along with concentration options and the benefits of online vs. in-person programs. We also cover tuition prices and a variety of options for funding accounting degrees in Tennessee. 

Accounting Degree Levels

Prospective accounting students in Tennessee can pursue associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or Ph.D. degrees in the subject. Each degree level qualifies graduates for career opportunities, though advanced degrees lead to more responsibilities and higher salary potential. A master’s in accounting in Tennessee, for example, prepares learners to become accountants and auditors, while an associate qualifies graduates to work as bookkeeping and accounting clerks. Below, we describe each type of degree and typical careers for graduates. 

  • Associate Degree in Accounting

    This degree establishes a basic foundation in accounting and prepares students to work as bookkeeping and auditing clerks, payroll clerks, or credit counselors.

    Learn More About Associate Degrees in Accounting

  • Bachelor's Degree in Accounting

    Graduates of bachelor’s in accounting programs qualify for careers like cost estimator and tax examiner and collector.

    Learn More About Bachelor’s Degrees in Accounting

  • Master's Degree in Accounting

    A master’s degree in accounting prepares students for most professional accounting careers, including accountant, auditor, financial manager, and personal financial advisor.

    Learn More About Master’s Degrees in Accounting

  • Ph.D. in Accounting

    A doctoral degree in accounting develops expertise in a specific area of the field. Graduates often assume high-level positions or take jobs as university professors.

    Learn More About Ph.D.s in Accounting

Accounting Concentration Options

Students pursuing online accounting degrees in Tennessee can choose from a variety of concentrations, including auditing, environmental accounting, mergers and acquisitions, and management accounting. The concentrations below may prove particularly advantageous because they apply to popular career opportunities in the state. Cost accounting and taxation concentrations are especially relevant to the hospitality and tourism industries, which dominate in Tennessee. 

Cost AccountingThis concentration prepares students for careers as cost accountants and budget analysts. Cost accountants keep track of budgeting, financial planning, and marketing for their organizations. This concentration  best suits students aiming to work in Tennessee’s tourism industry. 
Taxation The taxation concentration benefits those seeking careers as tax examiners and collectors, tax accountants, public accountants, and financial analysts. Students explore all types of taxes, including payroll, property, income, and real estate.

Explore More Accounting Concentrations

On-Campus Versus Online Program Options

Accounting students in Tennessee can earn their degrees on campus, online, or through hybrid programs, which combine elements of both. Below, we describe each of these learning formats. 


Some students prefer to attend traditional, on-campus colleges. The benefits of attending school in person in Tennessee include more opportunities to get to know classmates and teachers each week during regularly scheduled classes. Ideal students for this type of program are typically recent high school graduates and those who prefer face-to-face learning.

Online Programs

Many learners prefer the flexibility and convenience of online accounting degrees in Tennessee. Students can log on and complete coursework anywhere and anytime, without tethering to specific times and locations. This type of freedom appeals to those who plan to work full time while in school, students with families, and others who prefer to learn independently. 

Hybrid Programs

Some of the best accounting schools in Tennessee offer hybrid programs, which combine aspects of online and in-person learning. Hybrid accounting degrees require students to attend some classes on campus, but they also include some distance learning. Specific in-person requirements vary by program. 

Percentage of Students Enrolled in Distance Education

Enrolled Exclusively in Distance Education CoursesEnrolled in Some but Not All Distance Education CoursesNot Enrolled in Any Distance Education Courses
Tennessee Students11.3%25.5%63.2%
United States Students16.3%18.4%65.3%
Source: NCES

Paying for Your Accounting Degree

Students pursuing accounting degrees in Tennessee should consider a variety of options to help fund their education. Learners in the state may qualify for scholarships, fellowships, grants, and/or loans. 

The gold standard for financial aid, scholarships and grants are essentially free money, as they do not require repayment. These types of aid may be need- or merit-based. Fellowships typically apply to graduate students, providing funding in exchange for students’ work on specific issues related to their studies. The federal government offers a variety of low-interest loans to help college students pay for their education. 

Average Cost of College Tuition and Fees in Tennessee, 2017-2018

Average In-State Tuition and Fees (Public Four-Year)$9,574$9,037
Average Out-of-State Tuition and Fees (Public Four-Year)$25,378$25,657
Average Tuition and Fees (Private Four-Year)$26,939$30,731
Average In-State Tuition and Fees (Public Two-Year)$4,148$3,243
Average Out-of-State Tuition and Fees (Public Two-Year)$16,140$7,971
Source: NCES

In-State Versus Out-of-State Tuition

Out-of-state tuition costs much more than in-state tuition in Tennessee, as is the case in most U.S. states. Tennessee residents pay just $9,574 to attend four-year public colleges, compared to $25,378 for nonresidents. Two-year public colleges charge in-state learners $4,148, about one-third the cost of the $16,140 tuition for those who live outside the state. Private institutions do not distinguish between in-state and out-of-state students in their tuition prices.

Out-of-state students attending Tennessee schools may qualify for tuition discounts through the Southern Regional Education Board’s Academic Common Market program. Eligible students from nearby states like Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, and West Virginia receive tuition discounts by enrolling in participating academic programs. 

Tennessee’s Cost of Living

One of the most affordable places to live in the United States, Tennessee ranks 11th nationally for cost of living. Its cost of living index score of 88.7 means Tennesseeans spend 10.3% less on basic necessities, like housing, food, transportation, and utilities, than U.S. residents on average. The average cost of living index score is 100.

Residents of Tennessee save significantly on housing, which scores just 80.2 on the World Population Review cost of living index. Potential students should consider Tennessee’s low cost of living when deciding whether to attend college in the state.

Other School Selection Criteria

Selecting a college is a personal process, which prospective students should not undertake lightly. Priorities differ between each college applicant, but key factors affecting school selection may include: 

  • How long will it take to earn your accounting degree? Program length may vary depending on degree level, required credits, course schedules, and availability of accelerated options.
  • What size school do you want to attend? Some people prefer large universities with plenty of extracurricular opportunities and academic resources, while others find it easier to meet people and focus on their studies at small colleges.
  • What type of reputation does the school have? Does it feature any prestigious programs or faculty?
  • Does the university dedicate itself to recruiting and supporting diverse faculty members and students?
  • What is the student-to-teacher ratio? Many learners prefer small class sizes, which offer more one-on-one time with instructors.
  • Can you get into the school? How competitive is the admissions process? What percentage of applicants gain admission?
  • What types of admission materials do you need to submit? Does the university require standardized test scores? What about letters of recommendation, admissions essays, or resumes?
  • Careers for Accounting Graduates in Tennessee

    Tennessee’s strong economy ranks 12th in the nation, with a major emphasis on tourism, manufacturing, and agriculture. Visitors from other places come to the state to experience Graceland (Elvis Presley’s home) in Memphis, the Nashville music scene, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 

    Tennessee’s tourism industry needs workers with accounting degrees. Hospitality businesses, like hotels, restaurants, and music venues, typically require in-house accountants and bookkeepers to make sure the revenue coming in each day covers business expenses. 

    Tennessee demonstrates faster-than-average job growth and a GDP of almost $350 billion. The state features 20 Fortune 500 companies, many of which rely on the skill and experience of qualified accounting professionals. The sections below explore some of the most popular accounting careers in Tennessee, plus salary potential for accounting graduates in the state and requirements to become a certified public accountant (CPA).

    Select Accounting Careers in Tennessee

    • Cost Estimator

      Cost estimators typically need bachelor’s degrees at minimum. They estimate the cost, labor, time, and materials needed to finish products or deliver services. Typical job duties for cost estimators may include looking at blueprints to prepare estimates, finding ways to reduce costs, adjusting estimates, and keeping accurate records of costs.

    • Financial Manager

      Financial managers often need master’s degrees, but some employers hire applicants with just their bachelor’s. Typical job duties may include helping managers make financial decisions, supervising employees, and finding ways to reduce costs. These professionals also prepare financial plans, statements, and forecasts for their organizations.

    • Personal Financial Advisor

      Personal financial advisors often need master’s degrees, but in some cases, bachelor’s degrees suffice. They give financial advice to people and organizations. Day-to-day activities may include discussing clients’ financial goals, helping clients plan for life events (like paying for retirement or college), researching investments, and educating clients about risks and benefits of investing.

    Tennessee Employment Trends

    Projected Job Growth for Accountants

    22,380 Employees2018
    26,050 Employees2028
    Tennessee 16.4% increase
    1,424,000 Employees2018
    1,514,700 Employees2028
    National 6.4% increase
    Source: Projections Central

    Curious about other accounting jobs? Explore more here

    Students who earn accounting degrees in Tennessee can find plenty of professional opportunities after graduation, no matter their degree level. Accounting associate degree-holders may consider careers as bookkeeping and auditing clerks: Nearly 44,000 of these professionals work in Tennessee, earning a slightly above-average mean annual wage of $41,400. Other potential careers for associate graduates include payroll clerk and credit counselor. 

    Students who earn bachelor’s degrees in accounting can find career opportunities as cost estimators and tax examiners and collectors. Cost estimators in Tennessee make above-average salaries. Those with a master’s in accounting in Tennessee stand to make the highest salaries, and they enjoy the most abundant career options. Master’s-holders qualify to become accountants and auditors, budget analysts, personal financial advisors, and financial managers. 

    Tennessee Requirements for Certified Public Accountants

    CPA designation helps professionals stand out to potential employers, demonstrating their field expertise. Each state sets its own rules and regulations for becoming a CPA, so students who want to pursue CPA certification should research the specific criteria for the state in which they hope to practice. CPA requirements in Tennessee mirror those of many other states, including: 

  • Complete 150 semester credits (and at least a bachelor’s degree). This must include at least 24 credits in accounting and at least 24 credits in general business.
  • Complete at least one year of accounting experience.
  • Pass the uniform CPA exam.
  • Pass the ethics exam.
  • Learn more about CPA requirements in the state by consulting the Tennessee State Board of Accountancy


    Frequently Asked Questions

    • Is accounting a good career in Tennessee?

      Yes. Students can find many promising accounting careers in Tennessee. The state employs large numbers of accountants and offers a low cost of living.

    • How much do accountants earn in Tennessee?

      Salaries for accounting professionals in Tennessee vary by degree level, experience, and industry. The annual mean wage of $71,460 for accountants in the state falls below the national average of $79,520.

    • What accounting jobs are there in Tennessee?

      Popular accounting careers in Tennessee include accountant, auditor, financial manager, personal financial advisor, and bookkeeping and auditing clerks. Graduates of accounting programs at any level can find promising career opportunities here.

    • Can I get an accounting degree in Tennessee?

      Yes. The state features many opportunities for students who want to earn their accounting degrees in Tennessee. The state offers associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. programs in accounting.

    • Does Tennessee have online accounting programs?

      Yes. Students aiming to earn Tennessee online accounting degrees can find many options. The section below features a list of some of the best accounting schools in Tennessee and includes distance learning options.

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