Accounting Navigational Guide

accounting degree

Accounting is the study and process of systematic gathering and analysis of financial information and statements for business operations. Accountants need to be thorough with records as they are responsible for preparing or overseeing the preparation of legal documents and sending data to their respective agencies, organizations, regulators or tax collectors. It is a degree that you should seriously consider if you are interested in numbers, recording transactions, organizing data, weighing and making financial projections.

Statistics show that as of 2017, over 1.53 million accountants, auditing clerks, and bookkeepers in the United States. The lucrative field of accounting services generates a combined revenue of $94 billion. There are Accounting concentrations and subfields that students can choose to specialize in based on their core interest.

Accounting as a Degree
Types of Accounting Degrees
Specializations in Accounting
Online vs. Brick and Mortar Accounting Degrees
Accounting Career Pathways, Information and Outlook
Accounting Schools, Degrees, and Rankings

Accounting as a Degree


According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, accounting jobs in the United States and globally are on the rise. Currently, there are 1.3M accountants and 650,000 Certified Public Accountants in the country.

To become an accountant or auditor, students need to obtain a four-year degree Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting. About 50% of accounting graduates pursue to become CPAs, which takes two to three more years of in-depth education and specialized training. New CPA graduates enjoy a myriad of job prospects.


Types of Accounting Degrees

types of accounting degrees

Associate’s Degree in Accounting

As the shortest route to earning a degree in the field, an associate’s in Accounting focuses on the fundamentals of accounting, namely financial reports, payroll, and cost accounting.

The Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Accounting takes two years with 60 credit hours to complete, with coursework that tackles business management and business administration subjects and subfields. Acquiring an AAS prepares the student for future positions such as a bookkeeper or junior accountant, many of whom are self-employed in smaller companies rather than large corporations. Community colleges usually offer this type of degree.

Today, associate degrees in Accounting are available online. Distance learning affords students with transfer credits for accelerated completion to either start joining the workforce or pursues a bachelor’s in the same field.

Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting

To graduate as a Bachelor of Accountancy (B.Acc.), you must finish four years of study and accumulate a total of 120 credits. The courses typically cover financial accounting, auditing, general accounting, mathematics, statistics, as well as business law, business ethics, and management theory. Several reputable educational institutions now offer Bachelor’s degree programs in Accounting online.

SEE: Top 20 Online Accounting Degree Programs for 2018

Upon completing four years, students can smoothly transition to becoming a Certified Public Accountant. Passing the CPA exam is your ticket to high-demand and high-paying jobs in the field. In the majority of the states, work experience is required before qualifying for the CPA exam. A prospective CPA should have also acquired at least 150 semester hours.

Master’s of Accounting

Pursuing a Master of Science in Accounting or MSA exposes students to a more advanced field of study. Completion of the Masters of Accounting program requires about 15 to 30 credits and takes one year to complete full-time and up to two years. With courses that promote proficiency in accounting information systems, legal issues, preventing financial risks, managing the accounting department, MSAs are expected to help enhance business processes.

Becoming a Master of Accountancy (MAcc) is an essential degree as more and more agencies, and corporations are seeking a higher level of expertise in tax, management accounting, and financial audits.

SEE: Top 15 Online Master’s of Management Accounting

Ph.D. in Accounting

A doctorate is usually associated with an excellent reputation as an expert in the discipline. A Ph.D. in Accounting is no exception. In earning your doctorate, you will be required to provide comprehensive analysis and craft your original research material in specific areas of Accounting such as statistics, math, economics, business, and research. The degree usually takes four to seven years to complete with 70 to 120 credits. A Ph.D. in Accounting entails three years of coursework and culminates in individual research dissertation under the supervision of the Accounting faculty. The dissertation is every Ph.D. student’s contribution to the field.

With a Ph.D. in Accounting, graduates can become successful consultants, analysts, college and university professors, or public policy researchers.


Specializations in Accounting

accounting professions

The field of accounting consists of a broad range of specialties. The more prominent specializations to pursue include tax accounting, financial accounting, auditing, and management or managerial accounting.

Tax Accounting

Tax accounting deals with the preparation of business, individual, nonprofit, corporate or household tax documents. This specialization also involves tax evaluation and tax reduction. As this branch of Accounting emphasizes compliance with tax rules as mandated by tax authorities and the government, students are taught to familiarize tax accounting laws. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, senior-level accountants earn up to $105,000 while entry-level positions are paid $70,000.

Financial accounting

Financial Accounting is the field in accounting that deals with the analyzation, tally, and reporting of transactions. A financial accountant prepares all documentation pertaining to the finances of a business, its lenders, creditors, or investors. Financial accounting deals mostly with historical data and follows strict compliance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles or GAAP. A financial accountant can later move up the career ladder and land executive roles such as Chief Financial Officer.


The role of an auditor is to closely examine and procure financial information, ensuring they are thorough, accurate, and free of misstatements due to fraud or error. Specialists in this field evaluate the company’s internal financial control systems to guarantee they are performing smoothly and prevent potentially fraudulent activity.

If you wish to pursue this specialization, a bachelor’s degree is required in either Accounting, Business Administration or Finance. The next suggested step is to earn additional certifications, as many firms seek specific qualifications such as a Certificate Internal Auditor (CIA) or Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA).

Management or Managerial Accounting

Managerial accounting involves the forecast, computational analysis, and evaluation of business decisions. Students specializing in this field are trained to oversee accounting departments and create reports for submission to upper management.

The coursework exposes students to advanced studies in Business Management necessary for leadership positions in public agencies and corporations. Management accountants are also tasked to supervise their junior colleague accountants.


Online vs. Brick and Mortar Accounting Degrees

online vs brick and mortar

Today, Accounting as a degree can be obtained both traditionally in a classroom setting and online. The degree programs offered in local colleges and universities afford an immersive learning environment for every student. You have physical access to actual materials, the library, and other resource facilities. Many Accounting students appreciate the face-to-face lectures and discussions that are essential to successfully acquiring the skills required for each coursework.

Online Accounting programs deliver the same quality of instruction. Today, numerous schools are investing in online accounting programs at all degree levels to cater to adult learners and working professionals.

There are associate’s, bachelor’s, master’, and doctorate programs offered online, most of which prepare students for the Certified Public Accountant examination so they can become certified and practice in their state.

Online students have the liberty to schedule classes and set their learning pace. Many online learning platforms today are designed to provide ease of access to resource materials and foster student engagement.

If you choose an online bachelor’s degree, it is recommended you enroll in an accredited and high-rated learning program that is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges standards. SACSCOC is a recognized association by the United States Department of Education. Obtaining your accounting degree from accredited colleges generally provides better job prospects than non-accredited institutions.


Accounting Career Pathways, Information, and Outlook

accounting career paths

Accounting is a broad field of discipline that requires specific skill sets, such as sharp financial and analytical skills, for career success. Choosing an Accounting degree promises a wealth of career opportunities and options. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that career openings from entry-level to executive roles in Accounting will rise by 13% in the next ten years.

The different career pathways in accountancy include:

  • Accountant
  • Accounting Assistant
  • Accounting Clerk
  • Accounting Manager
  • Accounts Payable Clerk
  • Accounts Receivable Clerk
  • Bookkeeper
  • Budget Analyst
  • Certified Internal Auditor
  • Chief Financial Officer – CFO
  • Comptroller/Controller
  • CPA
  • Forensic Accounting
  • Government Accounting
  • Payroll Clerk
  • Staff Accountant
  • Tax Accountant

After acquiring your bachelor’s degree in Accounting, you can land jobs as an accountant, an accounting assistant or an accounting clerk and be on your way to becoming a Certified Public Accountant following an in-depth review of your coursework to pass the examination. According to the BLS, nearly 1.3 accounting jobs were filled in 2016. The median pay of accountants and auditors as of 2017 was $69,350.


Accounting Schools, Degrees, and Rankings

ranking schools

Need more information? Visit our rankings featuring Accounting programs and schools:

Most Affordable Online Schools for Bachelor in Accounting Degrees

Best Online Schools for Associate of Accounting Degree Programs