Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting

Accounting pertains to how businesses, government agencies, and non-profit organizations record financial information. Bookkeeping also serves that purpose, but it only covers the initial part of the accounting cycle. Accounting also includes analysis, income tax planning, and strategic financial development. Its role in business is absolutely critical.

The most common degree in the field is a Bachelor of Science in accounting. Some accounting graduates may earn a Bachelor of Arts in accounting, or a bachelor of business administration with an accounting concentration. The latter is an especially useful degree, as it opens up the possibility of eventually assuming a management role.

The bachelor of accountancy degree, or BAcy, is very specialized. Relatively few colleges in the US offer this degree. A bachelor of commerce degree, or BCom, is another general business degree with a focus on accounting.

What is a Bachelor’s Degree?

Also known as a baccalaureate degree, a bachelor’s degree is usually completed in four years. Students can accelerate completion of a bachelor’s degree by taking advanced placement courses in high school and summer courses in college, though if you know what school you want to attend, you should check their policy on how many such credits they will accept.

Degree requirements usually include 120 semester class hours, also known as college credits. That is 40 four-credit courses. Bachelor’s degrees are awarded in a vast number of subjects.

After receiving a bachelor’s degree in an accounting program, the graduate may work as a staff accountant, move on to a master’s degree, or work toward earning their CPA or other certification.

Where Do You Earn a Bachelor’s Degree?

Most bachelor’s degrees are available from four-year colleges and universities. Many students take longer than four years to earn a degree. Those attending college part-time may take six to eight years to receive their bachelor’s degree, but it really just depends on how much time you are willing to put into it. You’ll want to be careful attending part-time as well since some colleges put a time limit on how long you can take to complete a degree and, if you take too long, the credits for the first classes you completed may expire.

However, many students start working toward their bachelor degree at a community college. After earning an associate degree from the community college, they may transfer to a state or private college or university to complete their bachelor’s degree. This is often a more economical way to complete a degree, and you have the option to start working before you are even out of college.

Increasingly, students are earning bachelor’s degrees in accounting online, allowing them to attend classes at their own convenience. Another advantage of an online school is that students can receive an excellent education with no regard to physical proximity, thus broadening their opportunities and options.

Online Vs. Traditional Education in Accounting

Degrees in accounting are available on campus, online, or as a mix of the two. Distance learning is an increasingly popular option, and will grow even more so in the future. Online courses are an especially attractive option in accounting, a subject well-suited to distance learning.

The quality of the school does matter, but as long as you avoid notorious diploma mills when choosing an online education, a prospective employer should not consider an online degree less respectable. You can make sure to avoid these by double-checking the school’s accreditation. This is a certification by an outside body, approved by the department of education, which lets students and future employers alike know that the education the student receives at this school is high quality. Of course, attending a top school for an in-person degree is considered the gold standard, but most accounting majors are not Ivy League graduates.

A traditional education, with its strict time and travel requirements, is not always feasible for those who must work or take care of children or other family members. For them, an online accounting program offers the flexibility they need to earn a degree and advance in their career.

Just make sure the online college in which you enroll is accredited. A degree from an unaccredited school is not worth the time and money spent on it as far as the job market is concerned. When majoring in accounting, you can look for those degrees certified by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) or one of the regional accounting agencies recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

Admission Requirements for a Bachelors Accounting Degree?

Bachelor degree admission requirements always include a high school diploma or the equivalent. The high school must send in official transcripts for admission consideration. Colleges usually require a minimum 2.5 or 3.0 GPA. Standardized test scores, such as the SAT and ACT, are generally required. The applicant may also be required to send in letters of recommendation. Some particular fields of study have their own prerequisites, such as strong science or math grades.

After earning a bachelor’s degree, some people will want to pursue advanced education in the form of a master’s degree. Master degree programs will usually require a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA and other prerequisites depending on the program. Candidates may need to take the graduate record exam (GRE) for accounting degrees or the graduate management admission test (GMAT). Even though someone seeking a master’s degree in accounting does not necessarily need to have majored in the field, they will need to take specific courses, such as auditing, before they are likely to gain acceptance into a master’s program.

Why Earn a Bachelor’s in Accounting?

Degree seekers may not know which is the best path to follow to reach their career goals. For a potential accountant, a bachelor’s degree is an absolute requirement. An associate degree, while useful, has its limitations. There are many jobs requiring more education than an associate degree offers and, without further education, it can be difficult if not impossible to move into higher level positions.

For those aspiring to become an accounting professional, a bachelor’s degree is necessary to sit for a CPA exam. A bachelor’s degree can also qualify you for other jobs in the accounting and financial fields, especially if you are looking to complete a more focused degree title than accounting, such as financial management.

Those considering further professional studies must have a bachelor’s degree before pursuing a master’s degree. However, obtaining a master’s degree is more demanding and many accountants flourish professionally with only a bachelor’s degree, so this is not a necessity.

If you have a head for numbers and good organizational skills, you should definitely consider majoring in accounting. Demand in the accounting field is strong, and accountants are necessary in virtually all industries. Various accounting degrees are available and specialization is common. The number of concentrations you can choose between means that you can find the right niche for your skills and professional interests. Those skills are also easily transferable if you decide to work in another industry since every type of business needs accountants and those who are able to gauge the best ways to increase profits or streamline costs. This makes it a very flexible career choice.

Another advantage for those who major in accounting is that you can get into the field with nothing more than an associate and earn promotions with your bachelor’s degree. That is not true of many majors. There are a variety of ways to progress and gain promotions in the field and hiring remains robust.

What’s Involved in an Accounting Bachelor’s Degree?

Even at the bachelor’s level, there are more than just general accounting degrees available. Some colleges and universities may offer more specialized accounting degrees, such as a bachelor’s of business administration and accounting, bachelor’s of accounting and finance, and other degrees concentrating on accounting and management, global finance, and the like.

Common Courses

Common courses in an accounting curriculum may include:

  • Accounting Information Systems
  • Auditing
  • Business Law
  • Business Statistics
  • Cost Accounting
  • Data Analysis for Business
  • Economics
  • Finance
  • Financial Accounting
  • Forensic Accounting
  • Income Tax Accounting
  • Intermediate Accounting
  • Managerial Accounting
  • Marketing
  • Principles of Taxation

What to Consider When Choosing a Bachelor’s Program for Accounting


Going to an accredited school for an accounting degree is imperative. Federal and state financial aid is not available for unaccredited schools. Check to see if the school is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and accredited before applying.

The six regional accreditation bodies in the US consist of:

  • Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, Western Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Higher Learning Commission
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • New England Commission on Higher Education
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission

If you want the highest accreditation for accounting programs, look for schools holding the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) accounting accreditation. There are nearly 200 of them. The AACSB accreditation is given to those business schools it has evaluated and determined are providing a superior, high-quality education. The AACSB accounting accreditation focuses not only on the institution’s accounting program, but also on the overall quality of the business school, thus receiving its business accreditation.

Further Accounting Education

Master’s Degree

A master’s degree in accounting takes between one to two years to complete, with a total of between 30 and 36 semester hours. Candidates must have earned an undergraduate degree in accounting or a related field, such as mathematics, and may be required by some programs to have a certain amount of work experience in the field as well. With a master’s degree, students may seek a specialized field or concentration such as auditing, forensic, or management accounting.

MBA with an Accounting Concentration

An MBA with a focus in accounting will also take between one to two years to complete and the earning potential can be much higher with an MBA than with only a bachelor’s degree. Completion of an MBA in accounting opens up additional career paths, including upper-level management positions.

Those who desire to open their own business will find this accounting degree very helpful. Overall, an MBA is designed to produce a well-rounded business professional with leadership and managerial skills. An MBA with an accounting focus prepares the way for you to access jobs such as chief financial officer.

An MBA program in accounting includes courses necessary to obtain CPA licensure. Such courses are not always available at the undergraduate level. While potential CPAs can take these upper-level courses separately in preparation for the CPA exam, they are taught as part of the MBA with an accounting focus curriculum.

Doctorate or PhD

Those planning a career in research or academia may want to earn a doctorate or PhD in accounting. Programs range between 70 to 120 credit hours. Most candidates complete this degree within five to seven years. Doctoral or PhD candidates pursue research into the accounting field, with a focus on critical issues facing accounting or original research. They may also be required to complete a research project or dissertation at the end of this time to show they are ready to earn to their PhD.


Certifications in particular fields can provide more career opportunities along with higher salaries. Perhaps the most significant certification in accounting is CPA licensure. Such a certification can improve job prospects and is required for many accounting jobs. CPAs must meet a 150 hour educational requirement in most states and jurisdictions. While attaining a master’s degree does meet this educational requirement, many CPAs have not earned a master’s degree. Instead, they complete their undergraduate degree and take only some courses at the graduate level to allow them to earn the requisite 150 credits.

Other common certifications include:

  • Certified Financial Analyst – attainable after completing a bachelor’s degree and working in financial services for at least four years.
  • Certified Fraud Examiner – accountants belonging to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners may obtain this certification on the basis of an exam covering fraudulent schemes, investigation, and prevention.
  • Chartered Global Management Accountant – Offered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA).
  • Certified Internal Auditor – At least two years of internal audit experience is necessary to qualify for this certification. Candidates must show proficiency in risk and information technology. They must also have the ability to work well with the internal clients, as well as those outside the organization.
  • Enrolled Agent – This position requires government licensure. Enrolled agents engage in tax preparation and deal with the IRS when clients are audited.

Available Careers with an Accounting Bachelor’s Degree

  • Certified Public Accountants – Only a bachelor’s degree is necessary to become a CPA, but they must pass the Uniform CPA Examination. CPAs prepare a client’s income taxes, discuss financial goals, and may perform and sign off on audits.
  • Cost Accountants – Also known as managerial accountants, this position entails working in business or government agencies analyzing data and improving efficiencies and controlling costs. Some cost accountants may supervise lower-level accountants.
  • Financial Accountants – These accountants work for companies, rather than having their own practices. While producing relevant financial statements is part of their job, they also work on a variety of a company’s financial matters. Financial accountants report their findings to senior management, as much of their work revolves around marketing, investing, and strategizing.
  • Financial Analysts – This job involves providing investment guidance to businesses and individuals making decisions. Financial analysts assess the performance of various types of investments including stocks, bonds, and real estate. They also assess management team strengths and study business and economic trends.
  • Information Technology Accountants – IT accountants use standard accounting methods, but their focus is on accounting software systems. Usually, these employees are charged with implementing AICPA’s Information Management and Technology Assurance standards at their firms. IT accountants tend to work at larger companies. Their work involves fintech as well as accounting.
  • Project Accountant – These accountants work on specific projects rather than in general accounting, and such projects run the gamut. Their roles may include cost estimate development, invoice and billable hours preparation, budget planning and maintenance, and more.

Salary Expectations for Undergraduate Accounting Grads

While an accountant with only a bachelor’s degree will not make as much as someone with an advanced degree in accounting, their income will increase as they gain experience. Current salary expectations for those with various types of accounting bachelor’s degrees include:

  • The average salary of an accountant with a bachelor’s degree is $62,000.
  • The average salary for someone with an accounting and finance degree is $64,000. Jobs requiring such a degree include corporate controller, with an average salary of $87,000.
  • The average salary for a bachelor of accountancy degree is $68,000.
  • For those with a bachelor of commerce degree, the average salary is $83,000. Common positions with this degree include senior accountant, with an average salary of $82,000; finance manager, at $95,000, and financial analyst, at $61,000.
  • The average salary for a bachelor of finance is $72,000. Such positions include financial controller, at an average salary of $85,000; financial analyst, at $61,000, and senior financial analyst, at $84,000.
  • The average salary for a bachelor of business administration with an accounting and finance degree is $72,500. Related positions include senior accountant at $68,000; financial controller at $87,000, finance director at $103,000 and chief financial officer at $143,000.
  • The average salary for a bachelor of business with an accounting degree is $65,500. Such positions include staff accountant at $52,000 and senior accountant at $67,000.


Accountants are necessary in every industry, at every level. It’s because of this that the outlook for accounting graduates remains robust. According to the BLS, jobs for those in the accounting field are expected to grow about 4% annually over the next decade, which is about as fast as average.

Positions are available nationwide, so it is not a career tied to a particular geographic area. However, the states with the highest number of accounting jobs are California, New York, Texas, Florida, and Illinois.


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