Summary: Most accounting jobs require an accounting degree. You can obtain and Associate, Bachelor’s, or Master’s degree in accounting. With a degree in accounting you can work in any type of business or industry.
The potential responsibilities of an accountant are many. They may include recording financial transactions, preparing financial statements and reports, analyzing financial data, preparing taxes, preparing and monitoring budgets, reviewing internal procedures for efficiency, and attesting to the accuracy of financial data.
Virtually every business and industry employs accountants. As a result, jobs in accounting remain abundant even in a bad economy. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that accounting jobs will grow faster than jobs in many other industries. Most accounting jobs require a degree.
Associate Accounting Degree
An Associate degree in accounting is an academic degree awarded by a community college, junior college, technical school, or four-year college or university. Persons receiving an associate degree usually have completed between 60 and 64 credit hours. The degree prepares the recipient for an entry-level position as a bookkeeper or accounting clerk. Depending on location, entry-level jobs pay between $27,000 and $35,000 per year.
Bachelor’s Accounting Degree
A Bachelor’s degree in accounting is an academic degree awarded by a four-year college or a university. Persons receiving a Bachelor’s degree usually have completed between 120 and 124 credit hours. The degree prepares the recipient for an entry-level position as an accountant or auditor. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2009, the average entry-level salary for an accountant was $48,993.
Master’s Accounting Degree
A Master’s degree in accounting is an academic degree that you complete after you have received a Bachelor’s degree. Depending on the program, it can take one or two years to complete. Some companies require entry-level accountants to have a Master’s degree. Increasingly, universities are offering 5-years programs at the end of which the student receives a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in accounting.
Certified Public Accountant
In addition to getting a degree in accounting, an accountant can become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). For some accounting positions, a CPA is required. For example, anyone who files a report with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) must be a CPA. Most public accounting firms usually require an accountant to eventually become a CPA.
A CPA is an accountant licensed by a State Board of Accountancy. A CPA credential attests to the professionalism and competency of the accountant. The exact requirements for becoming a CPA vary by state, but in general, an accountant can become a CPA by meeting the state’s educational and experience requirements and passing a national exam. Most states require CPA candidates to complete 150 college credit hours.
CPAs have a distinct advantage in the job market and command slightly higher salaries. To learn what the requirements for becoming a CPA is in your state are, visit www.nasba.org.
Other Certifications and Licenses
Increasingly, accountants specialize and can obtain certification in their area of specialization. For example, management accountants can obtain a Certified Management Accountant (CMA) designation, internal auditors can obtain a Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) designation, and government auditors can obtain a Certified Government Auditing Professional (CGAP) designation.