Is an Accounting Degree Right for You?
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While pursuing an accounting degree, you will cultivate your communications skills, work with teams and develop your problem-solving capabilities. If you want to learn how to manage the finances of an organization as well as learn about informational systems and marketing techniques, then an accounting degree is for you. Accounting courses require students to be extremely detail oriented and to have strong communication skills. You will learn how to implement programs and methods for businesses and apply new technology to make your field more efficient. Fortunately, the career field is solid. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 16 percent increase in employment for degreed accountants from 2010 to 2020.
Advice for Earning Your Accounting Degree Online
You can either earn a Bachelor of Science degree or an Associate of Arts degree in accounting online. Online Master of Business Administration degrees are becoming more common as well. After graduating, getting certified as a CPA can improve your job prospects. Whichever route you decide to pursue, you should make sure the online program is accredited, either regionally or nationally, so it will be recognized by potential employers in the industry.
Most degree programs are structured to provide you with the technical and business-oriented skills you will need to run the finances of a company or institution. During your studies, you will need to become well versed in financial and managerial accounting, taxation laws, business laws and ethics, auditing and information systems, organizational behavior and marketing techniques. Required courses for a bachelor's degree in accounting usually include Introduction to Accounting, Microcomputer Applications for Business and Accounting, Financial Reporting, Managerial Accounting, Intermediate Financial Accounting I & II, An Introduction to Income Taxation, Introduction to Accounting Information Systems, Business Law for Accountants, Governmental and Nonprofit Accounting, Business Valuation, Cost Management and Strategic Analysis, Accounting Information Systems, and Risk and Assurance.
Common Career Paths
Accounting has proven to be a pretty stable field. Different organizations will always need accountants to keep track of their finances. However, you do have some choices regarding the type of position you would like to pursue. You can work as an accountant for a business or work for a sector of the government. You can also work for a consulting company and provide services to companies and government groups looking to improve their finances. Position titles include (but are not limited to):
Certified Public Accountant
A certified public accountant has at least a bachelor's degree, and has completed the Uniform Certified Public Accountant examination. CPAs are in charge of public accounting and audit services for their employer. Being a CPA does not make it necessary to work for the public sector. You can work for various private corporations or associations in various financial areas. Many times, you will work with clients to ensure they comply with local, state and federal tax laws. Some areas include corporate finance, assurance and attestation services, financial accounting, income tax and information technology. Some CPAs work in management consulting, which helps industries improve their performance and overall development plans. CPAs are also required to update their educational courses to maintain their license.
Because requirements are state based, they vary based on your location. However, most states require CPAs to take 120 hours of continuing professional education every three years. Based on the location and type of company, accounting salaries vary. Accountants' median annual salary was $61,690 in 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Government Accountant and Auditor
This type of accountant and auditor keeps track of government agency records and expenses. Usually this job is different from other accounting positions because government accountants have to follow special regulations and procedures. They have the responsibility of monitoring the tax records and documents of various businesses and individuals. This is to ensure that the necessary taxes are paid to local, state and federal governments. After examining records and documents, government auditors may have to write reports or briefs for agencies.
The Internal Revenue Service is a common employer for those wanting to work in the government sector. While working for the IRS, it is important to follow special privacy procedures to ensure confidentiality. Other government agencies may also hire accountants to manage their finances and budgets. Usually, government agencies want their auditors to have at least a bachelor's degree in accounting. They also want candidates who have great management capabilities and communication skills, as they will be required to meet various clients on a regular basis. According to the College Board, salaries for junior-level government auditors are close to $28,862 annually. However, the median salary for federal government auditors in 2009 was $88,190.
Another common job choice for accounting majors is working as a financial analyst. Financial analysts usually provide reports and overall analysis for different types of external and internal clients. They are required to use fundamental analysis principles, technical chart analysis and tactical evaluation methods to analyze the market. Types of employers in need of analysts vary, but usually pension funds, hedge funds, security firms and insurance companies employ analysts to study current business practices and markets. Communication skills are vital in this career, as you will often be required to make presentations regarding the benefits and drawbacks of buying/selling certain investments.
Furthermore, financial analysts are usually required to use statistical packages and software data to make forecasts for their companies. Although employers usually accept workers with various majors, qualified accountants are desired. Financial analysts are often required to read audited financial statements and corollary data to better analyze and forecast lending risks, which are skills acquired during an accounting education. Financial analysts' median annual salary was $74,350 in 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.