Accounting Major Guide

Accounting Major Guide

Key Takeaways

  • The accounting major is an extremely popular undergraduate degree that can lead to a wide variety of excellent career opportunities in accounting, business, finance, and more.

  • Accounting degrees are widely available through both brick-and-mortar and online colleges and universities at both the undergraduate and graduate degree levels.

  • Accounting students who are interested in becoming Certified Public Accountants (CPA) will typically be required to earn a master’s degree in accounting before qualifying for professional licensing.

Accounting is a fast-growing field filled with opportunities for professional advancement and high earning power. Majoring in accounting will give you an inside track on a great job with excellent pay, whether you’re interested in becoming a public accountant or earning your state license and becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).

This accounting major guide spotlights the top accounting degrees and top career opportunities available to accounting graduates. This accounting major guide is geared toward both prospective students and working professionals considering ways to advance in their careers.

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Career Outlook for Students with Accounting Degree

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Degree Level: Bachelor's

  • Location: The U.S. (Private Schools)
  • Avg. Cost of Degree*: $10,320
  • Avg. Expenses*: $15,711
  • Avg. Starting Salary*: $48,492
  • Avg. Salary after 4 Years*: $61,758
  • Avg. Cost Recoup Time**: 9 years
  • Job Growth: 5.43%
  • Number of Jobs: 1,956,000
  • * denotes ‘annually’
  • ** denotes ‘at 15% of annual salary’

Career Salaries

CareerJob GrowthAvg. Salary
Financial Managers16.86%$127,448
Financial Risk Specialists8.14%$90,395
Business Teachers, Postsecondary6.19%$84,571
Financial Examiners21.02%$83,337
Financial and Investment Analysts8.60%$82,990

Average Career Salaries

Bottom 10%MedianTop 10%

Promising Job Markets

StateCost of LivingAvg. Salary
#2 New York5% higher than average$98,774
#3 Michigan15% higher than average$78,190
#4 North Carolina11% higher than average$80,627
#5 Delaware2% higher than average$91,402
#6 Georgia13% higher than average$76,492

Top Industries

IndustryAvg. Salary
Pipeline Transportation of Crude Oil$138,415
Wind Electric Power Generation$120,693
Natural Gas Distribution$114,168

5 Reasons to Major in Accounting

1. Accounting majors are always in high demand.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of accounting jobs on the market will grow by 6% between now and 2028. This means that the industry will add more than 90,000 jobs over the next decade.

2. Accounting professionals can work in any industry.

Organizations of every shape and size require accountants, auditors, financial consultants, and financial officers. You can work for an array of highly regarded public accounting firms. But you also have plenty of options in retail, service, hospitality, and more.

3. Accounting majors have high earning power.

In addition to being in-demand, accounting majors are well paid. The BLS reports that the median pay for accountants and auditors was $77,250 in 2021. If you can parlay your accounting skills into a leadership role like operations management or managerial accounting, you could earn considerably more. In fact, some of the best paid professionals–those who work in financial management, or even those who rise to the level of chief financial officer–may begin by studying financial accounting at the undergraduate level.

4. Accounting majors gain valuable skills.

When you study accounting, you’ll learn a number of valuable skills. While you’ll learn basic accounting functions like how to prepare tax returns and file financial documents, you’ll also take numerous math classes. This coursework will help refine your problem-solving, organizational, and analytical skills. This is why accounting students may find work as tax examiners, budget analysts, and in a wide range of strategic roles for both government agencies and private organizations.

Whether you apply these skills directly to the accounting field or into another facet of business, your education will make you highly employable, and not just for entry level employment. In fact, many accounting students wishing to pursue long-term leadership roles will also complete coursework in business administration.

5. Accounting majors are highly influential.

Accountants have specialized knowledge of the way that financial decisions can impact business outcomes. This means you could have a direct influence on your organization’s decision-making simply by working as a financial officer or budget analyst. In fact, as a leader in your field, your decisions could influence practices throughout your industry. Today, top influencers in accounting are breaking new ground in areas like FinTech, personal finance, financial forecasting, and more.

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What Kinds of Accounting Degrees Are There?

Your degree level will determine your eligibility for certain entry level positions. For instance, while you would qualify to work as a public accountant with a bachelor’s degree, you would need to complete a graduate program in accounting or business administration–and pass the CPA exam–before qualifying to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Consider your career goals as you choose your degree level:

    Associate of Science (AS) in Accounting/Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Accounting

    The associate degree in accounting will typically require 1 to 2 years for completion. This associate degree can create entry-level opportunities in bookkeeping, clerical support, or administrative assistance. It can also give you an affordable head-start on your bachelor’s degree.

    Bachelor of Accounting (B.Acy.)

    The undergraduate accounting program is both the basic threshold for becoming a public accountant and a necessary step on the way to becoming a CPA. You can complete this degree program in four years. The bachelor of accounting will qualify you to create financial documents, examine financial records, conduct tax preparation, provide bookkeeping, and more. Many graduates work as a personal financial advisors to private clients. The undergraduate degree can also prepare you to pursue a master’s degree in accounting, which you will require to become a CPA.

    Master of Accounting (MAcc)

    If you’ve already earned your bachelor’s degree in accounting, you can complete a master’s degree program in one year. Master’s degrees are the basic threshold for pursuing certification as a licensed public accountant. (Alternately, you may also qualify for CPA licensure as a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in accounting.) Those who wish to become certified public accountants must also log a specified number of professional hours as well as sit for a state licensing exam.

    This certification would also give you access to leadership roles and specialized roles in financial accounting, managerial accounting, government accounting, and more. And because, typically, the master’s in accounting combines advanced financial accounting with specialized training, this may also be the most direct path to a career in forensic accounting, work as a certified information systems auditor, or even a role with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

    PhD in Accounting

    The doctoral is a terminal degree in the accounting industry, and will typically require between 3 and 5 years for completion. The PhD in accounting degree is recommended for students interested in conducting field research or pursuing a professorship.

    A Note on the Difference Between the Arts and Science Degree

    Many, but not all, accounting programs offer the choice between Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees. Likewise, many, but not all, advanced degree programs offer a choice between Master of Arts, and Master of Science degrees. In most cases, the primary difference is the diversity of course offerings.

    “Science” degree courses will focus almost entirely on the Major discipline, with a deep dive into a specific concentration, including laboratory, clinical or practicum experience. An “Arts” degree will provide a more well-rounded curriculum which includes both core/concentration courses and a selection of humanities and electives.

    The type of degree you choose will depend both on your school’s offerings and your career/educational goals. Moreover, there are sometimes numerous variations in the way that colleges name and categorize majors. The degree types identified here above are some of the common naming variations, but may not be all-encompassing.

    Thinking of a graduate degree in accounting? Check out What Can I Do With a Master’s Degree in Accounting? for more information on obtaining a graduate degree in this field.

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    What Are Some Popular Accounting Concentrations?

    Your “concentration” refers to a specific area of focus within your major. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) provides a complete listing of college degree programs and concentrations (Classification for Instructional Programs), as sourced from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). According to IPEDS, the following are among the most popular Accounting concentrations:

    • Accounting (General)
    • Accounting Technology
    • Auditing
    • Accounting and Finance
    • Accounting and Business/Management
    • Accounting and Related Services
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    What Courses Will I Take as an Accounting Major?

    Your concentration will determine many of the courses you’ll take as an accounting major. Likewise, you will be required to complete coursework on foundational topics such as budget analysis and financial reporting. Your major will also give you a chance to do additional coursework touching on various aspects of finance, business, and commerce.

    Common accounting courses include:

    • Business Law
    • Business Ethics
    • Economics
    • Cost Analysis
    • Financial Records
    • Global Economics
    • Financial Statements and Reporting
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    What Can I Do With a Major in Accounting?

    Majoring in accounting will not only place you in high-demand for well-paying jobs in the field, but you’ll also have a lot of options, both in terms of the jobs for which you qualify and the variety of industries in which you could work. Your degree can lead to a wide range of career opportunities, including these top jobs:

    Did you know that online accounting degrees are also available at most levels? Find out if an online accounting degree from an online accredited university is right for you by checking out our article Is an Online Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting Worth It?.

    And if you want to explore the career possibilities that an online degree in accounting can offer, check out What Jobs Can I Get With an Online Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting?


    Now that you know a bit more about how to major in Accounting, check out The Most Influential Schools in Accounting and get started on your path to an Accounting degree.

    Get tips on everything from the best paying jobs in each field to the top jobs of the future with a look at our Guide to Starting a Career.

    Or jump to our student resource library for tips on everything from studying to starting on your career path.

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