Accounting Major

Young accounting major studying in a library with classmates
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Accounting is the means by which a company or organization communicates its financial information. It is for this reason many call it the "language of business." Individuals who are fluent in this language are a very valuable commodity in the business world which is perhaps why accounting is one of the most popular majors among college students. An accounting major, whether he or she earns an associate, bachelor's, or more advanced degree, has a variety of career options from which to choose after graduation.

Studying accounting includes learning about financial accounting—the reporting of an organization's financial information—and managerial accounting—the use of that data to measure the entity's performance and inform decisions about its future and controls. An accounting major learns how companies' and other organizations' financial records are prepared and maintained. He or she studies taxation, auditing, and financial reporting.

Major Courses You Can Expect to Take

Associate Degree Courses

As a student earning a two-year degree in accounting, expect to take the following classes:

  • Introduction to Accounting
  • Computerized Accounting
  • Cost Accounting
  • Administrative Management

Bachelor's Degree Courses

While pursuing a four-year accounting degree, these are some of the courses you will take:

  • Introduction to Financial Accounting
  • Introduction to Managerial Accounting
  • Financial Accounting Theory and Practice
  • Cost Accounting
  • Income Tax Accounting
  • Auditing Theory and Practice
  • Accounting Entities

Master's Degree Courses

Graduate students including those enrolled in an MBA program with a concentration in accounting will take the following classes:

  • Advanced Financial Accounting
  • Federal Income Taxation
  • Taxation of Business Entities
  • Partnership Taxation
  • Financial Statement Analysis and Recording

Career Options With Your Degree

  • Associate Degree: Bookkeeper, Accounting or Auditing Clerk
  • Bachelor's Degree: Accountant, Auditor, Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Budget Analyst, Tax Examiner, Financial Examiner, Financial Analyst
  • Master's Degree (including an MBA with a concentration in accounting): Accountant, Auditor, CPA, Financial Analyst, Management Analyst
  • Doctoral Degree: Professor, Researcher

Typical Work Settings

Public accounting firms employ individuals with a bachelor's or master's degree in accounting to prepare and maintain financial documents for the firms' clients. Other recipients of undergraduate or graduate accounting degrees work for companies and organizations as staff accountants.

They are responsible for analyzing their employers' financial information. Individuals with associate degrees produce and maintain financial records for businesses and organizations. Some accounting graduates work for the government. Colleges and universities hire faculty who have doctoral degrees.

How High School Students Can Prepare for This Major

High school students can start getting ready to major in accounting before they even begin college. Many schools offer accounting classes, and students should take as many of those as possible. They should also take economics, finance, math, and computer science.

What Else You Need to Know

  • Some colleges have other names for the accounting major. They call it accountancy, accounting technology, or accounting and financial management. 
  • Many companies are required to file documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), a U.S. government agency. Only licensed Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) are allowed to prepare these documents and therefore many accounting degree holders opt to get this license. It makes them more competitive job candidates. Individual states certify accountants and each has its own rules for doing so. All CPA candidates must meet specific educational requirements and take the Uniform CPA Examination. To keep their licenses, they must take continuing education courses.
  • Studying accounting at a four-year college or university will lead to a Bachelor's of Science (BS), Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, or Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) Degree.
  • There are two different types of associate degree programs in accounting. The coursework a student takes to earn an AAS, which stands for Associate in Applied Science, prepares him or her for employment. A student who gets an AS, or Associate in Science, is ready to transfer into a bachelor-level program in accounting.
  • Master's degree programs are available for students who have an undergraduate degree in accounting or another business subject, as well as for those who have no prior background in this subject.
  • Individuals who want to earn a master's degree can opt for a Master's in Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in accounting, a Master's of Science Degree in Accounting, or a Master's of Science Degree in Taxation.