According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the minimum educational requirement for a job as an accountant is usually a bachelor's degree. However, there are also many schools that offer master's and doctoral degree programs in this field.
Top 10 Accounting Schools
In 2016, U.S. News & World Report listed the best undergraduate schools in accounting and business. Included in the table below are the list's top ten programs and the 2015-2016 tuition rates.
|College/University||Location||Institution Type||Degrees Offered||Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (2015-2016)*|
|University of Texas - Austin||Austin, TX||4-year, Public||Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral||$9,806 in-state, $34,676 out-of-state|
|University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign||Champaign, IL||4-year, Public||Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral||$15,054 in-state, $30,214 out-of-state|
|Brigham Young University - Provo||Provo, Utah||4-year, Private not-for-profit||Bachelor's, Master's||$5,150|
|University of Notre Dame||Notre Dame, IN||4-year, Private not-for-profit||Bachelor's, Master's||$47,929|
|University of Pennsylvania||Philadelphia, PA||4-year, Private not-for-profit||Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral||$49,536|
|University of Southern California||Los Angeles, CA||4-year, Private not-for-profit||Bachelor's, Master's||$50,277|
|Indiana University - Bloomington||Bloomington, ID||4-year, Public||Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral||$10,388 in-state, $33,741 out-of-state|
|University of Michigan - Ann Arbor||Ann Arbor, MI||4-year, Public||Bachelor's, Master's||$13,856 in-state, $43,476 out-of-state|
|New York University||New York, NY||4-year, Private not-for-profit||Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral||$47,750|
|St. Joseph's University||Philadelphia, PA||4-year, Private not-for-profit||Bachelor's, Master's||$42,180|
Source: *National Center for Education Statistics
College Selection Criteria
When choosing between accounting programs, it is important to consider the following:
- Students looking into public accounting should make sure a school has a strong tax accounting program that meets the state's educational requirement for certification as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), which is often 25-30 credits more than a typical bachelor's degree curriculum requires.
- Depending on their academic interests, students may choose to major specifically in accounting or choose the subject as a concentration within a broader business administration program.
- When considering research-focused doctoral degree programs, prospective students should make sure that there are faculty members at the school with whom they share research interests, as they may act as dissertation advisors.
- When considering a program that includes an internship, students should make sure that they will have the chance to work in the type of organization where they might someday like to get a job, such as a public accounting firm.
Bachelor's Degree Programs
At the undergraduate level, aspiring accountants can pursue a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Accounting or choose the subject as an area of concentration within a finance major or a Bachelor of Business (BBA) degree. These programs provide a comprehensive overview of the field, covering many types of accounting, including cost accounting, government accounting, nonprofit accounting and income tax accounting. Students also take foundational business courses and fulfill general education requirements. Because students need to take courses beyond a bachelor's degree in order to become eligible for the CPA exam, many schools offer accelerated BS/MS programs for aspiring CPAs.
Master's Degree Programs
There are a variety of master's degree options for aspiring accountants. Students may choose a Master of Accounting (MAcc) degree, an MBA with a concentration in accounting or a Master of Science (MS) in Accounting. These programs provide advanced coursework in the field, and graduates are usually prepared for the CPA exam. In order to accommodate students with different scheduling needs, these programs are commonly available in full-time, part-time and online formats.
Doctoral Degree Programs
A doctoral degree is not necessary for work as an accountant, but PhD programs in accounting are available for individuals who want to conduct advanced research in the field. Students begin by taking two years of graduate-level accounting coursework in economics and finance before beginning work on a doctoral dissertation. Depending on their academic interests, students may choose to focus their studies on either empirical or analytical research in accounting. Most graduates find work as university professors after they graduate.
Most 4-year schools, public and private, offer business or accounting programs that provide relevant training for future accounts. Prospective students should consider CPA exam preparation or research opportunities when choosing between programs, depending on their career goals.