What Can I Do with a Bachelor's Degree in Accounting?

Jul 25, 2018

Accountants work with the finances of individuals, companies, nonprofits, and governments. Although a bachelor's degree in accounting does not generally qualify graduates to become Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), graduates may work in other areas, including personal accounting, government accounting, and auditing.

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Bachelor's-Level Accounting Jobs

Individuals with a bachelor's degree in accounting may find jobs in accounting firms, but they'll likely need to pursue professional certification. Learn about the degree programs and the certification options and requirements.

At the bachelor's degree level, graduates may work at accounting firms, but advancement potential may be limited without a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, or Certified Internal Auditor designation. An accountant must have a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license to attest to audits of publicly traded companies, but accountants who do not file those reports with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission can legally work without a CPA designation. The CPA license requires extra coursework beyond a bachelor's degree. Certified Management Accountants (CMAs) are trained in strategic management to help make business decisions based on financial data for organizations. Certified Internal Auditors (CIAs) conduct internal audits to help organizations evaluate and approve their operations. Both the CMA and CIA credentials can be earned with a bachelor's degree and some years of work experience.

Earning a Bachelor's in Accounting

Bachelor's programs are often 120 credits in length and usually require four years of full-time coursework. However, some schools combine the undergraduate accounting degree with a graduate certificate in accounting for a five-year program that qualifies graduates for the Uniform CPA Exam.

Accounting degree programs may lead to a Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Business Administration. Less commonly, students may be able to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Accounting. The curriculum includes courses in the separate types of accounting and may cover the following: micro and macro economics, taxation, fraud examination, finance, and statistics.

CPA Qualifications

The CPA exam is uniform nationwide and is required for accountants to represent themselves as CPAs. The exam is prepared by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, and states also set their own standards for qualifying to take the exam. A graduate with a bachelor's degree must take additional credits to meet the 150-credit minimum that 47 states and the District of Columbia have set for the CPA exam. Typically, the extra credits culminate in a master's degree or graduate certificate in accountancy.

CMA Qualifications

Students wishing to become a CMA must have a bachelor's degree and at least two years of experience in management accounting or financial management. The CMA exam consists of two parts and can be taken in any order, either on the same day or on separate test dates. Once students have passed the exam, they need to agree to abide by the Institution of Management Accountant's Statement of Ethical Professional Practice.

CIA Qualifications

Aspiring CIAs must first choose between Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) certification or one of four specialty certifications. The CIA certification is the only one that is globally accepted. Candidates must hold a postsecondary degree and have at least two years of experience, as well as providing character references. Students then register, prepare, and take the exam. Once students pass the exam and meet the other requirements, they receive their certification.

Graduates of a bachelor's degree program in accounting will likely need to pursue professional certification as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Certified Management Accountant (CMA), or Certified Internal Auditor (CIA). Graduates can work in accounting firms with their knowledge of accounting, finance, taxation, and more.

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