Most CPAs possess strong mathematics skills and have at least a bachelor's degree in an accounting or business field. Some may continue on to earn a master's degree in finance or a Master of Business Administration. Accountants must pass a specialized exam in order to legally work as a Certified Public Accountant. Many employers seek out CPAs who have some practical experience working in the field. Bachelor's degrees last 4 years, while master's programs last 2.. Online programs are available.
Bachelor of Science in Accounting
A Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Accounting involves a 4-year undergraduate degree program that is designed to provide students with a broad accounting education. B.S. programs in accounting usually specify if they feature a CPA-prep track, which includes 30 additional semester hours of coursework to prepare students to meet the certification requirements. CPA-prep programs may take the form of 5-year dual B.S./M.S. programs. Students may study topics like:
- Cost management
- World history
Master of Science in Accounting
The Master of Science (M.S.) in Accounting program is a graduate degree program that introduces students to advanced accounting techniques. Students gain analytical skills in courses that address topics like federal taxation and ethical accounting practices. Most M.S. programs can be completed in two years or less. Some common course topics might include:
- Financial reporting
- Cost accounting
- Financial management
- Business law
- Federal taxation of individuals
Master of Business Administration (Accounting)
Most MBA programs allow students to concentrate in a particular field, such as tax accounting. The Master of Business Administration (MBA) is a broad graduate business degree that offers students the chance to take courses in multiple business topics, including:
- International business
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the BLS, accountants as of May 2015 make a mean annual wage of $75,280. The employment for accountants from 2014-2014 is expected to grow 11%, which is as fast as the average.
Accountants must pass a 4-part exam administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) in order to work as a CPA. Most states require CPAs to have completed at least 150 hours of related coursework before becoming certified. A typical bachelor's degree program requires 120 hours of coursework, which is why aspiring CPAs may want to seek out a CPA-track B.S. program; these CPA-specific programs include extra coursework to meet the 150-hour requirement. CPAs with relevant experience may pursue additional certifications from the AICPA. These include the Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) and Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV) designations.
Professional organizations offer a variety of workshops and conferences for CPAs who wish to keep their accounting knowledge current. Many courses bring accountants up to speed on new tax legislation or introduce them to new accounting software or techniques. Workshops may examine specific topics in depth, such as fraud or mergers, or they may discuss general trends in accounting. CPAs may choose to pursue continuing education courses in areas that will help them become more proficient with the tools and skills used in the accounting field. Courses on QuickBooks are widely available, and students may also take classes in auditing software, such as AutoAudit. Business communication skills may be improved through practical training courses designed to help employees communicate and organize ideas more effectively.
Those with a strong math background may find success in a career as a CPA. Additional degrees are available for those interested in more specific fields. They also help prepare students for certification.