If you're a "bottom line" person who is computer savvy and good with numbers, a career in accounting could make the most of your talents. You could monitor a business or organization for its finance-related policies and procedures, or you might follow the money trail as a forensic accountant. Employment opportunities are found in public, management or government accounting as well as internal auditing.
Bachelor's degrees in accounting cover the basics of the field, like auditing and taxation, with additional courses such as these:
- Business law
- Introduction to microeconomics
- Cost and operations management
- Principles of finance and management
- Research and analysis
- Technology and tools of the trade
Special interest classes may explore fraud interviewing techniques, nonprofit accounting, financial management or quantitative methods. General education courses include English, the humanities, mathematics, natural sciences and social sciences -- and some students transfer these credits from a community college. You also need to show proficiency in other areas required by the individual program such as communications and writing.
Accounting career options, outlook and salaries
Graduates with bachelor's degrees in accounting may find work in accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping and payroll services. Other related career options include budget analysts, financial planners, financial analysts and tax examiners. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that there will be 1.4 million accountants and auditors in the U.S. by 2020, an increase of 15.7 percent over 2010 -- and this anticipated job growth is faster than the U.S. average. The median salary for accountants and auditors in 2010 was $61,690, nearly twice as much as accounting clerks earned.
While a bachelor's degree is often the minimum degree for accounting positions, the BLS notes that many employers request a master's degree for entry-level employment. An accountant who files reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission must be a Certified Public Accountant, or CPA, and this title requires passing a rigorous examination.
According to the American Institute of CPAs, the Master of Accountancy and the MBA with an accounting concentration are key qualifications. Doctorates generally focus on one of two career paths -- either scholarly research and publication or teaching at the university level.
If you're currently working, web-based studies allow you to continue gaining experience while you upgrade your education. Online programs also demonstrate knowledge of computers and applications, which are increasingly important in accounting and finance.