What Types of Specialization are Available in Accounting Programs?

Most programs in accounting, whether at the undergraduate or graduate level, require students to pick an accounting specialization that will guide them toward selecting electives and focusing their efforts on a very narrow area of the industry. This complements their study of broad accounting concepts nicely, and helps graduates focus their job search in a specific area. With that said, however, many students aren’t sure which areas of specialization exist, what these various specialties do within the context of the accounting industry, and how their choice might affect their coursework requirements as they work toward completion of the program. Before selecting any area of specialty, consider the most common options available to today’s students.

Tax Accounting

Many students choose to specialize in tax accounting, which will teach them the fundamentals of preparing tax returns for corporations, nonprofits, and individuals, so that they can be quickly filed with the Internal Revenue Service or state revenue departments each year. As part of this concentration, students will also need to learn tax law, the software used to electronically file taxes at the state and federal levels, and the ethical considerations that go along with managing tax preparation and filing. Advanced issues in corporate or personal tax services and laws may also be covered in Master of Accountancy programs.

Financial Accounting

Working within a large corporation has a number of benefits, including the opportunity for accountants to work on official earnings statements, quarterly results, and much more. Corporate work also opens up pathways to management and executive-level leadership, perhaps as a company’s Chief Financial Officer. In this specialization, students will learn about the role of GAAP in financial statements and releases, and they’ll learn about federal regulations that govern how companies document expenses and profits, how and when those things are reported, and how to accurately report a company’s comprehensive financial picture to shareholders, government stakeholders, and consumers.

Auditing and Forensic Accounting Services

Accountants can easily succumb to irregularities, and that’s why so many accounting degree programs at all levels focus on GAAP, industry regulations, and accounting laws. Even so, some companies or individual actors do resort to accounting fraud and irregularities in order to appear more successful or profitable than they actually are. Those who specialize in forensics and auditing can land roles as internal or external auditors, forensic accountants, and government investigators. These positions are responsible for reviewing, auditing, and investigating accounting work, and they may also serve as expert witnesses in cases against people or companies that have run afoul of legal and ethical accounting practices.

Management or Managerial Accounting

Accountants who aspire to work in management roles need to have the proper background. Managerial accounting teaches accountants how to oversee accounting departments or perform accounting work on behalf of a managerial team. Management concentrations give accountants a broader, business-based background that is essential when advancing to higher levels of professional leadership in a corporation or public agency. Both pursuits give accounts broader opportunities for advancement over the long course of their careers.

Accountants Can Easily Diversify Their Career Options

With specialization options offered by so many colleges and universities, specialization of accounting skills is increasingly common. It’s also something that employers increasingly look for when hiring new accountants. Students who are trying to choose an accounting specialization should determine whether they’re prone to management, investigation, or preparation of financial documents, and choose a specialization accordingly.

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