Accounting bachelor degree jobs are available in many sectors of the business world. From straight-up bookkeeping jobs to those involving business analytics, opportunities abound. Some of these jobs require advanced degrees, but a bachelor’s degree is a sound building block in any budding accountant’s curriculum vitae. As with most bachelor’s degrees, accounting degrees are usually comprise 120 credits and include not only accounting classes but also electives and core classes. Depending on the specific concentration, the 120-credit number may vary slightly. In some states, however, accounting students must complete 150 credits to earn the Bachelor of Accounting degree. This generally means that a student must attend school for five years instead of four.
A Bachelor of Science in Accounting degree can lead to a variety of accounting careers with widely varying responsibilities in all sectors – private, nonprofit and government. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects an 11% increase or 142,400 additional jobs for accountants and auditors from 2014-2024. They also report a median pay of $67,190 for those employed in the field in 2015. Following are five accounting careers for which a graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting could expect to obtain.
1. Public Accountant
A public accounting career is one of the most followed career paths for those that obtain a Bachelor of Science in Accounting degree. These individuals join a larger accounting firm or establish their own private practice. The accounting practice contracts with individuals, businesses and corporations to complete tax returns, maintain financial records, compile monthly statements and complete audits. In larger firms, individual accountants may be assigned solely to one or more external clients or they may deal with a variety of clients. This depends on the size of the firm and the client’s needs.
While a bachelor’s degree is required most of the time, it is possible to become a certified public accountant with another kind of business degree as long as the degree includes enough accounting courses. Budding CPAs can also achieve their goals by securing a Master of Business in accounting. These, however, are only the beginning steps.
To become a CPA, people have to gain experience as an auditor. This is usually a two-year requirement, but some states have greater or lesser requirements. There is also an examination that students must pass. There are multiple sections to the test. To achieve CPA status, the applicant must pass all of the test’s sections. Retesting is allowed, and any sections the applicant passed previously do not need to be repeated as long as the applicant retests within the applicable time restrictions.
Once someone earns the CPA designation, that’s not the “end of the story.” Most states require that the person take 40 or more hours of continuing instruction annually. Additionally, there is an annual membership fee for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. CPAs must keep both their continuing education and membership current or face additional fees and educational requirements.
2. Forensic Accountant or Investigator
A Bachelor of Science in Accounting graduate may choose the career path of a forensic accountant or investigator, working for a government agency that investigates financial compliance or criminal activity. These accountants may “follow the money” in criminal cases, review financial statements for compliance with laws and regulations or conduct tax audits on individuals or companies. These accounting careers are found in federal agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), or Internal Revenue Service (IRS). They can also be found in state and local agencies charged with similar responsibilities.
Becoming a forensic accountant can take longer than merely becoming a CPA. In many cases, forensic accountants must also be CPAs. In addition to the five years of school and two years as an auditor it takes to become a CPA, there will also be forensic account certificates or even a graduate degree in forensic accounting required to secure a job. That means that the time it takes to become a forensic accountant could be as much as eight or nine years.
The certifications required for varying subfields within the realm of forensic accounting each have their own requirements, including class schedules, tests, and continuing education. It is possible for a forensic accountant to hold multiple certifications simultaneously, and these candidates are highly prized. In fact, many jurisdictions require not only the forensic accounting degree but also relevant experience.
Many forensic accountants work with the police and other enforcement organizations, such as the aforementioned Securities and Exchange Commission. Others will work within law offices while still others will work as part of an accounting firm. The qualifications for each will likely be the same, but in some states, special classes could be required for certain specializations within the field of forensic accounting.
3. Corporate Accountant
Corporate accountants work in business accounting departments to provide accounting services such as day-to-day bookkeeping, budget preparation, maintenance of financial records and compilation of monthly statements. The accountant is responsible for compliance with applicable accounting principles, government regulations and laws. Depending on the structure of the organization, corporate accountants may be involved in forecasting and decision-making concerning the future of the company.
Most businesses require their corporate accountants to hold a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field. Some might even require them to hold a master’s degree, possibly even a Master of Business Administration with a focus on accounting. Usually, corporate accountants must also be CPAs. Sometimes, they must also be Certified Management Accountants. As with becoming a CPA, there is also an examination to become a CMA.
The CMA is the “macro version” of the CPA. Both perform what amount to the same duties. The CPA focuses on small-scale items like tax returns and audit reports. The CMA instead focuses on large-scale projects like mergers and acquisitions, divestiture, and other strategic plans. The CMA works with a business’s executives as part of the long-term planning for the company. That person might also work with a company’s legal team to ensure that any deals are, as they say, “on the up-and-up.”
Both the CPA and the CMA are prestigious titles that show someone has worked hard to earn them. The CMA is a higher title, however, and those who earn it make commensurately more than their lower-ranked colleagues. In 2019, the average CMA salary was nearly double that of other accounting professionals. Those who hold CMA certification are also more employable because they’re also CPAs. This dual qualification means that these professionals might be able to get a job with the prospect of moving up even if a CMA position is not available.
4. Internal Auditor
Internal auditors work inside corporations or government organizations with the focus of reviewing and improving accounting practices, policies and procedures. Similar to external auditors, internal auditors may review a specific set of transactions or groups of accounts for compliance with accounting principles, regulations and laws. Generally working outside the accounting office, the internal auditor makes policy and procedure recommendations to executives. In the event of suspicious activity, this accounting professional may be asked to investigate through a review of accounting activity, interviews and other fact finding activities.
An internal auditor is sort of like “the sheriff in town.” The duties include making sure everything is correct according to both company policy and all applicable laws. Everything must balance, so the internal auditor must have a keen eye for not only numbers but also adherence. Also, internal auditors can look at all of their companies’ policies and check for inefficiency and waste. Using their combination of skills, they can devise legal ways to improve policies and procedures. The developed improvements could affect every part of the companies in question.
Internal auditors must be skilled in risk assessment, compliance analysis, and regular accounting. They must be the most skilled of communicators because they must be able to tell high-level executives things that they might not want to hear. Most degree programs include a few classes in communications.
Internal auditors can also boost their credentials by earning several certificates. These include the Certified Internal Auditor and Certified Fraud examiner among others. Many internal auditors also seek CPA qualification because they feel it gives them a better understanding of the nuts and bolts of what they’re auditing on a daily basis.
After roughly eight years’ experience, internal auditors can move up their chain of command. With the higher-paying jobs comes a requirement for more education, so anyone moving up must secure other certifications, a master’s degree, or both. Chief Audit Executives are often board members of the companies where they work as well as important members of accounting regulatory agencies.
5. Tax Examiner
Graduates who have received a Bachelor of Science in Accounting degree may choose an accounting career in the tax field. Tax examiners, or tax collectors, work for government agencies to assist citizens and businesses in the payment of taxes. They review tax returns for errors and omissions, talk with the filer to confirm information, collect additional data and confirm the correct tax has been paid. These accountants must stay on top of any changes to tax law and regulations so that they can be applied appropriately.
Tax examiners, many of whom specialize in being collectors or revenue agents, need a bachelor’s degree even as entry-level workers. If they’re in management, then they’ll also need a master’s degree. The field can be accounting itself or in a specialized area. They study tax compliance, tax law, and auditing. Many prospective tax examiners also study financial planning so that they know and understand the multiple ways income is generated.
The skill set for tax examiners is both diverse and demanding. They must be above reproach, impeccably trustworthy, and skilled in complex math. They must combine the perceptiveness of financial planners, the meticulousness of forensic accountants, and the dogged determination of detectives. They must also be able to handle great amounts of stress, particularly if they deal with tax filers themselves.
As with many other accounting disciplines, tax examiners who move up in their companies or with the Internal Revenue Service must further their education by earning certifications, graduate degrees, or both. There is also plenty of on-the-job training available, too, so some people who have had experience in another realm of accounting can gain valuable tax experience before earning a new bachelor’s degree.
The Financial Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the latest data indicate that the median salary for all accounting jobs in 2019 was $71,550, which breaks down to $34.40 per hour. Additionally, the industry looks to add more than 60,000 jobs through 2029. Currently, there are nearly 1.5 million such jobs in the U.S. The raw job growth rate is 4%, which is just about average when it comes to job growth overall.
More than other jobs of the same pay, the demand for accounting jobs varies with the economy. In a down economy, the demand for accountant jobs doesn’t just drop by company. It also drops because a smaller supply of money requires fewer people to count it.
Accounting bachelor degree jobs are both flexible and varied. The five career paths outlined above aren’t even the extent of what is possible. There are careers available in medical disciplines, too, like financial managers, who handle the investment books for healthcare providers. The job outlook for financial managers is four times higher than most other accounting jobs, and the average salary of more than $125,000 is a nice reward for securing such a job. No matter which accounting job you choose, remember that being trustworthy and highly ethical is a necessity. So is a critical eye for attention to detail. Once you prove yourself by earning all of the required degrees and certificates for the job you want, you will be ready to take on the world.
As with most careers, when choosing an area of interest consider the skills required, the security of the position, the hours and any other areas that are important to you. As you can see, the Bachelor of Science in Accounting degree can lead to a variety of accounting careers with opportunities for advancement.