Accounting Degree Basics: Courses and Career Paths

Considering a new career in accounting can be just like new parents preparing for the arrival of their baby. It might sound like a stretch… but stay with me.

Just like new parents searching baby websites and reading everything Dr. Spock has written to prepare for feeding, burping, diaper rash and discipline, it’s important to get a basic understanding of accounting before diving headfirst into any degree program.

And especially for those looking to go back to school or breathe new life into their stagnant careers, becoming familiar with the most common accounting degree courses and career paths is a perfect place to start.

Accounting degree courses to expect

Just like being responsible for a new life, learning a subject like accounting can be intimidating – especially considering the possibility that upon graduation you might find yourself in charge of the entire financial wellbeing of an organization or individual.

To the untrained ear basic accounting terms like cash flow, accounts payable and present value can sound like newborn gibberish, but if babies teach us anything about language, it’s that you need basic words and phrases before you’re able to converse intelligently. The second step to accounting fluency is figuring out the subject matter typically covered in accounting degree courses.

Here’s a glimpse of what you can expect to learn about in when earning your accounting degree:

  • Principles of Accounting
  • Financial Reporting
  • Business Law
  • Taxation
  • Auditing Principles
  • Financial Management
  • Accounting Information Systems
  • Cost Management

As you continue searching for accounting programs that will meet your specific needs, you will find that the course offerings and titles may vary a bit but the introductory subject matter across accounting programs is very similar. To illustrate this point further, we identified more than 25,000 accounting job postings* over the past year and collated the skills employers are looking for from candidates.

Notice any similarities between the introductory courses listed above and the skills needed to work in the field? 

accounting skills

So now that you understand which accounting classes can help you develop the skills needed to work in the field, let’s turn our focus to potential career paths that might interest you.

Accounting degree career paths

Statistically speaking, new parents in the U.S. have a 49 percent likelihood of having a baby girl; and a 51 percent chance that it’s a boy. But unlike the relatively even outcomes for the gender of your unborn child, accounting professionals have a wealth of opportunities beyond the typical positions in accounting or finance.

To help you better understand the multitude of different career paths we analyzed more than 875,000 positions** requiring skills in accounting. And while the positions ranged from sales manager to loan officer to real estate agent, below are the seven most in-demand accounting-related positions out there.

accounting job titles

As you consider pursuing an accounting career definitely keep these employment opportunities in mind because there is a lot that you can do with an accounting degree. Your friends and family might tell you to prepare yourself for a life of number-crunching and being chained to a desk, but that’s not always the case. There are plenty of accounting-related jobs that are exciting and fulfilling and, at the end of the day, every company out there needs a good accountant. The opportunities to find an interesting, meaningful and rewarding accounting related position with an organization that shares your passions is out there, all you need to do it look for it.

Next steps

So as you consider accounting programs just keep in mind that your journey will be much like the “newborn baby” metaphor. You’ll do tons of research, take a class or two and ultimately realize that with hard work and a little luck, the outcome will be something to be proud of.

Now that you know what the future holds for becoming an accounting professional. Don’t wait any longer any longer to get started; take the necessary first step by completing your accounting degree in order to give your career a new life.

*Editor's Note: This article was originally published on March 15th, 2011. It has since been updated to reflect information relevant to 2013.

*Source: (Analysis of the most in-demand skills for accounting-related positions, Sept. 24, 2012 to Sept. 23, 2013)
**Source: (Analysis of jobs requiring skills in accounting, Sept. 24, 2012 to Sept. 23, 2013)

Grant Tilus

Grant works for Collegis education and writes student-focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen College. He aims to inspire, motivate and inform current and prospective students.

male writer

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