What Can You Do with an Accounting Degree? Exploring Your Options
Going back to school is a big decision, and you probably have a lot of questions. Can you juggle classes with work and a family? Will your efforts be worth it in the end? You want to be sure you’re entering a stable career that can support you—and that’s exactly why you’re interested in accounting. But what can you do with an accounting degree?
There is more variety in this field than most people are aware of. Jobs for Accounting majors span almost every industry. To help you get a better idea of what your options are, we scoured thousands of postings for accounting degree jobs. Though you may need some experience in the field before you’re qualified for some of them, you will be prepared to start pursuing these careers with an accounting degree in no time.
Accounting degree jobs: Salaries and outlook
Accounting graduates will be happy to know the outlook for this field is strong. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the U.S. is projected to be home to over 1.5 million accountants and auditors by 2028 —and you could be one of them!1 With a growing global economy and a complex tax and regulatory environment, the BLS projects a four percent increase in employment in this field.
Additionally, accountants earn a healthy living, with a 2019 median annual salary of $71,550 reported by the BLS.1 Considering that accounting managers are also cited as one of the best jobs in America by Glassdoor, you can safely assume this career is well-respected for a reason.2
Accounting degree jobs: Training and skills
Just like the diverse job options in this field, your accounting training will cover a broad range of topics. There will be some overlap between an Associate’s degree and Bachelor’s degree, but the differences should align with your career goals after graduation.
At the Associate's degree level, you'll learn about accounts receivable and payable, tax returns, financial statements and computer applications such as Microsoft Excel®. You'll also spend time developing important soft skills such as communication, critical thinking, and diversity awareness.
At the bachelor’s degree level, you’ll take it a step further by exploring more analysis and presentation to prepare you for positions further up the management ladder. You’ll also be trained in more advanced accounting topics such as auditing, fraud examination and international accounting.
Accounting courses to expect
To help you get a better idea of what exactly you’ll be learning, take a look at this sampling of Accounting courses from the Accounting programs at Rasmussen College.
Associate’s degree courses:
- Financial Investigation
- Business Law
- Business Ethics
- Financial Markets and Institutions
- Financial Investigation
Bachelor’s degree courses:
- Intermediate Financial Accounting I and II
- Cost Accounting
- Strategic Management
- Investments and Security Markets
- Risk Management for Accountants
Accounting degree jobs that could be yours
If you’re considering an accounting program, it’s also helpful to understand the variety of jobs available. To give you some insight into the job market, we analyzed more than 740,000 job postings requiring candidates with an accounting degree. The following are some of the most common positions listed:3
This entry-level position is a great way to gain experience in the field of accounting. Bookkeepers maintain accurate financial records by tracking income, expenses, overdue accounts, pending invoices and more. You can work for a company or take on your own clients as a freelancer. While most of your work will be independent, you may collaborate with other accountants when they need the information you’ve tracked for analysis or auditing.
2. Staff accountant
As a staff accountant, you can expect to perform some bookkeeping tasks such as creating ledger entries, reconciling accounts and generating financial statements. Unlike a bookkeeper, however, you may also assist senior accountants in auditing, processing accounts payable/receivable and recommending improvements to reduce costs. This is a great entry-level role for those with a bachelor’s degree. It does not require earning your CPA but exposes you to a lot of different areas in the field.
3. Accounts payable clerk
An accounts payable clerk is in charge of paying the bills. This involves keeping track of expenses and invoices, logging them accurately, and handling the exchange of money. You'll need an advanced knowledge of excel to succeed in this role as well as a general aptitude for accuracy and mathematics. You may also need to communicate with clients, so interpersonal skills are important.
4. Internal auditor
While external auditors typically work for government agencies, internal auditors are hired by the company they are investigating. If an executive suspects mismanagement, for example, they may hire an internal auditor to provide an objective look at their financial statements, processes, and accounts. In many cases, these auditors are also hired to find inefficiencies and suggest ways to improve. Like many accounting positions, this role requires a keen eye for detail as you will be working with a large amount of data.
5. Cost accountant
Cost accountants deal with the expenses of the company. In this role, you will analyze every cost related to labor, materials, shipping, production, administration and more. By weighing cost and value, you will then help various departments get the most out of their budget. Your work is also vital for setting the price of your company’s product or service.
6. Financial analyst
Financial analysts work in the business of buying and selling investments. Their key purpose is to keep a pulse on the financial market and recognize trends as soon as possible. This helps inform business decisions, increase profit and decrease risk. A keen understanding of financial statements is key. Analysts typically work either on the buy-side or the sell-side of investments, though their duties are similar either way.
7. Accounting manager
After several years of accounting experience, you may want to consider the role of an accounting manager. This position is a good mix of big picture issues and up-close details. As a manager, you'll be in charge of hiring, training, directing, and motivating a team of junior accountants. As a senior accountant yourself, you'll also deal with high-level tasks such as preparing annual budgets, tracking long-term financial data, and developing policies and procedures. You will also likely communicate with other department managers, so this role is ideal for those with a developed blend of soft and hard skills.
8. Tax manager
Like an accounting manager, tax managers are responsible for overseeing a team of other accountants. Their goal is to prepare a company’s taxes and ensure operation is within federal, state, and local tax regulations. This often requires very specific research so you can stay up-to-date on any changes in the law. Depending on the company, a tax manager will develop different strategies for saving the most money during tax season.
This position is one of the most senior financial roles in a company. You will likely oversee everything from bookkeeping to internal auditing. This role involves high-level duties such as strategic planning and risk management. A background in accounting is crucial to translate financial jargon into actionable information for other business executives.
What doors can an Accounting degree open for you?
So, what can you do with an Accounting degree? As you can see, there are more jobs for Accounting majors than simply becoming an accountant. Even within the field, there are many directions to go. No matter your preferred career path, pursuing an Accounting degree is a smart option for anyone seeking a time-tested career option.
Now that you know more about the wide range of careers you can pursue with an Accounting degree, it’s time to take the next step. Visit the Rasmussen College Accounting degrees program page to learn more about this popular career path.
1Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [accessed September, 2020] www.bls.gov/ooh/. Information represents national, averaged data for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries. Employment conditions in your area may vary.
2Glassdoor, 50 Best Jobs in America 2020, [accessed September, 2020] https://www.glassdoor.com/List/Best-Jobs-in-America-LST_KQ0,20.htm
3Source: Burning-Glass.com (analysis of 741,630 job postings requiring accounting degree, Jul. 01, 2019 - Jun. 30, 2020).
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in February 2013. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2020.