What Can You Do with an Accounting Degree?
Deciding to go back to school is a big decision to make. You probably have a multitude of questions running through your head. Can you juggle classes with work and raising a family? Will your efforts be worth it in the end? You want to be sure you’re entering a stable career that you can support your family with—and that’s exactly why you’re interested in accounting.
But what you may not know are all the career possibilities that come with a degree in Accounting. While the obvious answer to what you can do with an Accounting degree is to become an accountant—you might actually have other options once you enter the job market after graduation.
To help you get a better idea of what an Accounting degree can do for you, we asked the experts in the field and scoured thousands of accounting-related job postings to learn more about all the possibilities an Accounting degree affords you.
By the numbers: Accounting salaries and job outlook
You’re going to want to ensure you’re making a smart decision for your future if you’re thinking of heading back to school—that means knowing more about the employment prospects for the field. Luckily, the outlook for accounting is bright. By 2026, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the U.S. will be home to 1.5 million accountants and auditors—and you could be one of them!
But the number of accountants doesn’t tell the whole story here—the BLS projects a 10 percent growth in employment for accountants by 2026, which is faster than the average rate of growth. If you’re thinking about pursuing an Accounting degree, you can feel confident that there will be ample employment opportunities in the coming years.
Additionally, accountants earn a healthy living, with a median annual income of $68,150.1 Add to that the fact that accounting managers are cited as one of the best jobs in America and you should be feeling pretty good about your prospective career.
But what job titles should you be on the lookout for if you’re going into accounting? Keep reading to get into the specifics of this field.
Accounting degree jobs that could be yours
If you’re considering an Accounting program, it’s helpful to understand the variety of jobs available for those who hold that degree. That way, you’ll be aware of the different opportunities available when you start your own job search.
To give you some insight into the job market, we analyzed more than 450,000 job postings seeking candidates with an accounting education.2 The following are the most common titles from those job postings:
• Staff accountant
• Financial analyst
• Accounting manager
• Senior Financial analyst
• Tax manager
• Accounting clerk
• Internal auditor
• Accounts payable clerk
• Director of finance
• Tax accountant
• Assistant controller
• Cost accountant
• Audit manager
• Senior tax associate
• Accounting analyst
• Business analyst
• Accounts receivable clerk
As you can see, an Accounting degree doesn’t mean your only option is to become an accountant. Even within the field, there are many directions to go at all levels and phases of a person’s career.
“I decided during my college years that audit wasn’t for me, and that I was to pursue the tax avenue,” says Steve Griffin of Griffin Tax. “As from my understanding, it was either audit or tax—these were your choices as an accounting graduate. But this is far from the truth.”
Griffin goes on to clarify that an Accounting major could pursue careers in not just audit and tax accounting, but also cost accounting, bookkeeping, consulting or even management positions across many different fields.
An Accounting degree could even help you build a brain for business.
“Accounting is the language of business. If you understand the language, you can do so many things in business with your Accounting degree,” says certified public accountant Alex Schneider, who went on to found his own e-commerce company. “I couldn't have started my own company without the deep knowledge about business that accounting provides me.”
As you can see, an Accounting degree can take you down many paths within the accounting profession, or even in business as a whole. An Accounting degree can open many doors—even across industries.
Industries you can work in with an accounting degree
Businesses need to be profitable in order to survive and thrive. That’s where accounting comes in. Because financial health is so critical to a business’ viability, the expertise of accountants is needed across all industries. That’s the beauty of an accounting career. You won’t be reliant on a single industry—you’ll be needed everywhere.
To illustrate this, we analyzed hundreds of thousands of job postings seeking candidates with an accounting education.1 Take a look and see the variety of industries accountants are needed in:
- Financial Investment Activities
- Depository Credit Intermediation
- Insurance Carriers
- Accounting, Tax Preparation, Bookkeeping and Payroll Services
- General Medical and Surgical Hospitals
- Colleges, Universities and Professional Schools
- Management, Scientific and Technical Consulting Services
- Executive, Legislative and Other General Government Support
- Traveler Accommodation
- Activities Related to Real Estate
- Software Publishers
- Non-Depository Credit Intermediation
- Pharmaceutical and Medicine Manufacturing
- Aerospace Product and Parts Manufacturing
- Scientific Research and Development Services
- Securities and Commodity Contracts Intermediation and Brokerage
- Architectural, Engineering and Related Services
- Employment Services
- Computer Systems Design and Related Services
- Management of Companies and Enterprises
As you can see, accountants are needed in all types of industries. What does that mean for you? For one, this wide variety of industries means you have a lot of options for location—accounting jobs aren’t all concentrated in a few areas; they’re spread across the country.
Additionally, just as employers filter through their lengthy lists of candidates looking for those that are the right fit for their organization, it makes sense for you to approach your job search with the same level of analysis. You can narrow your job search to the industries that are the best fit for what you’re looking for in your career.
Accounting degrees open doors
Now that you what you can do with an Accounting degree and have a better idea of the opportunities out there, learn how to get your career started by reading our article, “Your Step-by-Step Guide on How to Become an Accountant.”
1Salary data represents national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries and employment conditions in your area may vary.
2Source: BurningGlass.com (Analysis of 472,748 job postings seeking candidates with accounting degrees from December 1, 2016 – November 30, 2017)
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in February 2013. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2018.