No matter where you are along your academic or professional journey it can be hard to decide what your next step should be. If you’re considering different undergraduate majors or looking to advance your career with a master’s degree, you might be wondering whether an accounting program is the right choice.
We’re here to help you narrow down your options. Here are seven reasons why you should consider a bachelor’s or master’s in accounting — and the many jobs for accounting majors that will become available to you once you’ve earned your degree:
1. You can choose from a variety of careers in the accounting world.
Professionals with accounting degrees work in a wide array of roles, from accounting clerk to internal auditor, management accountant, and even CEO.
Popular jobs for accounting majors coming out of school with a bachelor’s degree include:
- Staff accountant
- Staff auditor
- Financial analyst
- Budget analyst
- Cost estimator
- Tax reviewer
With a master’s in accounting, you’ll have more opportunities to consider, such as:
- Lead accountant
- Auditing manager
- Certified public accountant (CPA)
- Senior budget analyst
- Financial manager
There’s also the possibility of working your way up into the C-suite. Since accounting experts know the ins and outs of the business from a financial perspective, some can advance to upper management. One day, you might become a chief accounting officer, chief financial officer, or chief executive officer. But, even in middle management, you’re likely to lead a large team or oversee an accounting department while collaborating with management peers.
Being an essential contributor to the business landscape can come with some nice job perks, too. Even the more traditional accounting jobs can afford scheduling flexibility and unique work-life balance arrangements. For instance, although tax season can be extremely demanding, some CPAs balance this intense four-month period with a more relaxed schedule for the rest of the year.
And, depending on what industry you’re a part of, you may have the chance to meet with clients away from the office. Some business leaders prefer the privacy, but others just like meeting at the golf course or over a nice dinner.
2. You’ll be able to find employment opportunities in virtually any industry.
Since accounting is the language of business, jobs for accounting majors exist in practically every industry. Whether you’re hoping to enter a certain field, remain in the same industry in a new professional capacity, or explore a few different sectors to see which you like best, an accounting degree will empower you to do so.
Accounting can be a great way to satisfy your professional goals, especially if you’re interested in a variety of fields, or the crossover of different careers. For instance, rather than having to choose between finance and criminal justice, you could opt for a career in forensic accounting that merges both fields. Or you could combine accounting and law interests by working as a legal accountant.
Other majors may pigeonhole you into working in a certain industry, but this is not so with accounting. It’s possible to work in a private or public accounting firm, but those aren’t your only options. If you want to work in hospitality, education, entertainment, agriculture, manufacturing, or tech — or even at a government agency or nonprofit organization — you’ll have the chance to do so. It’s also possible to specialize in a certain sector. As you gain more experience and mature in your career, your accounting specialty can set you apart.
3. An accounting background opens the door to alternative careers in business.
If you graduate with an accounting degree and find that you don’t want to become an accountant, you’re not in trouble. In fact, you have a major advantage in the labor market as you already hold such an in-demand degree and skill set. Beyond the traditional career track, there are plenty of alternative jobs for accounting majors.
If you’re an enterprising professional, you might decide to pursue self-employment and launch your own accounting firm. Or, you could become an independent business consultant or offer bookkeeping services on a freelance basis.
A Bachelor of Science in Accounting or Master of Science in Accounting will allow you a high level of career flexibility. You can use your accounting background as a bridge to other career types, whether you’re just entering the workforce or a seasoned professional. It’s also possible to work in a traditional accounting role for a while before pivoting into a different career.
Depending on your experiences and interests, you might find employment in investor relations, banking, business operations and management, financial planning, market research, IT, and more. You might even consider teaching to share your love of accounting with a new generation of professionals, or working as a private investigator to pinpoint fraudulent accounting activity.
4. You’ll have a high earning potential as an accountant.
Another practical reason to pursue an accounting career is financial stability. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median pay for accountants and auditors was $70,500 in 2018. In addition, the top 10% earned an average salary of over $122,840.
Based on national earning averages, the Accounting Degree Review ranks these as the top 10 highest paying accounting jobs, in order from the highest to lowest earning positions:
- Vice president of finance: $132,890
- Chief financial officer: $127,780
- International tax manager: $112,000
- Finance director: $110,050
- Corporate controller: $93,030
- Cost accountant manager: $82,950
- Senior financial analyst: $77,720
- Compliance officer: $75,830
- Assistant controller: $71,160
- Accounting software developer: $67,570
Accounting information technology managers, accounting professors, compliance managers, and forensic accountants earn somewhere between $65,000 and $68,000, on average.
Jobs for accounting majors who’ve recently graduated also offer competitive salaries. PayScale reports that an entry-level accountant could expect to earn roughly $45,823 in 2019. New hires at the Big 4 accounting firms — Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, and KPMG — can see starting salaries in the mid- and upper-$60,000 range.
Of course, your earning potential will depend on your experience level, education, credentials, and geographic location. Professionals based out of larger metropolitan areas like New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle can expect to earn around 12% more than those in smaller cities, according to PayScale.
5. Accounting work can be intellectually challenging and fulfilling.
If you think an accounting degree program will be engaging and interesting, you’re likely to find that the available jobs for accounting majors are a good fit for you, too.
Given the level of expertise and significance in the business world, accounting is a highly respected career. It’s a great way to engage with the practical applications of mathematical and economic concepts — all while helping hardworking business leaders keep their companies afloat.
The accounting profession tends to be structured and intellectually challenging. While all sorts of people and personalities enjoy the profession, someone who is great with numbers and logic is likely to thrive in this type of work environment.
6. You’ll cultivate in-demand, transferrable skills.
As you complete an accounting degree program and begin your career, you’ll develop a whole host of highly valuable and versatile competencies.
People who excel at quantitative skills or have an aptitude for math or money may be naturally well-suited to an accounting career, but anyone can develop these abilities. Here are some of the top skills you’ll need for a career in accounting:
- Analytical abilities
- Business acumen
- Communication skills
- Quantitative reasoning
- Organizational abilities
- Problem-solving proficiency
- Software experience
Personal qualities like integrity are also critical to success in this profession. But even if your career takes you beyond the accounting world, this skill set will come in handy.
The demand for professionals with these skills is rising. According to the BLS, there were over 1.4 million accounting jobs in the U.S. in 2018. The profession is projected to experience a 6% growth rate between 2018 and 2028, which should result in 90,700 new jobs. This expansion is on pace with the national average across all jobs. The BLS notes that as the economy grows, accounting skills will be increasingly sought after.
But, even if the economy takes a downturn, accounting skills will still be in demand. In fact, Fortune magazine lists accounting as one of the most recession-proof careers. When tough times hit, business leaders begin scrutinizing any jobs that aren’t necessary for their company’s survival. Not only is accounting one of the most critical departments of any commercial enterprise, but accountants help strategize where to cut back.
Accountants help keep businesses solvent and in compliance with the IRS and other auditors, while ensuring that everyone gets a paycheck. As long as money circulates throughout the public and private sectors, there will be plenty of open jobs for accounting majors.
7. You can fast-track your career with an online accounting degree.
Compared to other professions, the scholastic path to becoming an accountant is relatively quick. Achieving a DDS or DMD at a dental school takes about six years. You’ll have to study for about seven to nine years to earn an MD in medical school or a JD at law school. With a bachelor’s degree in accounting, you can earn a CPA in just four years if your coursework meets the standard 150-hour educational requirement. Being able to earn your degree and professional credentials in about half the time makes the accounting path appealing for ambitious emerging professionals who are eager to enter the workforce.
It’s also possible to earn an advanced degree while working full time. This allows you to continue building your career while you expand your skill set and professional network. While studying for a master’s degree in accounting, you’ll develop expertise that will enable professional growth and greater earning potential.
Students at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) can complete an online Bachelor of Science in Accounting from the Collat School of Business in as few as four years. Those looking to take the next step in their accounting career can finish UAB’s online Master of Science in Accounting program in as few as five semesters.
If you have a head for numbers and are eager dig into challenging work in an industry that excites you, an accounting career could be your next move. Visit the UAB website to find out how an online bachelor’s or master’s degree in accounting can get you there.