As students pursue accounting degrees, they should think about how they will leverage their degree after graduation. While money certainly isn’t everything, potential earning power is a leading factor that many students consider with their program choice. Particular business degrees, including a bachelor’s in accounting program, can offer graduates an array of possible career paths. Depending on students’ preferences and interests, they can pursue several different accounting industry certifications and employment opportunities. From entry-level positions to jobs requiring additional years of experience, a bachelor’s in accounting can open the door to attractive starting salaries, which can increase for professionals with the right skills.
Salaries vary according to job role and industry. Today, we’re taking a closer look at the types of jobs graduates can pursue with a bachelor’s in accounting, as well as how much they can expect to earn.
Degree in accounting
A program like the Online Bachelor of Science in Accounting from the University of Alabama at Birmingham Collat School of Business can prepare students for several different financial- and accounting-focused employment roles. This program also provides the skills and knowledge students and professionals need to prepare for key industry certifications, including the CPA, CIA, CFE, and CMA exams.
The program curriculum helps students develop skills in critical financial and accounting areas, including:
- Financial accounting
- Accounting information systems
- Cost accounting
- Income taxation
- Internal auditing
- Financial management
- Management processes and behavior
- Business communications
- Operations management
- International accounting
The program introduces students to a wide array of topics and concepts. Upon graduation, they are ready for entry-level, as well as more advanced accounting and business roles, and the required industry certifications that come along with these positions. Accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the Collat School of Business is one of only 5% of business schools to attain this distinction.
On average, it takes students four years to complete the program. Upon graduation, they can enter the job market and pursue a variety of roles. Graduates of bachelor’s-level accounting degree programs can also choose to enroll in a master’s program, which usually takes an additional two years to complete.
What jobs are available for graduates?
There are several main career opportunities that graduates with bachelor’s accounting degrees can consider. Salaries vary according to the industry, the type and size of business, and the tasks and responsibilities that come along with the role.
Entry-level positions will typically have lower starting salaries, typically around $40,000 to $50,000 annually, according to Chron Small Business. Professionals with certain accounting certifications and more years of experience in the field can expect to earn higher salaries.
Let’s take a look at a few of the accounting jobs available to graduates with bachelor’s degrees in accounting, as well as median salaries and requirements for these roles.
Staff accountant and auditor
These are common career paths for students studying for a bachelor’s in accounting degree to consider, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) categorizes these roles as having similar responsibilities and earning power.
Staff accountants earned a median annual wage of $70,500 as of May 2018, according to the BLS. However, salaries vary by industry.
The majority of staff accountants and auditors work in the accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll services industry — the BLS notes that 24% of all accountants work in this sector. Other opportunities also exist in finance and insurance, government agencies, and internally within enterprise accounting departments. Overall, about 7% of accountants are self-employed.
Entry-level accountants can expect to earn closer to $43,650 annually. Additional experience, as well as the type of industry, can enable accountants to earn higher salaries: The BLS found that accountants working in finance and insurance earn the most, around $74,690 annually. Accountants who work internally within enterprise departments typically earn $73,180 annually and those working in the tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll services sector generally earn $70,640. Government accountants and auditors earned a median annual wage of $68,420 in 2018.
Most employers of accountants and auditors require at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting, or a related field. While not an industry requirement, the BLS notes that accountants who hold certification can improve their chances for employment and higher salaries. Becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) are common paths of advancement for accountants and auditors.
The job outlook for this career is positive: BLS researchers forecast a 6% rise, with more than 90,000 positions expected to be created from 2018 to 2028.
The financial analyst role is another option for those with a bachelor’s in accounting. Salaries in 2018 were typically $85,660 for financial analysts. Most professionals in this role work full time, with some working more than 40 hours a week, depending on their clients’ needs.
Financial analysts play a particularly important role in their organizations, and are responsible for evaluating financial data, recommending potential investments, maintaining the company portfolio, and examining records to discern the business’ financial condition and overall value. These professionals may also help guide executives’ decisions related to financial investments and other monetary prospects, and assess the overall strength of the management team.
Overall, entry-level positions for financial analysts typically pay $52,540, but there is room for advancement in salary. The BLS notes that top-earning financial analysts took home $167,420 in median annual wages in 2018.
Many financial analysts work in the securities, commodity contracts, and financial investment sector, with 23% of all professionals working in this capacity in 2018. The BLS found that this industry also offers financial analysts some of the highest earning job opportunities, with approximately $101,410 in median annual wages.
Other financial analysts work in the professional, scientific, and technical services fields. These individuals typically earn slightly less, with the average salary of $84,540 in 2018. Financial analysts are also in demand in the enterprise sector, credit intermediation services, and insurance industry. Those working internally in enterprise organizations can expect to earn $83,640, whereas professionals in the credit intermediation and insurance industries typically earn $81,420 and $78,870, respectively.
The majority of financial analyst positions require a bachelor’s degree. Similar to opportunities for accountants and auditors, though, financial analysts can boost their chances of employment and compensation with a professional certification such as the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) from the CFA Institute. In addition, financial analysts considering a position selling financial products must first earn their license from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.
The emerging job outlook for financial analysts is expected to grow 6%, about as fast as average, from 2018 to 2028. The BLS predicts a 20,300 job employment change for this role during this time period.
Professionals in this role — sometimes referred to as cost accountants — are responsible for collecting and analyzing an array of data related to time, money, labor, materials, and other resources required to create a product or support a service.
Most cost estimators or cost accountants specialize in the products or services of a specific industry, such as manufacturing, automotive repair, or engineering. Similar to the other roles discussed here, salaries vary depending upon years of experience and the industry.
Most employers require at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related area. However, the BLS notes that accountants with several years of experience may qualify for this role, even without a degree in accounting. According to the BLS, the lowest-earning cost estimators saw a median annual wage of $38,060 in 2018, with the top 10% earning more than $107,940.
The majority of professionals in this role (35%) work for specialty trade contractors. About 18% help with cost estimation in the building construction sector; another 12% hold positions in the manufacturing industry; and 7% work in automotive repair and maintenance. Organizations in the heavy and civil engineering industry employ about 6% of all cost estimators.
Despite providing work for the lowest percentage of all professionals, cost estimators in the heavy and civil engineering sector earned the most in 2018, with BLS reporting a median annual salary of $73,040. Those working in building construction typically earn $68,310 annually, and cost estimators in specialty trade contractor organizations usually earn $64,620. Finally, positions in the manufacturing and automotive repair sectors pay the lowest, with cost accountants earning annual median wages of $61,320 and $55,110, respectively.
Demand for cost estimators is increasing, with a faster-than-average job growth outlook expected through 2028. The BLS predicts that there will be about 18,700 positions needing to be filled from 2018 to 2028.
The role of budget analyst is another career possibility for individuals with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. Rather than analyzing an organization’s financial status and guiding investment opportunities, budget analysts help businesses maintain an organized budget that takes into account spending and other needs.
Budget analysts review budget proposals from department leaders and combine separate departmental budgets into a comprehensive financial report for the organization. In addition, these professionals explain funding requests, assist managers and executives with proposed budget plans, and monitor the business’ spending to ensure it remains on track with the budget.
The BLS found that budget analysts earned a median annual wage of about $76,220 in 2018. The lowest paying opportunities for budget analysts offer a median salary of $49,860, but the top 10% of professionals in this role earned more than $116,300 last year.
The largest employer of budget analysts includes federal government institutions. About 21% of all professionals work for the federal government, and on average earn $82,200 in annual median wages.
Another top employer is organizations in the state, local, and private education sector. percent of budget analysts currently work in this industry. These roles generally pay a little less, with an average annual salary of $66,350 reported in 2018.
Other opportunities for budget analysts exist in the professional, scientific, and technical services sector — and these are also the highest paying roles. The BLS found that about 11% of budget analysts worked in this industry last year, and typically earned about $83,890 annually.
A combined 21% of budget analyst professionals work in the state and local government, excluding hospitals and education institutions. These are mid-level roles as far as salary, and those considering working for state or local government can expect to earn $65,420 to $71,420 annually.
The BLS predicts approximately 2,400 budget analyst positions will be created from 2018 to 2028, contributing to a 4% job growth outlook.
This is one of the highest-earning roles for graduates of accounting programs. At the same time, though, employers also have more robust employment requirements — including several years of experience in the field — for financial manager candidates.
The BLS reports that in 2018, financial managers earned a median annual wage of $127,990. As of May 2018, the lowest 10% of financial managers (in terms of pay) earned $67,620 annually, with the top 10% earning $208,000 annually or more.
These professionals create financial reports, guide company investments, establish strategies to support businesses’ long-term financial goals, and oversee all of the aspects of a company’s financial health. This also extends to monitoring financial activities to ensure compliance with legal standards; supervising other accounting, budgeting, financial preparation, and reporting employees; analyzing marketing trends and supporting financial decision-making; and reviewing past financial reports to pinpoint ways the business can reduce operating costs.
Most financial managers (30%) work in the financial and insurance industries, and in 2018, these professionals earned an average salary of $124,250. Other top employers include businesses in the enterprise sector, government agencies and manufacturing, as well as professional, scientific, and technical services.
Financial managers hired by organizations in the scientific and technical services field earned the most, with an average annual salary of $151,610. Those working in the enterprise sector usually earn about $143,560, and financial managers in manufacturing earn $127,710 on average annually. Government agency positions pay the least relative to other top employers — financial managers working for government institutions earned $112,830 in wages annually last year.
The demand for financial manager professionals is higher than any other career opportunity discussed here, with a 16% job growth outlook forecast from 2018 to 2028, which is much faster than average. Over that period, 104,700 positions will open for financial managers.
Bachelor’s in accounting salary: Preparing for your career
The employment opportunities and potential salaries for graduates who hold a degree in accounting are incredibly varied. Professionals can choose roles that include an array of different responsibilities — from analyzing a company’s financial situation to planning its budget and beyond.
As professionals build up years of experience in entry-level accounting roles and other financial-focused accounting jobs, they expand their capabilities and skills, and can earn higher salaries.
The first step, though, is earning a degree in accounting from an accredited program like the Online Bachelor of Science in Accounting from the University of Alabama at Birmingham Collat School of Business. To find out more, check out our program page on our website and reach out to one of our expert enrollment advisors today.