An accounting major pursuing an online bachelor’s degree through the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Collat School of Business may have many options for entry level employment following graduation. A bachelor’s degree in accounting may open the door to advancement opportunities for emerging professionals as they gain work experience and expand their accounting skill set.
Carefully thinking about potential career paths will benefit you at the beginning of your university experience and throughout your working life. Below you’ll find a detailed overview of career options to consider, along with answers to some frequently asked questions about accounting degree jobs and career possibilities.
As an accounting clerk, you’d likely work with the accounting manager or bookkeeper on staff at your organization. You might take on a specific aspect of your company’s financials, like accounts receivable, payroll, or purchasing. In some cases, a more specific job title like accounts receivable clerk may help clarify your responsibilities. You may track transactions, accounts, loans, and billing vouchers, and care for your organization’s financial records according to company policy.
This is a suitable role for entry-level professionals, and although a college degree is not always required, a Bachelor of Science in Accounting can set you apart from the competition.
Another one of the most accessible accounting degree jobs for recent graduates is bookkeeping. In this role, you’ll most likely work within the bookkeeping or accounting department at a private company, nonprofit organization, or government agency.
You will oversee the cash flow of the organization, managing accounts payable and accounts receivable, or how payments are made to and from your company. You’ll also hold the responsibility of ensuring all employees receive the correct pay at the appropriate time. Working closely with your company’s CPA, you will also ensure the compliance and completeness of tax records.
Unlike the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) role, you will not need a state-issued certification to begin working as a bookkeeper. While most employers look for a bachelor’s degree in accounting and some related experience, the bookkeeper role can be a solid entry-level job with growth potential.
Certified Public Accountant
A popular path for someone with an accounting degree is the Certified Public Accountant role. As a CPA at an accounting firm, you may work with a list of clients including companies, individuals, and government agencies. You’ll be responsible for providing accounting, tax, financial reporting, and auditing services to these clients. During tax season, you will work closely with financial statements and help clients prepare to file their tax returns. Throughout the year, you will adhere to generally accepted accounting principles (GAAPs) in everything you do.
You will need to pass the CPA exam prior to getting a job in public accounting. The prerequisites vary from state to state, so it’s important to check your state’s board of public accountancy to see how you can prepare. In some cases, a bachelor’s degree in accounting will be sufficient. Elsewhere, you may need to complete a master’s degree in accounting as well. Once employed as a CPA, you will need to keep up with any regulatory changes that may affect your clients. You will usually need to renew your license through continuing education programs.
Tax accountants typically hold a CPA license, but compared to most CPAs they have an important and specialized role in the accounting industry. In many cases, preparing tax documents while adhering to applicable tax laws can be incredibly complex and challenging. For this reason, clients including large corporations and high net worth individuals actively seek out knowledgeable tax accountants.
As a tax accountant, you’ll organize, prepare, and file tax documents for your clients. You may also strategize ways to reduce, defer, or consolidate tax obligations and work with corporate management to come up with taxation strategies.
If you’re interested in becoming an auditor, you can choose to work in one of two capacities. External auditors are employed by a third-party agency, whereas internal auditors work in house at an organization. In both roles, you would be responsible for inspecting financial documents to ensure that everything is compliant with GAAP standards and that there are no signs of mismanagement of funds or fraudulent activity. If you’re interested in information systems and computer technology, you could specialize as an IT auditor and manage the controls for the financial software and data that your client or company relies on.
For accounting professionals with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and at least two years of auditing experience, the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) offers a variety of auditing certifications, including the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) designation. Although certifications are not required, and the auditing profession is not regulated, the IIA reports that a credential can increase your earning potential by as much as 51%.
Also called a cost accountant, a management accountant will work for a private company with the primary duty of generating and examining financial documents. The reports that management accountants prepare are often created to help decision-makers, including financial managers and the organization’s chief financial officer, make strategic decisions around budgeting, risk management, and investing.
With a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a minimum of two years of related work experience in management accounting, a professional accountant can take an exam to become a Certified Management Accountant (CMA) through the Institute of Management Accountants.
In the field of forensic accounting, you will have the chance to put your knowledge of accounting and finance to good use by detecting fraudulent attempts or activities. As a forensic accountant, you may assist police departments, government agencies, insurance companies, banks, and other organizations in identifying and examining suspicious financial activity. You will also be responsible for providing forensic evidence as an expert witness in court.
Forensic accountants often work in a collaborative environment where group problem solving and communication are important skills to master. To be successful in this role, you must also be skilled as an information gatherer and investigator. Many employers will require that you hold a CPA license as well.
As a financial analyst, also called an investment analyst or securities analyst, you will help organizations and individual clients make solid investment decisions. It will be your responsibility to study historical financial and economic trends and stay abreast of industry news to make the best possible investing recommendations. By doing this, you will help your clients grow their investment portfolios.
While this is a finance job rather than an accounting role, you can still pursue a career as a financial analyst with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting. In some analyst jobs, you will be involved in selling investment products directly, which means you will also need to become licensed. However, this is something that employers will often support and sponsor.
Personal financial advisor
If you’re interested in working with people, you might consider a position as a personal financial advisor. Personal financial advisors offer their clients financial planning services, advising them on how to establish and work toward long-term financial goals. This can include making savings and retirement plans, investing, estate planning, filing taxes, and meeting financial obligations for debts, loans, and mortgages.
A bachelor’s degree in accounting can prepare you for the day-to-day responsibilities of a personal financial advisor. If your job involves selling investment products, you will need to earn a license to do so, but this is something you can work toward as your career progresses. You may also earn an optional Certified Financial Planner (CFP) certification with at least three years of work experience.
FAQs about accounting degree jobs
Now that you are familiar with a variety of possible accounting degree jobs, we can address some frequently asked questions about job prospects for accounting degree holders.
How much can you earn with an accounting degree?
The average salary for each of the aforementioned accounting degree jobs will vary depending on the level of experience and a number of other factors. However, the accounting field can be lucrative for professionals with the right educational background and skill set. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for all accountants and auditors in May 2018 was $70,500.
What is the employment landscape for accounting degree jobs?
Accounting and finance roles are among the top 10 hardest positions for companies around the world to fill, according to the 2018 Talent Shortage Survey by the ManpowerGroup. In the U.S., the accounting job market remains dynamic. The accounting and auditing fields are expected to grow at a rate of 6% between 2018 and 2028, which is on pace with the national average across all occupations, according to the BLS.
Can you get a finance job with an accounting degree, and vice versa?
An accounting degree can be a versatile choice that can open the door to a wide variety of career opportunities. While accounting and finance have their differences, they are both critical to business administration and rely on a similar set of quantitative reasoning and communication skills. With a bachelor’s degree in accounting, you can pursue finance jobs as well as accounting and auditing positions.
Launch your career with an online Bachelor of Science in Accounting from UAB
At UAB, students pursuing the online Bachelor of Science in Accounting benefit from a well-rounded curriculum that includes topics such as International Accounting and Internal Auditing along with financial coursework. This includes a three-part Financial Accounting course series as well as upper-level core courses like Fundamentals of Financial Management. Students can choose an Accounting Capstone project and undertake internships in the field of their choice.
With an online accounting degree from UAB, you’ll gain a variety of useful knowledge that many employers actively seek. An online Bachelor of Science in Accounting through UAB’s Collat School of Business can be the first step toward a rewarding career in the field of accounting. To learn more about UAB’s accounting programs, contact an enrollment advisor today.