Degree Definition & Program Overview 

There’s an old saying that goes something like this: There are only two things that are certain in life-death and taxes. For the first, the best advice we can offer is to eat well, exercise regularly, and visit your doctor frequently. For the second, we say this: Find a good accountant and let him or her worry about the rest.

Indeed, there are many more similarities between doctors and accountants than most people realize. The biggest one, however, is that they both get to know their clients (or patients) intimately, and spend their professional careers trying to make their lives as easy and as pain -free as possible. It is difficult, then, to overstate the importance of accountants to both the success of corporations and individuals.

“Accountants provide the information necessary to determine and evaluate the present and projected economic activities of organizations. They provide financial services to individuals, business entities, not-for-profit organizations, and government at all levels. Professional accountants develop and apply their skills in auditing, taxation, management policy, information systems, computer operations, and many other areas.”

Niche Areas

While it may seem as if accounting is limited to a few specific areas of specialization, the fact is that there are any number of areas in which accounting students may specialize. They include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Tax planning
  • Tax preparation
  • Managerial accounting
  • Cost accounting
  • Governmental accounting
  • Auditing
  • International accounting
  • Corporate and partnership tax

Types Of Associate, Undergraduate & Graduate Programs Available 

An associate’s degree in accounting will prepare you for further study in the field. And while you may not necessarily find work as an accountant after having simply earned your associate’s, you will be well prepared to pursue your education in the field further. A bachelor’ s degree often leads to work in corporations or in private firms, and graduate degrees are generally for those whose careers demand higher levels of understanding of specific aspects of the field, or for those who wish to pursue either research or college-level teaching. In order to practice accounting, however, you must pass the Uniform Certified Public Accountants Exam in addition to earning your degree. See, it’s just like being a doctor, save perhaps another five or so years of schooling.

Typical Admissions Requirements 

A strong background in mathematics and the ability to understand specific sets of rules are useful skills. Also, a basic understanding of the ways in which businesses work is helpful, too. However, just as important as this is a willingness to work hard at understanding the often minute details that accounting students have to deal with. That, and an enthusiasm for the work, are keys to success.

An associate’s degree is a good introduction to the field, and while it will probably not lead directly to a job as an accountant, it will provide an excellent base from which to pursue the field further. Bachelor’s degrees often lead to the taking of the CPA Exam and eventual work in the field, and graduate study is generally for those who wish to either work at the highest levels of the field (though it is not at all necessary for that) or who wish to conduct high-level research or to teach the subject at a college or university.

Careers In This Field

“Accountants and auditors held about 1.2 million jobs in 2004. They worked throughout private industry and government, but 1 out of 4 wage and salary accountants worked for accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll services firms. Approximately 1 out of 10 accountants or auditors was self-employed.

Many accountants and auditors are unlicensed management accountants, internal auditors, or government accountants and auditors; however, a large number are licensed CPAs [Certified Public Accountants]. Most accountants and auditors work in urban areas, where public accounting firms and central or regional offices of businesses are concentrated.

Some individuals with backgrounds in accounting and auditing are full-time college and university faculty; others teach part-time while working as self-employed accountants or as accountants for private industry or government.”

More specifically, there are any number of career options available to graduates of accounting programs. They include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Actuary
  • International Trade Specialist
  • Certified Public Accountant
  • Bank Examiner
  • Controller
  • Professor
  • Stockbroker
  • Financial Analyst
  • Auditor
  • Loan Administrator

Salary Ranges In This Field 

“Median annual wage and salary earnings of accountants and auditors were $50,770 in May 2004. The middle half of the occupation earned between $39,890 and $66,900. The top 10 percent of accountants and auditors earned more than $88,610, and the bottom 10 percent earned less than $32,320.

According to a salary survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, bachelor’s degree candidates in accounting received starting offers averaging $43,269 a year in 2005; master’s degree candidates in accounting were offered $46,251 initially.

According to a 2005 salary survey conducted by Robert Half International, a staffing services firm specializing in accounting and finance, accountants and auditors with up to 1 year of experience earned between $28,250 and $45,000 a year. Those with 1 to 3 years of experience earned between $33,000 and $52,000. Senior accountants and auditors earned between $40,750 and $69,750, managers between $48,000 and $90,000 , and directors of accounting and auditing between $64,750 and $200,750. The variation in salaries reflects differences in size of firm, location, level of education, and professional credentials.

In the Federal Government, the starting annual salary for junior accountants and auditors was $24,677 in 2005. Candidates who had a superior academic record might start at $30,567, while applicants with a master’s degree or 2 years of professional experience usually began at $37, 390. Beginning salaries were slightly higher in selected areas where the prevailing local pay level was higher. Accountants employed by the Federal Government in nonsupervisory, supervisory, and managerial positions averaged $74,907 a year in 2005; auditors averaged $78,890″ 

Future Outlook 

“Employment of accountants and auditors is expected to grow faster than average for all occupations through the year 2014. An increase in the number of businesses, changing financial laws and regulations, and increased scrutiny of company finances will drive growth. In addition to openings resulting from growth, the need to replace accountants and auditors who retire or transfer to other occupations will produce numerous job openings in this large occupation.

As the economy grows, the number of business establishments will increase, requiring more accountants and auditors to set up books, prepare taxes, and provide management advice. As these businesses grow, the volume and complexity of information developed by accountants and auditors regarding costs, expenditures, and taxes will increase as well. An increased need for accountants and auditors will arise from changes in legislation related to taxes, financial reporting standards, business investments, mergers, and other financial events. The growth of international business also has led to more demand for accounting expertise and services related to international trade and accounting rules, as well as to international mergers and acquisitions. These trends should create more jobs for accountants and auditors.”

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