Accounting programs are academic programs that result in an accounting degree. Accounting programs are available for associate’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees, and master’s degrees. Associate’s degree programs typically take two years, bachelor’s degree programs typically take three years, and master’s degree programs typically take another two years. A bachelor’s degree is required before earning a master’s degree. Sometimes one can earn an associate’s degree first, then transfer to a bachelor’s degree program and finish in another two years. Often it is less expensive to take courses at a community college or technical school than at a traditional college, which is why earning an associate’s degree before a bachelor’s degree appeals to some students.
- A master’s degree accounting program will focus on a particular aspect of accounting, whereas associate’s degree programs and bachelor’s degree programs will be more general in focus and may also require some courses outside of the accounting field.
- A graduate from an accounting program will be prepared to work in the accounting field. A wide range of positions fall within this category. The higher the degree, the better-paying and more complex future work is likely to be. For example, someone with a master’s degree in accounting will likely earn more than someone with an associate’s degree in accounting. Job duties will also be much more complex for someone with a master’s degree.
Job prospects for those who earn associate’s degrees in accounting programs include bookkeeping and working as a clerk of accounts payable or accounts receivable.
Job prospects for those who have graduated from a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree accounting program include auditing and working as an accountant for the government, an accounting firm, or internally for another organization. Accountants are responsible for documenting financial transactions and ensuring that all financial transactions take place legally. Some accountants also have a consulting role and assist their employers or clients in creating a budget that allows for maximum profits and abides by all legal processes.
Accounting programs teach math, statistics, business, finance, economics, and taxes. Some courses will relate directly to preparing financial documents, and others will indirectly inform future decisions about how to advise clients or an employer.
Qualities of a Successful Accounting Student
Successful accounting students possess a wide skill set. The same skills that lead to your success in the classroom will also lead to your success in the accounting field. Use your accounting program to discover which skills you need to improve.
Accountants need to have a fine sense of detail.
When you are working in the field, you will be going over the minutiae of your client’s financial documents. While some people find this work tedious, it is important that you can ensure that every small detail of your client’s financial transactions is accurate. While you are a student, you will need to pay attention to the details in your math and statistics classes to prevent avoidable mistakes in problem sets. If you find yourself making careless errors, plan to improve your concentration.
Accountants also need strong analytical skills. As an accountant, you will be called upon to advise your clients or employers on ways to improve their budgets to save money and increase profits. You will need to take quantitative data and draw conclusions on how to allocate funds to better run an organization. Again, the math and statistics classes you take during an accounting program will help you prepare to complete financial analyses, as will your business and economics classes.
Some of your course work will be more technical in nature than theoretical. As a student in an accounting program, you will be taught how to use software that you will need in the working world. Staying up to date on technology is imperative to be a successful accountant. The computer programs that accountants use evolve, so you will need to adapt to technological changes easily. As you learn accounting software as a student, pay attention to how you learn to ensure that you can learn new programs quickly once you are working.
Successful accountants also need good communication skills. You will need to explain your financial analyses to your clients in a way that they can understand. Some clients will have a background in finance, but others may not, and you need to be sure they understand why you are making particular recommendations. Your communication skills will also help you interact well professionally with your clients, supervisors, and colleagues. Having good communication skills will help you network, which can help you find a job and receive promotions. Many accounting programs require students to take some humanities courses that help build strong communication skills. Although these courses may not seem to pertain directly to accounting, the skills you develop in these courses will help you advance your career.
During your accounting program, you will likely take some courses on tax law that will encompass how to be sure your accounting work is done ethically and legally. Accountants need to have a high sense of ethics and integrity to do their jobs correctly. As an accountant, you will need to stay up to date on changing tax laws and ethical trends in the industry. Your clients are counting on you to be sure that their financial transactions are documented legally and that they are paying the proper amount of taxes.
As you complete your accounting program, pay attention to which skills come naturally to you and which you need to improve. Concentrate on fine-tuning those skills on which you need to improve while you are still a student so that when it comes time to search for a job, you are ready.
Accounting Programs Guide
When you decide to earn an accounting degree, you will need to consider many things as you pick the accounting program that is right for you. First, determine what type of degree you want. If you want to earn an associate’s degree, you can participate in an accounting program at a technical school, but if you want to earn a bachelor’s degree, you will need to attend a traditional college. Traditional colleges may offer different resources and opportunities outside of the classroom to their students than technical schools do, so be sure to take into account your entire experience as a student when you choose what type of accounting program to attend.
Some traditional colleges offer accounting programs that are accredited, and others do not. Accreditation simply means that a professional organization has bestowed a distinction upon an accounting program to honor its academic merit. Attending an accredited accounting program will ensure that you will receive a good education from an institution with plenty of resources to help its students succeed after graduation. Employers will pay attention to whether your accounting program is accredited, too. Having a degree from an accredited accounting program will make you a more marketable job applicant after you graduate.
Other factors that affect your lifestyle outside of academia will also influence your choice of an accounting program. Think about where you would like to live. You may prefer to attend an accounting program that is close to home, or your may prefer to move across the country. Completing an accounting program can take anywhere from two to five years depending on the program you choose, so make sure you pick a program in a place where you would enjoy living.
The cost of attending an accounting program can vary greatly. Accounting programs at technical schools usually cost less than accounting programs at traditional colleges, but your career prospects will be broader with a bachelor’s degree from a traditional college than with an associate’s degree from a technical school. However, if you decide to earn an associate’s degree first, you can still pursue a bachelor’s degree afterward. You can transfer your credits from an associate’s degree to most traditional colleges and finish a bachelor’s degree accounting program in an additional two years. That way, you can earn a bachelor’s degree at a lower cost.
Choosing a Program
Many factors will come into play when you choose an accounting program. You will need to consider academics as well as your quality of life while you are a student. Location and cost will also play a role in your decision.
As you explore your options, think about what you want to learn from your accounting program. If you have a particular area of interest, look for schools that have professors with experience either working or performing research in those areas. If you are not sure yet which aspects of accounting are the most important to you, choose a program that will provide a diverse range of course work so that you can try out different things to determine your interests.
Also think about how your accounting program can assist you in your accounting career when you graduate. Many accounting programs offer career assistance including help with resumes and interviews, as well as opportunities to network with accounting firms. Some accounting programs also provide assistance in finding an internship while you are still a student. An internship is a great way to gain work experience in accounting that will improve your marketability when you graduate and give you a chance to learn about accounting hands-on.
The cost of tuition can vary greatly depending on the accounting program you choose. Generally, public universities cost less than private universities if you are looking for a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree accounting program. Tuition at a community college for an associate’s degree accounting program will likely be more affordable than tuition at a university. You may be eligible to receive financial aid depending on your need or on merit. Also take into account your career prospects after completing the various accounting programs that you are considering. You may need loans to pay for an accounting program, but if your career prospects are good, you will be able to repay those loans after graduation.
You may want to attend an accounting program close to home, or you may want to move across the country to experience a new place while you attend an accounting program. Although not directly related to the quality of your degree, the location of your accounting program will affect your quality of life. Travel can also add to your educational expenses.
Accounting Programs’ Accreditation
Some accounting programs have accreditation, and others do not. Accreditation is an acknowledgement by a professional organization of a program’s academic merit. The organizations that grant accounting programs accreditation are the International Assembly for College Business Education (IACBE), the Association for Advancing Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), and the Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP).
The accreditation process can take a long time, so fairly new accounting programs may not be accredited yet. An accounting program can be a member of any of these professional organizations without being accredited. An accounting program also may have its accreditation pending. Some universities are accredited even though their accounting programs are not, so be sure to note this difference as you apply to accounting programs.
Gaining a membership in the IACBE, the AACSB, or the ACBSP is the first step toward gaining accreditation. Next, an accounting program must apply for its accreditation candidacy. With the assistance of the professional organization, the accounting program develops a plan and schedule for accreditation. This plan may include improvements to the accounting program that need to be accomplished in a set amount of time. Accreditation is based on an accounting program’s academic achievements. This includes research and publications that have bettered the field of accounting. Other factors that affect an accounting program’s candidacy for accreditation include resources available to students and the effectiveness of the accounting program’s administration. Essentially, accreditation shows that an accounting program provides an excellent education for its students.
When the set schedule for accreditation is over, a committee from the IACBE, AACSB, or ACBSP reviews the accounting program to determine if accreditation has been earned.
Pay attention to whether an accounting program has accreditation as you research your options. Accreditation not only ensures that you will receive a quality education, but also gives your degree weight once you graduate and begin to look for employment. Potential employers will pay attention to whether your accounting program has accreditation. You will be a more marketable job applicant if your accounting degree is from an accredited program than if it is from one that has yet to gain accreditation. Graduating from an accredited accounting program shows that because you have been exposed to academic achievements in accounting, you are more likely to contribute other advancements to the field throughout your career.
Time Commitment for Accounting Programs
The amount of time it takes to complete an accounting program depends on a variety of factors. The primary factor is what kind of degree you pursue. On a typical schedule for a full-time student, accounting degrees can take anywhere from two to seven years.
The shortest time commitment required for an accounting program is two years for an associate’s degree. A bachelor’s degree accounting program typically takes four years, and a master’s degree accounting program can take anywhere from one to three years. So, if you stop after earning your associate’s degree in accounting, you will spend about two years completing your program. If you pursue a bachelor’s degree and then a master’s degree on top of that, you could spend five to seven years completing your accounting programs.
If you complete a two-year associate’s degree accounting program and wish to obtain a bachelor’s degree in accounting, you can transfer your college credits to most bachelor’s degree accounting programs. It would likely take you another two years to complete your bachelor’s degree, although depending on how many of your community college credits are accepted by your university, it may take three years to complete your bachelor’s degree after earning your associate’s.
How long you take to complete an accounting program also depends on whether you are a full-time or part-time student. Some accounting programs give the option of taking classes in the evening for students with a full-time job during the day. For example, if you only take one class at a time, you may take an extra year or two to complete your program. Whether this is a good option for you depends on your needs and priorities. If you need to spend a certain amount of time earning income and gaining work experience rather than being a full-time student, a part-time program might be right for you. If, on the other hand, you want to complete your degree as quickly as possible, you should enroll as a full-time student. Associate’s degree and master’s degree accounting programs are more likely to offer part-time options than bachelor’s degree accounting programs.
The number of accounting programs you complete and whether you complete them back to back also influences the time commitment for accounting programs. For example, you may complete an associate’s degree accounting program and work as a bookkeeper for a few years after you graduate. After gaining some experience in the work force, you may decide that you want to advance your career and apply to bachelor’s degree accounting programs. Because there was a gap between your associate’s and bachelor’s degrees, you will have completed your bachelor’s degree accounting program later than someone who transferred immediately from a community college to a university accounting program.
The same goes for the transition from a bachelor’s degree accounting program to a master’s degree accounting program. Some people decide to enroll in graduate school as soon as they earn their bachelor’s degree, while others decide to spend some time in the work force first. Spending time in the work force can help you clarify how you want to specialize your graduate studies. However, if you are already sure of your interests and career path, you may want to complete a graduate degree as soon as possible and begin a master’s degree accounting program immediately. Some accounting programs offer dual bachelor’s and master’s degrees to students in five years. This is usually faster than earning a master’s degree separately, which will likely take two or three years.
Technical School vs. Traditional College
You can obtain an accounting degree from either a technical school or a traditional college. Technical schools offer associate’s degree programs, whereas traditional colleges offer bachelor’s degrees. The accounting program that is best for you depends on the time and money you have to put toward your accounting program and what you hope to get out of your program after you graduate.
Associate’s degree accounting programs at a technical school take most people two years to complete. If you want to begin working as soon as possible, you may prefer an associate’s degree. You will learn how to use accounting software to maintain financial documents. You will also learn about tax law and how that affects the cash flow in and out of a business. You may also learn about how to create a sustainable budget. After earning an associate’s degree in an accounting program at a technical school, you will be qualified to seek employment as a bookkeeper or clerk of accounts payable or accounts receivable.
A bachelor’s degree accounting program at a traditional college takes most people four years to complete. While earning your bachelor’s degree in accounting, you will study math, statistics, economics, business, finance, and tax law. A traditional college will also likely require general education requirements in other subject areas aside from the classes you need for your accounting degree. These classes may not only fulfill personal interest, but can also help you gain perspective on your future accounting career. Not all technical schools offer many class options outside of your particular program.
When you complete your bachelor’s degree, you will be eligible for employment as a public accountant, government accountant, auditor, or within another subfield of accounting. Generally, you will have much more leeway with your career after obtaining a bachelor’s degree at a traditional college than you would with an associate’s degree from a technical school. Usually the salaries for accounting careers that require a bachelor’s degree are much higher than the salaries for accounting careers that only mandate an associate’s degree.
Although you are likely to earn more if you have a bachelor’s degree from a traditional college, tuition at a traditional college will also likely cost much more than tuition at a technical school. Keep in mind that not only your yearly tuition will be higher, but that you will be paying for four years of classes instead of two. If you are concerned about the cost of a bachelor’s degree, you can first obtain your associate’s degree and later, if you choose, transfer to a traditional college to earn your bachelor’s and increase your earning potential in the workplace.
Student life at a traditional college is also much different than student life at a technical school. Traditional colleges offer a wide range of extracurricular activities, so you can explore your interests outside of academia as well as in the classroom. You may have the chance to play a sport you have never tried before, attend meetings of social organizations, participate in a theatrical performance, and much more. Some technical schools offer extracurricular activities for their students, but you are likely to find a greater variety of new things to try at a traditional college.
Traditional colleges also offer the option of living on campus. Most students at technical schools live off campus and commute to school. Living on campus offers a chance to feel like a more integral part of the college community. It is also a great opportunity to meet other students and for study groups and social activities. Although some students at traditional colleges choose to live off campus, many enjoy living in the dormitories. However, keep in mind that room and board can be expensive, and living off campus to attend a technical school can save you this cost.
Technical schools and traditional colleges may offer different options for scheduling classes. Some traditional colleges are flexible, but others have rigid requirements about maintaining your status as a full-time student by taking a minimum course load. Large traditional colleges will likely offer courses during the day and in the evenings, but smaller traditional colleges may only be able to offer one or two time slots in which to take the courses you need. Technical schools, on the other hand, can offer more options as far as being enrolled as a full-time or part-time student. If you have family, work, or other commitments outside of school, a technical school may offer more leeway in terms of when you take your classes. You might have more options for night classes if you are busy during the day, and you may be able to take as many or as few classes at a time as you are able.
The Costs of Accounting Programs
One important thing to consider as you contemplate applying to an accounting program is the cost of your education. Generally, attending a community college or technical school is less expensive than attending a traditional college. The tuition at community colleges and technical schools is often less, and since most of these schools are non-residential, many students live at home with their families while they are in school and save on the cost of housing and food. Even if your final goal is to obtain a bachelor’s or master’s degree in accounting, you can still save money by starting your education with an associate’s degree. Once you earn your associate’s degree, you can transfer to a four-year college to earn your bachelor’s degree in accounting in an additional two years. That way, your overall cost of tuition will be less.
When it comes to traditional universities, public universities are usually cheaper than private universities. However, public universities are only less expensive if you live within their jurisdictions. Usually you need to be a resident of a state for a particular amount of time before you qualify for in-state tuition rates at that state’s universities. If you want to attend an accounting program at a public university in a particular state in which you do not currently live, consider moving to that state at least a year before you begin your accounting program. Then you will be eligible for in-state tuition rates and can save money on your education. Sometimes, out-of-state tuition rates are just as high or even higher than the cost of attending a private university.
Aside from tuition, other costs associated with school include textbooks, activity and other administrative fees, and the cost of living. Few students are able to work full-time while they are in school, so you will be living on a limited income. If you are unable to get by without a full-time job, you might consider an online accounting program. You can earn your degree with a flexible schedule that fits your commitments and allows you to maintain a full-time job. The tuition for online programs is usually similar to the tuition for traditional classroom programs. However, you have the opportunity for higher income if you participate in your accounting program online.
The cost of room and board for a traditional accounting program varies based on the program’s location. In some cases, student housing may be your best option, but in other cases, you can save money by living in an apartment off-campus.
Nearly all accounting programs offer financial aid to defer the cost of your education. Financial aid packages have several components. You may be given some grants. Grants are funds that do not need to be repaid and can come from your university or from an outside institution. Your financial aid package may also include work-study funds. Work-study money is money you can earn through employment. You can apply for part-time jobs at your university and your wages from these jobs will be covered by your work-study allotment. There may also be student loans in your financial aid package. Loans are money that is lent to you to pay for school and that you need to repay once you graduate. You can repay your school loans over a period of years, but they will accumulate interest, so the sooner you can pay off your school loans, the better. Many accountants’ salaries are adequate to pay back loans. Here is an excellent guide to student loans and other forms of financial aid: http://www.financialaidtips.org