What Can I Do with a Degree in Accounting?

Learn more about what you can do with a degree in accounting. Find information on accounting careers, salary, job outlook, and schools. View popular schools that prepare students for careers in accounting.


The range of jobs available to accountants is numerous, and the type of work that accountants perform is much more than simply counting beans. Governments and corporations rely on accountants to ensure that the organization operates smoothly, that tax records are accurate (and taxes paid), that budgets are met, and often call upon accountants to analyze data and trends for investment purposes. Accountants are even called upon to sift through financial data like a detective, helping solve white-collar crime. No longer chained to reams of paper balance sheets, accountants utilize technology to streamline the record-keeping process. Some accountants have even developed computer software for financial analysis. What most accountants have in common is a Bachelor’s Degree in accounting, or similar area, while some hold Master’s Degrees in Accounting or an MBA. Those wishing to advance in their career to senior management levels must become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). CPA certification requires additional coursework, the passage of a national exam and licensing by the State. Any accountant wishing to file a report to the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) must be a CPA.


In the field of accounting, there are four major and distinct disciplines. Public accounting is perhaps the most wide-ranging area. Individuals may find themselves working for corporations, nonprofits, individuals or the government and performing any number of accounting, tax, or auditing services. Many public accountants are CPAs, and many are self-employed. Management accounting involves the financial information for a corporation. These individuals prepare budgets, cost management reports, and financial reports. Government accounting includes those working in the public sector, on state, local or federal level. These accountants maintain government’s financial records, audit business or individuals, and track revenue. The Internal Revenue Service employs many accountants. Finally, internal auditing positions the accountant as a financial watchdog for a company. Auditors ensure that a company’s financial house is in order, that fraud is not being perpetrated, and that the organization operates efficiently. Accountants have a plethora of options to choose from, and most employed accountants are employed in office-settings, working a standard 40-hour week, although many CPAs work long hours during tax season.

Industry Salary Info

In 2008, the typical accountant earned approximately $60,000. Junior accountants at the bottom of the ladder earned less than $36,000 annually, but the top ten percent in the field earned over $100,000. Frequently, an accountant’s pay is based upon education level. For example, the National Association of Colleges and Employers reported that, in 2009, individuals with a Bachelor’s Degree were offered jobs with an average starting salary of $48,993. Those holding a Master’s Degree or MBA initially were offered $49,786 per year. Accountants working for state or local government had, on average, the lowest median income, between $50,000 and $54,000 annually. Accountants working for large corporations such as in the insurance industry, or those in management firms, in general earned around the national average. The highest paid accountants in the industry were perhaps those in the least glamorous positions. The average, over-worked bookkeeper, tax preparer or payroll accountant took home $61,480.

Job Outlook

Over the next decade, opportunities for accountants to find employment should be quite favorable. Those individuals with CPA certification will have the greatest chances of finding a good job. On average, it has been estimated that the need for accountants will grow 22 percent in the near future, a rate of growth far better than the national average. Increased government regulation of business, increased corporate accountability and an increase in the number of businesses created will all create large demand for accountants and auditors. Business will only grow more complex, financial information will only continue to grow, and the need to ensure that financial transactions are legal and transparent require the services of accountants. Proficiency in computer software, especially accounting software, is advantageous for the prospective accountant. Further, accountants can no longer be solitary auditors, slaving over balance sheets. Most employers require interpersonal skills, as accountants often work in teams.

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