*Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks, on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/bookkeeping-accounting-and-auditing-clerks.htm (visited March 24, 2022).
A traditional bachelor’s degree in accounting, sought by taking courses on-campus, generally takes four years to complete. Online programs are comparable. As long as students are enrolled full-time, a 120 credit hour accounting degree can usually be completed in an average of four years. Individuals pursuing an online bachelor’s degree in accounting on a part-time basis, however, should expect it to take longer. In most cases, these students will graduate in five to eight years.
The cost of an accounting bachelor’s degree varies significantly between institutions. According to the College Board’s Trends in Higher Education Series, the average in-state tuition for a four-year, public education was $9,970 in 2017-18. Students who enrolled at a four-year, private college or university paid an average tuition of $35,260 in 2017-18. Of course, these totals increase significantly when fees, room, and board are included.
Course titles will vary significantly, but the coursework for an accounting bachelor’s degree often includes topics such as:
Another important consideration is the list of majors the college or university offers. While many institutions have accounting programs, not all of them do. Some schools offer business degrees instead but provide students the opportunity to select an accounting concentration. In most cases, graduate accounting program boards consider this enough prior experience in the field. Additionally, most state accountancy boards accept both accounting and business degrees as long as the completed coursework aligns with their CPA content requirements.
Before selecting a college or university, students should also inquire about the typical graduation rate and timeframe. Often, this information can be found on institution websites. Alternatively, speaking directly with the accounting degree program can offer great insight on this matter. The department will have specific information regarding average time of completion, graduation rates, employment success, and starting salaries.
Accreditation is another factor. Every college and university has the opportunity to have their programs accredited by an international or regional accreditation agency. This process confirms that an institution and its offered coursework adhere to specific, standard guidelines within a particular field. The most prominent international accreditation organizations are:
Of these, the AACSB is, by far, the most prestigious. This agency’s accreditation standards are high, but institutions that opt to undergo the rigorous accreditation process offer some of the best accounting programs available. Individuals seeking an online accounting degree should give colleges and university accredited by the DETC preference, as the AACSB rarely accredits distance-learning or online programs.
Alternatively, students can consider institutions accredited by a regional accrediting agency. These organizations ensure that accounting programs meet the standards of a particular area. Those who intend to remain relatively local after graduation should have the knowledge and skills necessary to work professionally within the accreditation region. Regional accrediting agencies include:
Finding a professional position after graduating from an accounting degree program can be daunting. This is why some colleges and universities offer post-graduate job placement assistance. While these programs cannot guarantee job placement, they do provide career support services. Resources commonly offered are resume writing assistance, interview preparation, and career coaching. Many colleges and universities help with job placement by hosting career fairs, professional workshops, and campus employer visits throughout the year. Students who want to have additional support leading up to, and after graduation should look for an institution that offers this type of program.
Professional accounting salaries vary quite drastically based on a number of different factors. Location, job title, and level of education all play a significant role in determining what an individual will earn each year. Additionally, school rating and accreditation standing impact pay. Employers prefer to hire accountants who received their education from colleges and universities that are highly regarded and appropriately accredited. While these two elements may not prevent a person from being selected for a position, they can result in decreased pay. For this reason, it is important to carefully consider a schools rating and accreditation before selecting and enrolling in an accounting degree program.
The first thing you should look for in a college or university accounting program is accreditation. As previously mentioned, an institution’s accreditation status demonstrates whether or not the offered coursework adheres to national or regional standards. Selecting a college or university without proper accreditation can result in many problems, including denial of employer tuition assistance, inability to transfer credits, inability to apply for financial aid, and insufficient prerequisites for graduate school.
Fortunately, most schools are accredited. The most important factor is determining which agency the institution in question received accreditation from. Some schools market themselves as accredited, but it may not be with an acceptable organization. Always take time to identify which agency a college or university is accredited by before applying. Checking your state’s CPA requirements is also imperative, as the accountancy board has likely designated which accreditation organizations are acceptable and which are not.