What is accounting? Is Accounting a good major? Looking to choose one of the top accounting schools in the US? Take a look at this comprehensive and frank examination of the profession of accountancy, the complexities of professional development in the accounting occupation, and what you ought to look for when selecting from the best accounting schools.
Divided into five major sections, this College Choice Guide to Accounting you will provide you with:
What is Accounting?
Accounting is the measurement, processing, and communication of financial information concerning a business or organization. Sometimes referred to as the “language of business,” accounting measures and assesses the economic activities and information of a given organization for several different parties and users, such as creditors, auditors, managers, regulators, the public, and investors.
Divided into several fields, including financial accounting, management accounting, auditing, and tax accounting, accountancy is both diverse and challenging, providing an array of interesting specializations to help individuals and companies manage their financial resources and capital assets. Whether you are interested in pursuing an online accounting degree, a Bachelor’s in Accounting, or a Master’s in Accounting from one of the best accounting schools in the country or locally at a regionally-accredited college or university, the accounting field is a necessity for every kind of business and will remain so for as long as people have money to count.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistic, Accountants and Auditors with the minimum requirement of a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting make a median income of $67,000 in an industry experiencing a faster than average growth rate. But is accounting a good major? Statistics like these make it clear that obtaining an accounting degree will deliver both professional and financial satisfaction; a worker with an accounting degree is an asset for a corporation, large or small.
Career Path Overview
Unsurprisingly, accountants are indispensable for any business venture, making the field of accountancy a solid choice for any student interested in choosing a discipline of study that will provide stability, job security, and upward mobility. While the accounting industry is not known for risky innovation, that doesn’t mean that the industry is not without change.
In recent decades, the areas of forensic accounting and global finance have set new trends and offer exciting opportunities to would-be accountants interested in the cutting-edge of their field. Mainstays, like traditional public accounting or management accounting, are necessary and maintain their relevance as the industry adapts to changes in money management.
If you are interested in becoming an accountant, there is a tried and true career path to follow that should result in landing a well-paying job with options for career advancement, like certifications in field-specific areas that will focus your professional endeavors.
It is extremely unlikely that you will be able to land an accounting job without the necessary schooling for understanding the nuances of the industry and practices in accounting. Whether you are looking to get an accounting degree online or looking to attend one of the top accounting schools, an accounting degree is considered to be an entry-level requirement for employment and will help you gain access to an exciting disciplines of auditing, financial reporting, and taxation.
Below, you will find information about the most popular type of accounting: The CPA. Other kinds of accountancy have a similar professional progression, but we are going to use the CPA as an example.
Get a Degree
Typically, people interested in accountancy earn a Bachelor’s degree in accounting, which provides them the 150 cumulative credit hours needed to graduate; this amount of school typically takes four years of business school, where accounting programs are housed in a university’s class structure. Advanced degrees in accounting, like a Master’s in Accounting or a Ph.D., also exist but are reserved for individuals who wish to work in academia, researching and teaching accounting. Most importantly, you should decide if you want to be a public accountant or a corporate/business accountant. Within these two distinct specializations are myriad of concentrations that will allow you to focus your accounting degree toward an industry need, like internal auditing, taxation, managerial accounting and many others which are covered in the next section of this guide. It should also be noted that online accounting degrees have become rather popular in recent years. If you’re interested in flexibility, affordability, and independence, then an online degree might be right for you. If you decide to get an online degree, be sure that your school is accredited and provides parity resources you might receive at an onsite institution.
If you are simply wanting to be an accountant, a Bachelor’s in Accounting will grant you access to the industry, but it will be severely limiting for your future in the trade, as you will only be able to perform limited tasks like financial record maintenance and preparation. As an accountant at this level (without any specialization, certification, or licensure) you can also prepare tax returns after passing an examination and being issued a Preparer Identification number from the IRS. Again, it is important to note that completing an accounting degree is the minimal requirement for work as an entry-level accounting employee; without obtaining CPA certification you will be strictly limited concerning professional growth as an accountant.
Beginning to Work
After becoming an Accounting major but before completing an accounting degree, it is recommended that students work as interns to bolster their résumés and professionally prepare for life in the accounting workforce. Such opportunities are not rare: many corporations, large and small, offer competitive internships, often with pay. After graduation, you may consider returning to school for a Master’s in Accounting or pursuing certification as a CPA, as both will open professional doors for you. In accounting, continuing education in the form of one of many kinds of certification is paramount to maintaining professional relevance and job security. See the next section of this guide for information about the various fields of study and the numerous certification options.
Becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
To become a CPA is an investment of time, money, and energy. Many people who get a Bachelor’s in Accounting go on to pass the Certified Public Account (CPA) exam which enables them to be upwardly mobile in the industry as a CPA. Along with at least 40 hours of continuing education in a specific area of accounting and working under the supervision of an actively licensed CPA for a set number of hours, a new CPA can then begin to move beyond accountancy’s menial tasks and into more meaningful activity, like auditing and client representation.
Taking the Exams
The CPA exam is a major hurdle for anyone entering the accounting industry and is a requirement for advancement within professional accounting. The exam, which is a requirement in every state, has four distinct parts which can be taken in any order offered during the first two months of every quarter. The four exams are: Regulation; Auditing and Attestation; Business Environment and Concepts; and Financial Accounting and Reporting. All four exams must be completed in 18 months. It is recommended that students prepare for these tests in advance by taking test-prep classes and studying independently, as the tests are complex, intricate, and challenging.
Types of Accounting & Certification
After completing a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting, it is important to discern what type of accountant you would like to become and the best accounting specialization for you. All average salaries linked below are generalized starting points to give you an idea of a base salary, as the field specializations vary widely. The top accounting schools will offer you—the student—guidance about which specializations are right for your skills and interests.
A Career in Corporate, Banking, and Financial Accounting
In this field of accounting, professionals deal with the capital assets of businesses, corporations, and banking institutions. Whether an appraisal of the state of assets concern investments or cash on hand, a financial, corporate, or banking accountant performs tasks related to the internal and public uses of an institution’s money including appraisal, compensation, bookkeeping, auditing, analysis, and financial management. This information is then translated into a public financial record to be reviewed by banks, stockholders, government agencies, or anyone interested in evaluating the company’s financial practices for reasons of investment or partnership. There are several related certifications in this field, each dealing with a particular focus of asset management.
Accredited Senior Appraiser
Candidates for this designation must have five full years of appraisal experience, a college degree (or equivalent), and complete course exam requirements for all four of 27-hour discipline-specific valuation courses as well as two appraisals for peer review and approval. Evidence of professional growth via continuing education and professional activity is mandatory for remaining accredited.
Certificate in Loan Review
Designed for commercial loan review and lending personnel, this certificate is for accountants interested in loan review and its procedures. With this certification, professionals learn about the state and national standards of the lending financial services industry.
Certified Bank Auditor
Designed to give accountants expertise in the four bank-specific areas of accounting (accounting, auditing and bank law, regulation, and auditing practices for business), this certification requires a CBA exam (three-year completion period), a Bachelor’s degree, and two years of bank auditing experience.
Certified Financial Services Auditor
For accountants interested in investment management and portfolio analysis, this certification includes three examinations to test the candidate’s ability in investment decision-making. Each candidate must pass all three exams to earn this certificate.
Certified Accounts Payable Associate
For accountants interested in careers in business financial management, this certification offers comprehensive training in the accounts payable profession. To be approved for the exam, candidates must demonstrate employment and affirm the IAPP ethical code. Certification requirements vary depending on education experience. There are certification completion plans and requirements for accountants with bachelor’s degrees, associates degrees, and for non-degree holding personnel. Recertification is necessary and is obtained by continuing education or retaking the exam.
Certified Accounts Payable Professional
For International Accounts Payable Professionals (IAPP) members, this is a comprehensive certification for individuals interested in the accounts payable profession. With similar educational requirements as above regarding exams, education, and continuing education, this professional credential is required for personnel working in the field. Employees of federal agencies may be exempt from membership requirements
For accountants with two years of bookkeeping experience, the exam for this certification covers details of organizational financial management including payroll, depreciation, internal controls, entry adjustment, error correction, and merchandise inventory. Candidates must follow the AIPB code of ethics and pass the national examination.
Certified Management Accountant
Focused on the connection between financial performance and strategy, this certification offers comprehensive curriculum in accounting and finance-related fields. To achieve this certification, accountants must pass a skills-based, critical thinking and decision making examination.
Certified Treasury Professional
For treasury and finance professionals, this certification is awarded to people who demonstrate comprehensive mastery in mergers and acquisitions, risk management, corporate governance, capital structure, and cash management. Candidates must have at least two years of work experience in finance-related fields, or in equivalent fields as defined by the AFP to take the computer examination.
A Career in Credit Accounting
In this field of accounting, professionals work to manage credit in ways that will improve revenue and reduce financial burden and risk. Credit accountants manage access to credit by controlling and collecting payments from customers as well as internally limiting a company’s access to credit so as to keep the financially solvent. Credit accountants assess risk, maintain cash flow by efficiently collecting money, balancing good and bad debt, set credit criteria, and initiate legal actions to recover money lost from organizations and individuals delinquent on debt payments to the organization.
Certified Credit Executive
This executive-level designation credentials accountants capable of managing credit function at the executive level. Education, experience, and industry participation are standard requirements, as is a comprehensive examination over the areas of accounting, finance, management, domestic and international credit models, and law. Recertification is required every three years.
Credit Business Associate
This introductory academic designation demonstrates mastery over three credit-related disciplines of study: financial accounting, financial statement analysis and business credit principles. With two plans for completing coursework, this designation has no minimum work experience requirements, but does have a comprehensive examination.
Credit Business Fellow
This participation-based designation is for CBA accredited accountants who demonstrate knowledge in business law, financial statements, credit law, and risk assessment within the aforementioned categories. Passing a comprehensive examination is a requirement.
A Career in Government Accounting
In this field of accounting, professionals ensure that private companies maintain fiscal accountability to the public (the taxpayer) and comply with federal regulations and standards; for example, accountants in this field might review the records of governmental agencies or audit private companies concerning the provision of goods and services or the validity of publicly traded capital. Government accountants audit, set public standards for state and local governments, and create financial reports that are clear, reliable, and relevant to the public so as to keep private companies accountable to their constituents.
Certified Defense Financial Manager
This specialization ensures that an accountant has extensive knowledge concerning competencies related to the Department of Defense and financial management. Requiring three comprehensive exams and ethics requirements, persons earning this certification must have 80 hours of continuing professional education every 24 months.
Certified Government Auditing Professional
Designed to equip auditors working in the public sector with knowledge of fund accounting, legislative oversight, confidentiality rights, and grants, this certification requires a character reference and at least two years of auditing practice in a government setting.
Certified Government Financial Manager
This certification assesses the knowledge and skills for individuals working in government positions—federal, state, and local. Candidates applying for this certification must meet the educational, ethical, and experiential requirements.
Certified Public Finance Officer
Designed to assess the knowledge of individuals working in government finance, this certification requires five exams which cover government finance.
A Career in Information Technology Accounting
In this field of accounting, specialists help to integrate new technologies into an organization’s accounting process to help to streamline, update, and systematize accounting practices for digital consumption and use. Often working collaboratively with IT departments, these accountants ensure that equipment and software related to a company’s accounting practices run smoothly and perform accounting tasks efficiently with maximum attention to user-friendly performance and security.
Certified Information Security Manager
For accountants with information security management experience and responsibility, this designation provides executive managers with practice and knowledge to be an effective security management consultant or adviser.
Certified Information Systems Auditor
With international acclaim, this credential signifies expertise in controls, security, and information systems auditing. This is the preferred designation for systems auditors from around the world and is considered a serious career advancement in the field of systems auditing.
Certified Information Technology Professional
This certification, held by an array of individuals in technology, academia, and business, is for candidates who demonstrate a broad range of technology skills to applied business solutions. To achieve this certification, individuals must complete 200 hours of technology education in a designated period of time.
A Career in Operations Management Accounting
This field of accountancy concerns the delivery of essential financial and non-financial administrative information to managers within a company. Accountants working in this field are in charge of preparing concise and accessible information concerning finances for employees who make strategic performance decisions for companies as well as assess risk by identifying and measuring the organization’s financial state against its objectives.
Certified in Integrated Resource Management
Designed to enhance collaboration among business functions including marketing and sales, human resources, product development, and finance, this certification includes five modules that must be completed. Modules cover enterprise concepts and fundamentals, identifying and creating demand, designing products and processes, delivering products and services, and integrated enterprise management.
Certified in Production and Inventory Management
This certification is for accountants interested in production and inventory management, operations, supply chain management, procurement, materials management, and purchasing. This designation is primarily focused on manufacturing, providing a detailed understanding of scheduling, production planning, quality improvement, and forecasting. This certification is a precursor for more advanced certifications concerning management, production, and inventory.
Certified Supply Chain Professional
For accountants interested in supply chain management, this designation offers a comprehensive and integrated examination of supply chain business theory and all those working with enterprise resource planning systems, from supplier to customer.
A Career in Payroll and Compensation Accounting
In this specialization of accountancy, employees engage in recording, organizing, and maintaining an organization’s employee compensation. Accountants working in this area keep track of gross wages, salaries, commissions, bonuses as well as attend to and help employees understand the federal income taxes, state/local taxes, Medicare taxes, and Social Security taxes removed from their paychecks.
Certified Payroll Professional
With the successful completion of an examination covering payroll processes and systems, accounting, and compensation management and administration, this designation lasts for five years, which can be renewed by retaking the exam or through continuing education. This certification indicates mastery of all payroll-related practices and concepts.
Fundamental Payroll Certification
For accountants interested in receiving entry-level payroll positions, this designation demonstrates beginner competency in payroll practice. With the completion of an exam, this certification offers its recipient a basic understanding of the payroll industry, systems analysis, and payroll service. Recertification compliance comes from retaking the examination or completing approved continuing education hours.
A Career in Personal Financial Accounting
Personal finance accountants work with individual clients and families to help them manage wealth. A personal finance accountant helps people understand the ways money works, teaching them how to budget and save, generate wealth over time, and plan for future life circumstances that require substantial amounts of money, such as retirement or saving for college.
Certified Financial Planner
Accountants earning this certification must meet rigorous professional standards and adhere to ethical and professional standards of responsibility in client interactions. After passing an exam, this certification must be renewed every two years.
Elder Care Specialist
This credential is for accountants who prepare clients for the financial challenges of retirement, estate and trust planning, and financial planning for seniors. Ideal candidates must demonstrate customer sensitivity and communication skills in dealing with the elderly, pass an examination with a 70% score, and complete relevant training.
Personal Finance Specialist
This accounting credential is awarded to individuals who blend together business insight with personal integrity through experience with one of the six financial planning disciplines (cash flow, risk management, investment, tax, retirement, and estate).
A Career in Public Accounting
In this specialization of accounting, employees serve clients like businesses, governments, non-profits, and individuals to provide audits of financial records, tax preparation, and consultation concerning the financial implications of large-scale monetary risks, like acquisitions and mergers. Typically, when people think of the accounting profession, this is the kind of employee they have in mind.
Accredited Business Accountant
For accountants specializing business law and ethic, finance, reporting, and tax prep for midsize businesses and financial advisement for individuals and families, candidates for this certification must have at least three years of work experience and achieve at least a 70% on the ABA exam.
Accredited in Business Valuation
For accountants with comprehensive skills in business valuation services, this credential allows competent accountants with certifications in bank auditing, valuation analysis, or chartered financial analysis to advance after completing 75 hours of lifelong learning activity, an exam, and ten business valuation engagements.
Certified Public Accountant
This popular certification covers a broad spectrum of accounting practices including attestation and auditing, financial accounting and reporting, regulation, and business environment and concepts. Accountants can earn this certification by passing the Uniform CPA Examination and meeting the requirements of the state board where the accountant intends to practice.
Certified Valuation Analyst
Accountants with this certification perform business and intangible asset valuations. To achieve this certification, the candidate must have a valid CPA license, complete a two-part exam, submit six references (three business, three personal), and be a NACVA member in good standing as well as complete an extensive multi-day training.
A Career in Risk Management, Fraud, and Audit Accounting
In this field, accountants help clients examine business practices and assess the risk of such practices, investigate fraudulent financial practices, and independently audit the finances of institutions. People who work in this field help corporations and individuals minimize or eliminate risk in its myriad forms, including fraud, money laundering, and poor investing.
Accredited Valuation Analyst
For accountants interested in performing intangible asset valuations for corporations, community consultation, and user service, this designation requires a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in business administration from a nationally accredited college or university. Applicants must submit proof of substantive business valuation experience, letters of reference (both character and professional) and pass an examination.
Anti-Money Laundering Professional
With a minimum of 10 years of experience required for grandfathering rights, or the completion of a proficiency exam for candidates with less than 10 years of experience, this designation is for those with interests in bank securities and anti-money laundering efforts. Three years of work experience and a bachelor’s degree from a nationally accredited college or university are requirements.
Certification in Control Self-Assessment
Earned by successfully completing the CCSA exam, this specialty certification is for control self-assessment personnel who meet the eligibility requirements of training, facilitation experience, work experience, education, and character.
Certified Forensic Financial Analyst
Specialists with this certification provide competent, professional forensic financial support service to legal communities. Candidates must have business valuation credentials, a master’s degree, and be serving as a practitioner member NACVA in good standing with extensive experience in litigation consultation. Candidates must complete a five-day training program and submit two legal references as well as pass a comprehensive exam.
Certified Fraud Examiner
This globally recognized certification offers a credential in fraud prevention, detection, and deterrence in the areas of financial transactions, legal elements of fraud, fraud investigation, criminology, and ethics.
Certified Internal Auditor
A truly international certification (offered in 17 languages in 95 countries), this designation for internal auditors has a four-part exam covering governance, risk and control, conducting an internal audit engagement, and business analysis, information technology, and business management. Candidate must meet requirements of character, education, and work experience.
Certified Risk Professional
For individuals who have a strong knowledge of risk identification, assessment, and management in the financial services industry, this credential offers a specialization in audit, treasury and AML, finance and accounting, and regulatory compliance. Candidates must meet criteria of education, experience, ethics, and examination.
A Career in Tax Accounting
Governed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), this branch of accounting focuses on tax management, preparation, and the rules that individuals or corporations must abide when filing taxes. These accountants manage financial records, prepare tax and return documents, as well as help people understand the implications of returns and allowances and other issue concerning tax law.
Accredited Tax Advisor
For accountants who handle sophisticated tax planning issues such as business ownership, qualified retirement plans, and complex estates, this certification requires candidates to have five years of work experience in tax prep, compliance, planning, and consulting. Work experience ratios are available on the accrediting organization’s website.
Accredited Tax Preparer
This credential is given to individuals demonstrating extensive knowledge of the tax code and the preparation of individual, corporate, and partnership tax returns. Three years of tax prep experience are required. This designation can be obtained by receiving a passing exam score and the completion of 60 hours of qualifying educational experience. CPAs, state licensed accountants, enrolled agents, ATA credential holders, and attorneys with graduate degrees are pre-qualified to complete this credential.
Empowered by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, this advanced credential is for federally authorized tax practitioners with technical expertise in the field of taxation. Representing taxpayers at administrative levels of the IRS for audits, appeals, and collections, these agents receive this designation from the IRS by passing an exam and maintain the certification by continuing education courses.
Important Accounting Organizations
With so many specializations and career options, accountants have exciting opportunities for career engagement and growth, as well as access to many professional organizations that can aid them in their development in a variety of fields. Below are several organizations, both national and international, about which you should be familiar as you discern you way forward after you get your accounting degree.
Accountants Institute (AI)
Devoted to specialist accountants around the world, this awarding and qualification organization exists to provide support in a variety of accounting skill areas including corporate and project governance, management, and accountancy. With four grades of membership, AI serves accounting professionals at any career stage with a focus on developing commitments to quality certification delivery and ethical industry conduct.
AICPA Accounting Principles Board
As the world’s largest public interest member association in the field of accounting (with more than 412,000 members across 144 countries), the AICPA sets ethical standards for federal, state, and local governments, nonprofit organizations, and private companies as well as issue specialty credentials for personal financial planners, forensic accountants, business valuators, and information management and technology assurance industry. As the home of the APB, the AICPA provides accountants with training, professional skills, and industry information to guide accountancy careers. Members of this professional organization enjoy community, advocacy, professional development and guidance, news, and discounts from a variety of financial, technology, travel, and business services. With the payment of annual dues, working accountants can gain access to a comprehensive network of colleagues, research, publications and career services in a variety of interest areas including accounting education, valuation, taxation, management, global accountancy, and forensic accounting.
Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT)
This organization exists to provide educational support for those in the financial services industry, or those wishing to pursue a career in finance. Based in London, AAT provides distance learning opportunities, CV help, and career guidance support.
Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board (FASAB)
The FASAB works to serve the public interest by setting federal reporting standards and providing transparent federal financial information, both internal and external. With a direct mission to support public accountability of the federal government through financial reporting, the AAT works to provide efficient assistance in accessing and interpreting financial statements as well as provide information concerning the economic, social, and political consequences of the allocation and use of federal resources that come from taxpayers.
Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB)
Based in Connecticut, this organization is an independent, not-for-profit organization works in the private sector to establish financial accounting and reporting standards for several different kinds of organizations, including both public and private companies, as well as non-profit businesses. Recognized by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as an authority for standard setting over private companies, the FASB develops and implements accounting standards that encourage transparency and inclusivity. This organization also works with the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) to maintain continuity across the financial accountancy industry.
The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA)
Working to equip auditors with professional resources, the IIA develops training, research, and standards guidance for the internal auditing industry. The IIA also offers a variety of certifications including, Certified Internal Auditor, Certified Government Auditing Professional, Certified Financial Services Auditor, Certification in Control Self-Assessment, Certification in Risk Management Assurance, Qualification in Internal Audit Leadership, and Certification for Environment, Health, and Safety Auditors.
The Institute of Management Accountants (IMA)
With over 70,000 professionals, the IMA provides certification for internal financial management careers including planning, budgeting, business reporting, decision analysis, and risk management. IMA exists to connect professionals for the purpose of strengthening professional ties, continuing education, and providing comprehensive resources for management accountants.
International Federation of Accountants
With a focus in developing professional networks and creating strong international economies, the IFAC is made up of over 175 member organizations from over 130 countries and jurisdictions. This international presence represents nearly 3 million accountants from a variety of fields including government service, industry, commerce, education, academia, and public practice. IFAC exists to support international standards of quality, promote and implement ethical standards and practices, build accountancy organizations, and speak out concerning public interest issues essential to building strong and sustainable organizations, financial markets, and economies.
International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS)
The IFRS exists to create standards that bring transparency, accountability, and efficiency to global financial markets. As a not-for-profit, public interest group, the IFRS provides oversight to the accountancy industry.
Keeping up with college searching can feel a bit like herding cats, but we’d like to offer some tips and tricks to help streamline the process, keep you organized, and orient you to achieving your goal to get in! Follow these clichés when going through the process…
The early bird gets the worm.
Your great-granddad said it and so did your principal, first boss, and every other reputable authority you’ve ever known, and if it’s true for avian gatherers, it’s true for humans, too. Many of the scholarship deadlines tend to be several months before an approaching semester begins, so you will have to start your research and applications as early as possible. Prepping your applications can be time consuming and a bit tedious, so be sure to give time to complete the work with accuracy and excellence. Make a spreadsheet or use other organization tools to get a plan in place. Here is an example template to help you plan.
Take a good, hard look at yourself.
In the age of constant connectivity, social media, and instant information, one must be aware of image. Take some time to do a quick internet search of your name to see what profiles pop up, what images can be found, and what a person might come across if they go looking for you around the web. You want to present yourself to the world with a professional and reputable appearance, so be sure that you’re aware of your digital personae. Think of an internet search like a handshake or first encounter. Do your profiles and websites project the person who deserves money from an institution? Adjust your social media accounts’ privacy settings and be sure to keep a close eye on your media.
The committees and teams who read the applications wade through thousands of them, so you can imagine how tedious such a thing must be, especially when applicants tend to write about typical successes, like building houses in a third world countries on service trips or winning the championship football game. Be sure to demonstrate that you’ve read through the university or scholarship fine points by personalizing cover letters and writing engaged essays that illustrate your creative ways of thinking, your unique personality, and your approaches to problem-solving. The upshot: Herald your grit and resourcefulness. Here’s a success story to inspire you.
Go the extra mile.
Many applications offer the opportunity for the applicant to do optional or “extra” material. If given the option, do it. Some optional materials, like letters of recommendation or supplementary creative essays, are helpful for the app readers making the decisions. This is also an opportunity for you to get a leg up on other applicants. Doing a little extra work will demonstrate that you’re hard-working—a worthy investment of the organization’s reward.
The devil is in the details.
Applying for colleges and scholarships is a bit like making a piece of prefab furniture: If you don’t follow the instructions exactly, you’ll just have a pile junk in the end. Similarly, if you don’t follow the application instructions closely, even if they seem silly (like signing documents in red ink only and other seemingly strange requests), you will be negated from the pool of submissions. The application process is a chance for you to demonstrate discipline and focus, as well as your ability to follow directions carefully. The readers of these applications see thousands of them and have to narrow down the pile to just a handful, so they’re often looking for easy disqualifications, like the appearance of non-compliance. Be sure to pay attention to the details. Take a look at all the bolds, underlines, and red text in an application like this one.
If you’re interested in accounting, then you already understand the value of a dollar. Getting an accounting degree, whether in pursuit of an online accounting degree or a traditional degree from one of the top accounting schools, is a costly pursuit that will demand time, money, and focus. We can’t help with the time or focus part, but we can offer you some scholarship leads. Below is a list of scholarships for people pursuing accounting degrees, each including a brief description, requirements, and deadlines.
The A.A. and Hattie Mae Bush Accounting Scholarship
This scholarship provides financial support for graduating seniors in the Texas Panhandle who are majoring in accounting and have maintained a 2.5 cumulative GPA. Students must have attended one of the following universities in order to be eligible: Amarillo College, Texas Tech University, or West Texas A&M University. Applicants must complete full application which will be chosen by a screening committee.
- Category: Regional
- Amount: Up to $1,000 payable over two semesters but renewable for 4 years
- Deadline: February of each year
¡Adelante! Fund MillerCoors Scholarships
With the mission of inspiring the brightest and the best Hispanic/Latino students, The ¡Adelante! U.S. Education Leadership Fund seeks to develop leaders through scholarships, internships, and training. This scholarship is for students of Latino heritage pursuing accounting and finance degrees, as well as several other business-related and engineering degrees. Junior/senior high school students must be headed to a Chicagoland-area or Colorado partnering school and maintain a 3.0 GPA.
Accounting and Financial Women's Alliance Scholarship from the American Society of Women Accountants (ASWA)
Organized in 1938, ASWA was founded by the American Women’s Society of Certified Public Accountants—a professional organization dedicated to career advancement for women in all accounting fields. With over 3,000 members, The Society has associates throughout the United States. Bellevue Chapter No. 159, located in Bellevue, Washington, was chartered in 1991 as an affiliate of the national organization of the ASWA. Eligible female applicants must be full or part-time students in the Puget Sound Region attending accredited colleges, universities, vocational or technical schools with a focus in accounting or finance or actively pursuing their CPA or CMA designations. All applicants must demonstrate a depth of knowledge in the accounting field, and academic success through an adequate GPA. A personal statement and commitment to the profession are also required.
African American Network / Carolinas Scholarship Fund
Duke Energy’s employee resource group, The African American Network (A3), has created this series of scholarships for graduating high school African American students in the Carolinas. Graduating seniors planning to major in engineering, computer science, the sciences, accounting, or business administration at a four-year college or university in North Carolina or South Carolina need apply.
- Category: Minority
- Award: Please check the website as the reward amount varies each year
- Deadline: Please check the website as the application deadline varies each year
AICPA Fellowships for Minority Doctoral Students
This scholarship works to help full-time accounting scholars of underrepresented minority groups become educators in the fields of accounting or finance, as well as increase the number of minority CPAs who serve as role models and mentors for young people. Minority students with an earned Master’s degree or no less than three years of relevant work experience who are beginning the process of Doctoral program should apply. Students should be prepared to submit relevant paper work, such as a résumé, an essay, letters of recommendation, and transcripts.
AICPA John L. Carey Scholarship
The John L. Carey Scholarship provides financial assistance to liberal arts and non-business degree holders who are pursuing both graduate studies in accounting and the CPA licensure. This award is funded by the AICPA Foundation and is intended to encourage students with little or no previous accounting education to consider professional accounting careers.
American Society of Women Accountants
The American Society of Women Accountants Scholarships are awarded to applicants majoring in accounting at an accredited two-year or four-year college, university, or professional school of accountancy in Southwest Missouri. The applicants should have completed the equivalent of at least Intermediate Financial Accounting I at the time of application and be in pursuit of a finance or accounting degree and have 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale. Each applicant must demonstrate leadership, character, communication skill, scholastic pursuit, and financial need. Scholarships for Associate Degrees and Bachelor’s Degrees are available.
- Category: Women
- Amount: Up to $2,000
- Deadline: Application, available on the website year-round, is due March 1st
Arizona CPA Foundation Scholarships
The Arizona CPA Foundation for Education and Innovation, working with the Arizona Society of CPAs, supports education programs that enhance distinction and innovation in the accounting profession. For these scholarships, students must provide a completed application, proof of legal residency in both the State of Arizona and the U.S., and proof of scholarship as a full-time student in the field of accountancy at an accredited college or university.
- Category: Regional
- Amount: Up to $500 for high school and $1,000 for college students
- Deadline: Applications are available on the website beginning October 31st and are due February 5th
CalCPA Peninsula Silicon Valley Scholarship
The California Society of CPAs awards scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students based on geographic areas in California. Each chapter of CalCPAs has different scholarship requirements and deadlines, so students should monitor accordingly. However, all students must provide proof of scholarship and residency, as well as demonstrate academic excellence, communication skills, community involvement, and leadership abilities through the application. Regions include: Bakersfield, Central Coast, Channel Counties, East Bay, Fresno, Inland Empire, Los Angeles, Orange County/Long Beach, Peninsula Silicon Valley, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Joaquin, and Silicon Valley San Jose.
- Category: Regional
- Amount: Up to $1,500
- Deadline: CalCPA has several different scholarships that are region-specific. Each has a different deadline between June and October.
Claude B. Hart Memorial Scholarship
The North Carolina-based Claude B. Hart Memorial Scholarship, established in 1994, provides “…scholarships to worthy graduating high school seniors from Elkin High School who intend to major in mathematics (accounting, computer science, business administration) and/or engineering (mechanical, civil, chemical, etc.) in college.” As a renewable scholarship, students at an accredited four-year college or university can apply these monies to tuition, fees, and room and board. Students must demonstrate academic and leadership promise, community engagement and service, financial need, and must be a citizen of the U.S.
- Category: Regional
- Amount: Up to $1,000 per year for four consecutive years
- Deadline: Application, available on the website year-round, is due April 1st
Constitutional Officers Association of Georgia Scholarships
This scholarship is available to high school seniors (or GED equivalent) from Georgia. Applicants must plan to pursue a degree in in fields related to government/law enforcement, accounting and finance, political science, business, and pre-law from an accredited state college or university. Applicants must provide a written essay, verification of field of study, and complete application.
- Category: Regional
- Amount: Up to $1,500
- Deadline: : Application, available on the website year-round, is due April 1st
Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals
Giving up to 75 scholarships annually, this program provides young American professionals the opportunity to study and work in Germany. Beginning with two months of language school and four months of career specific classes, students then work as interns while living abroad with a host family. Applications contain both digital and hard copy components with letters of recommendation, transcripts, and proof of citizenship as requirements.
- Category: International
- Amount: Internship abroad
- Deadline: Application, available on the website in July, is due December 1st
Davidson Fellows Scholarship
This prestigious scholarship is awarded to extraordinary young people under the age of 18 who have completed a significant piece of work in science, technology, engineering or mathematics. Davidson Fellows must be available to attend the awards reception in Washington D.C. and will have travel expenses for the trip provided to them. Students must provide an application, project samples, and other forms of verification. This is a competitive scholarship with a large, prestigious award.
Fifth Year Accounting Student Scholarship Program
For students in the State of Texas, this scholarship provides a fifth year accounting student money to complete degree work. Eligible students must be enrolled in school half-time, have completed 120 hours of class with satisfactory academic progress, and have not yet taken the CPA exam but plan to take it. All applicants must demonstrate state residency and financial need.
- Category: General
- Amount: Up to $5,000
- Deadline: This deadline shifts annually, so check the website for updated information
Fontana Transport Inc. Scholars Program
This award is reserved for low income, underrepresented, and first generation college prospects who are passionate about furthering their education as a means to help out their family, community, and themselves. Applicants should be pursuing a four-year degree in one of the following subjects: Transportation, Math, Science, Engineering, Architecture, Environmental Design, Pre-Med, Psychology, or Spanish Language/Literature. Recommendation by a faculty member is suggested.
- Category: Minority
- Amount: Up to $5,000
- Deadline: Applications open in the fall of the previous year and close in March
Fukunaga Scholarship Foundation
The Fukunaga Scholarship Foundation gives scholarships to Hawaiian residents pursuing degrees in Business Administration, or other business-related fields, such as accountancy, at any accredited four-year college or university in the United States. Students must provide evidence of commitments to pursuing a business degree, leadership ability, outstanding academic achievement, and financial need.
- Category: Regional
- Amount: Up to $16,000 over four years
- Deadline: Scholarships awarded in February of each year. Check website for application date.
Providing scholarships to women in the San Francisco Bay Area pursuing undergraduate or graduate degrees in finance or financial service, this scholarship fund also provides career development opportunities to its recipients as well as access to mentorships, career-building communities, and networking events put on by the Financial Women of San Francisco.
- Category: Women, Regional
- Amount: Up to $10,000
- Deadline: Application deadline varies. Please refer to the website for instructions.
Government Finance Officers Association Scholarships
The Daniel B. Goldberg Scholarship, The Frank L. Greathouse Government Accounting Scholarship, The Minorities in Government Finance Scholarship, and The Government Finance Professional Development Scholarship are given to students pursuing finance-related degrees with career plans to work in state or local government finance. Scholars considered must have received a scholarship from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States or Canada. All applicants must be recommended by an academic advisor or dean of a graduate program.
Herman J. Neal Scholarship
This scholarship provides support for African American students in Illinois interested in pursuing degrees and careers in accounting education or CPA designation. Students should be in their junior or senior year to apply. Monies can be applied to graduate hours, but not the costs of CPA Exam review courses. Applicants should hold a 3.0/4.0 GPA equivalent, demonstrate achievement and financial need, and be a resident of Illinois.
- Category: Minority
- Amount: Up to $4,000
- Deadline: Usually in September, but this deadline has been known to shift, so check with the website during the summer months each year.
IASA Scholarship Program
Providing support to students preparing to enter the insurance industry, the IASA’s Insurance Industry Collegiate Scholarship program provides aid to sophomore students enrolled at an accredited university whose academic interests are in accounting, finance, information technology, actuarial science, or risk management. Students must provide proof of academic interest and success as well as a completed application which covers references, a writing sample, and evidence of a professional growth plan.
- Category: General
- Amount: Up to $2,500
- Deadline: Application available in November with application deadline on February 28th
Illinois CPA Society Accounting Tuition Scholarship
Open to college seniors and graduate students, this scholarship is the result of a charitable partnership between the CPA Endowment Fund of Illinois and the Illinois CPA Society. This scholarship provides money to students attending accredited schools in the state with a 3.0/4.0 GPA, appropriate academic achievement, and financial need. Recipients must plan to sit for the Illinois CPA exam within three years of the application date.
- Category: Regional
- Amount: Up to $4,000
- Deadline: Application available in January with application deadline on April 1st
Indiana CPA Society Education Foundation Scholarship
Created to provide encouragement for Indiana residents and students planning to pursue careers in accounting, this scholarship provides members of the Indiana CPA society (student membership is free) with financial assistance to complete studies in accountancy at an ICI member institution or Ball State University. Students applying must be in good standing with his or her college or university, having completed four years of course work and hold residency in the State of Indiana.
- Category: Regional
- Amount: Scholarship amounts vary
- Deadline: Application available in January with deadline at the end of April
Internal Auditor Magazine Scholarships
As stated on the website: “Internal Auditor Magazine, the world’s leading publication covering the internal audit profession, is offering six (6) scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students who write the most informative and intuitive essays on internal audit subjects, as judged by The IIA’s Publications Advisory Committee.” Essay topics change, so potential applicants should visit the magazine’s website to receive updated information.
- Category: Internal Auditing
- Amount: Up to $1,000
- Deadline: This application deadline varies. Please check the website for updated information.
JSU Alabama Power Scholarship
Full-time students who are Alabama residents are encouraged to apply for this scholarship if they are enrolled in the college of commerce and business administration at Jacksonville State University. Applicants must demonstrate academic competence and a focus in business related fields such as accounting.
- Category: Regional
- Amount: Scholarship amounts vary year-to-year
- Deadline: Application opens in October and closes on March 1st
Katherine A. Ellis Scholarship
Given to female students, and with a preference to single mothers who demonstrate financial need, this scholarship is awarded to a full-time student at Westminster in Salt Lake City, Utah. Application requirements vary, so check the website for updated information.
- Category: Women, Regional
- Amount: Amounts vary, but the average student is awarded nearly $3,000
- Deadline: Applications open in September and are closed January 1st
Kinsey Determination Scholarship for the College of Busines
Awarded to full-time undergrad students in the College of Business and Innovation at the University of Toledo, this scholarship is given to male students raised by a single mother having lived the majority of their lives without the presence of a father or male guardian. Based ono financial need, students must provide evidence of personal achievement and strong principles.
- Category: Regional
- Amount: Scholarship amounts vary year-to-year
- Deadline: Application available year round with annual deadline on April 1st
KSCPA High School Merit Scholarships
According to the KSCAP website: “High School Merit Scholarships are offered to Kansas high school seniors without regard to financial need who will be entering a Kansas college or university the following academic school year and plan to major in accounting.” Applicants must have test scores submitted by a teacher/counselor and must complete the proper application available on the organization’s website.
- Category: Regional
- Amount: Up to $1,300
- Deadline: Test scores due on March 11th and application due on April 15th
The Laurels Fund
This scholarship provides support for deserving female PhD students in accounting who demonstrate academic achievement and significant long-term commitment to the profession. Eligible students should provide a CV, official transcripts, case material and published work, letters of reference, and a list of career goals and objectives.
- Category: Women, Post-Graduate Degree
- Amount: Up to $5,000
- Deadline: Applications must be postmarked by May 15th
Lloyd M. Fujie Scholarship for Accounting Major Students
For incoming freshman who have graduated from a public high school in Hawaii, this scholarship offers accounting majors financial assistance while they pursue a degree. Students must apply this scholarship toward tuition as well as demonstrate academic merit and ability with a 3.0/4.0 GPA, 1500 SAT or 21 ACT score, and evidence of extracurricular activities, community services, and work experience. This award is renewable for three years.
- Category: Regional
- Amount: Up to $2,500
- Deadline: : Applications open in September and close in March, but—according to the website—students “…that apply by November 15th will receive maximum scholarship consideration” so it is best to submit early to receive the maximum amount of funding.
The Maine State Chamber of Commerce Scholarship
Recognizing two Maine high school seniors planning to receive an education from one of the state’s accredited degree-granting institutions in business-related fields such as accounting, The Maine State Chamber of Commerce Scholarship program recognizes outstanding students in need. Please review the website for current requirements and qualifications for this scholarship.
Matt Fong Asian Americans in Public Finance Scholarship
Asian American students interested in pursuing degrees in accounting, political science, public policy, business administration, and related fields at California colleges or universities should apply for this scholarship. Students must demonstrate academic competence, financial need, and community service record, as well as career interest in the public sector.
- Category: Minority
- Amount: Up to $2,500
- Deadline: The date for this application is shifting, so check the website for updated information
Mel C. Marshall Student Scholarship
According to the website the “CPCA was formed in 1990 by a group of precast concrete manufacturers who felt a local organization was necessary to address matters of concern to the precast concrete industry in California. Now, well into the third decade of service to its members, the focus of CPCA remains on the advancement of quality, precast products.” Students applying for this scholarship should be interested in careers related to the precast industry and provide relevant transcripts, letters of recommendation, and sponsorship from a CPCA member in good standing.
- Category: CPA
- Amount: Up to $4,000
- Deadline: October 31st and April 30th in fall and spring semesters respectively
The Mike Molino RV Learning Center's Scholarship Program
With the hope of fostering new leaders in the RV industry, the RV Learning Center’s Scholarship Program encourages undergrads majoring in finance, business, economics, and accounting. Students interested in RV-related jobs who meet scholarship requirements are encouraged to apply for this scholarship by filling out an application and providing transcripts and test scores.
Nellie Martin Carman Scholarship Fund
Regional in scope and founded in 1949, “the Nellie Martin Carman Scholarship is available to graduating seniors from public high schools in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties in Washington state.” Students enrolled for full-time study at a Washington college or university must provide tax information, a letter of recommendation, a photograph, birth certificate copy, transcripts, and a copy of an ACT/SAT score.
- Category: Regional
- Amount: Up to $2,000
- Deadline: Open all year round, but submissions but be postmarked by March 1st
NJCU Honors Program in Finance Scholarship
A challenging program for highly-prepared incoming freshmen, this scholarship from the New Jersey City University Business Honors Program is for students pursuing finance-related careers. Recipients receive full tuition scholarships, a laptop, study abroad experience, internship placement, and personalized faculty support. Interested high school students must have a 3.3 GPA and a 1200 on the SAT.
NSA Scholarship Foundation Awards
In order to build career paths into and within accounting, the NSA Scholarship Foundation provides awards to assist students committed to completing their accounting degree but needing financial assistance. Interested students should have a 3.0 GPA and complete the application provided on the organization’s website.
- Category: General
- Amount: Up to $2,200
- Deadline: Application opens on January 1st with application due March 31st
Paul S. Mills Scholarship
Granted by the Foundation for Financial Service Professionals (FSP), this scholarship is dedicated to students pursuing degrees in finance-related fields including accounting, risk management, insurance, actuarial science, and financial accounting. Students must be citizens of the United States with full or part-time enrollment in undergraduate college or university degree programs and demonstrate financial need.
- Category: General
- Amount: Up to $1,000
- Deadline: According to the website: “Applications will be available annually as of January 15th and be submitted between February 1 and 11:59 pm ET on March 30.”
With a variety of discipline specific, need-based programs, students applying for PMI scholarships in finance-related fields should be prepared to provide transcripts, financial information, writing samples, and letters of recommendation.
Ritchie-Jennings Memorial Scholarship
For students pursuing careers in fraud examination, the Ritchie-Jennings Memorial Scholarship provides financial support for 30 students per year. Students who are interested in becoming Certified Fraud Examiners who have declared majors or minors in accounting, business administration, finance, or criminal justice should provide three letters of recommendation and be currently enrolled at an accredited four-year college.
- Category: CFE
- Amount: Up to $10,000
- Deadline: Applications open in September 2016 and close in February
Scarlett Family Foundation Scholarship
As stated on the Tennessee Foundation’s website: “Scarlett Family Foundation Scholarships are open to high school seniors and college freshmen, sophomores, and juniors who will graduate or have graduated from high school in one of the following Middle Tennessee counties: Bedford, Cannon, Cheatham, Clay, Coffee, Cumberland, Davidson, Dekalb, Dickson, Fentress, Franklin, Giles, Hickman, Houston, Humphreys, Jackson, Lawrence, Lewis, Lincoln, Macon, Marshall, Maury, Montgomery, Moore, Overton, Perry, Pickett, Putnam, Robertson, Rutherford, Smith, Stewart, Sumner, Trousdale, Van Buren, Warren, Wayne, White, Williamson and Wilson.” Scholars must be pursuing STEM-related (including accounting) degrees at accredited non-profit colleges or universities and have a minimum 2.5 GPA.
SEMA Memorial Scholarship Fund
For students interested in the automotive aftermarket, this scholarship provides assistance for accounting students building career in automotives and related industries. Applicants must provide necessary information, such as transcripts, and compose two small essays about their interest in the automotive industry.
SILA Foundation College Scholarship
The Securities and Insurance Licensing Association Foundation (SILA) grants ten college scholarships annually. Students should be a U.S. citizen attending an accredited college or university. Applicants should be enrolled with a minimum of nine credit hours or be employed full-time with six credit hours. Transcripts, letters of reference, citizenship verification, and employment verification are required for application.
South Dakota Retailers Association Jerry Wheeler Scholarship Program
Students interested in retail-related accounting and are pursuing a degree at an accredited four-year college in South Dakota should apply for this scholarship by completing the application form, composing a written or video essay, and acquiring letters of reference.
Study and Internship Program in Germany (SIP-UAS7)
According to the organization’s website: “Since 2006, the Study & Internship Program (SIP) has enabled highly qualified undergraduates from U.S. and Canadian colleges and universities to experience the German approach to hands-on education at a member of UAS7, a consortium of Germany’s top universities of applied sciences. SIP students spend a semester studying at a UAS7 campus and a semester interning.” Applicants must submit transcripts, résumé, motivational statement and support, an internship plan, and a letter of recommendation. Student must also complete a language evaluation.
Surety & Fidelity Industry Intern and Scholarship Program
Established in 2003, the Surety Industry Scholarship Program provides awards of up to $5,000 to outstanding minority students to support their studies in the areas of insurance/risk management, accounting, or business/finance and to encourage their consideration of the surety industry and surety underwriting as a career choice. Applicants should provide transcripts, an essay, and a sheet listing honors, awards, and extracurricular activities.
According to the website: “Teachers of Accounting at Two-Year Colleges (TACTYC) is pleased to announce that multiple scholarships in the amount of $1,000 each will be awarded to two-year college graduating students that are pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting at a four-year college during the upcoming academic year.” Eligible students must have completed 20 credit hours, maintained a 3.0 GPA, provide transcripts, and have committed to an accounting career. Applicants must be recommended by an accounting faculty member, provide an essay concerning their academic and professional goals as well as an essay based on case study questions.
Provided by the Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity, two scholarships are given to accounting-related degree pursuits. Both the W. Allan Herzog Scholarship and The Harry J. Donnelly Memorial Scholarship are given to students who demonstrate outstanding academic skill and leadership. Students must complete an application on the TKE website.
Don’t forget to call your mom and let her know where you’re going to college!