What Are the Requirements for a Career in Accounting?

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Accounting Requirements

The role of individuals in an accounting career is multifaceted. Accountants not only ensure all finance-related responsibilities are accurate and legally compliant, but they also are tasked with proactively analyzing risk assessment and budgetary efficiency. From individual clients and small businesses to international corporations, accountants play an integral role. The core philosophy of accountants includes honesty, transparency, and equality.

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for an accountant with a bachelor’s of accounting degree is $71,550. Careers in accounting include tax and forensic accountants, auditors, risk and budget analysts, and project accountants.

Accounting Certifications and Licensure

Accounting certifications and licensure can prepare individuals for a career in accounting while fine-tuning accounting skill sets. These credentials may enhance career opportunities and elevate pay grades. The list below includes multiple certifications and licensures. Make sure to consider your career preference and concentration to determine the ideal fit.

  • Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE)

    CFEs detect and prevent fraudulent activity within or against an organization. A CFE certification is advantageous to government, forensic, and public accountants. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) requires a bachelor’s degree and two years of fraud-related professional experience.

  • Certified Management Accountant (CMA)

    CMAs ensure a business’s well-being from an accounting and strategic management perspective. A CMA certification proves especially valuable for corporate and risk management accountants. To obtain a CMA certification from the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) requires a bachelor’s degree and two continuous years in financial management or management accounting.

  • Certified Financial Planner (CFP)

    CFPs focus on client budgets, investment strategizing, and execution. Wealth management and financial advisors consider CFP certification a valuable asset. Before taking the CFP exam, the Certified Financial Board of Standards requires a bachelor’s degree and completion of CFP board-approved coursework.

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Courses in an Accounting Program

A typical course load for an accounting degree includes introductory and advanced level accounting, taxation, micro and macroeconomics, and statistics. Students become proficient in business, ethics, and economics. The courses below serve as a sample curriculum. Those seeking a degree in accounting should speak with advisors regarding requirements.

  • Business Law

    Business law helps students prepare for an accounting career by developing an understanding of the basic principles of legal responsibilities and regulations, as well as the consequences on business transactions. Course topics may include law and ethics, contracts, employment, property law, and the federal and state legal system.

  • Money and Banking

    Money and banking help students grasp the importance of financial markets and institutions, along with money and monetary policies within the United States economy. Topics may include the Federal Reserve System, interest rates, and the supply and demand for money.

  • Estate and Gift Taxation

    As estate and gift taxation emphasize tax implications and statutes on federal and state levels, students working towards an accounting degree may find this course valuable. The course analyzes estate and gift taxation from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the taxpayer’s perspective. Topics may include estate taxation, property transfers, charitable deductions, and gift splitting.

  • Detection and Prevention of Fraudulent Financial Statements

    Detection and prevention of fraudulent financial statements examine the principles of forensic accounting along with essential fraud detection methods used to eradicate corruption-related behavior. Topics may include the impact of fraud schemes involving skimming, bribery, larceny, payroll schemes, and fraud prevention strategies.

  • Advanced Auditing

    Building on the content from an introductory to auditing course, advanced auditing provides in-depth instruction on high-level auditing techniques, ethical and behavioral dilemmas within the auditing process, and the auditor’s legal liability. Topics may include audit planning and risks, professional standards, and computer-based systems auditing.

Graduate Degree in Accounting

For those contemplating furthering their accounting career post bachelor’s degree, earning a master’s or Ph.D. in accounting may open up opportunities for both professional and financial growth. Points to consider before moving forward include cost, length of time to complete the degree, and the overall benefits of obtaining a graduate degree.

It takes approximately two years to obtain a master’s in accounting. Accountants with master’s degrees may have a greater pool of employment opportunities to choose from, including positions as comptroller, actuary, corporate controller, and financial analyst. A master’s in accounting prepares individuals planning on becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).

It takes approximately four years to obtain a Ph.D. in accounting. Admission standards may include a minimum GPA and Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) score. Advancement post Ph.D. may include teaching- and financial research-based studies within the higher education arena. A Ph.D. may also lead to upper-level employment opportunities, including Chief Financial Officer or an independent financial consultant.

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