Employers rely on accountants to be the authority on taxes, regulations, financial forecasting and other money-related areas. For this reason, it’s important for accountants to get the right education and certifications for their area of expertise.
Depending on your career goals, you could choose a one-year certificate program, or you could plan to complete a PhD in Accounting.
Read more at our Accounting homepage.
Accounting Certificate Programs
If you want to start working in Accounting as quickly as possible, you might choose to pursue a certificate in Accounting. These programs typically last around one year, and graduates are qualified to work in entry-level bookkeeping or clerk jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), workers in these jobs took home a median annual salary of $38,390 in 2016.
You could study for this type of certificate at a community college, or you might even find an online program that meets your needs.
Associate’s Degrees in Accounting
An associate degree in Accounting typically takes about two years to complete, and includes general education courses in addition to classes that are specifically related to accounting.
The job titles and salaries are similar to those available to graduates of Accounting certificate programs, but with an associate degree you’re likely to have more opportunities for advancement and to earn a higher salary. Many community colleges and technical schools offer associate degrees in Accounting, and online programs are also available.
Bachelor’s Degrees in Accounting
A bachelor’s degree in Accounting will give you the biggest range of potential entry-level jobs. These programs usually take four to five years to complete, and are typically offered at residential colleges or universities. You could also decide to enroll in an online degree program (check out our list of the Top Online Bachelor’s degrees in Accounting).
This degree will prepare you for an entry-level job as an accountant or auditor, and many degree programs are designed to help prepare you for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensing exam.
Master’s Degrees in the Accounting
To increase your opportunities for advancement – not to mention your earning potential – a master’s degree in Accounting could be a smart plan. There are several options for master’s degrees in the field:
- Master of Accountancy/Master’s in Accounting (MAcc)
- Master of Science in Accounting (MS)
- Master of Business Administration in Accounting (MBA)
- Master of Professional Accountancy/Accounting (MPA/MPAc/MPAcc)
With this degree, you will be prepared to compete for some of the top-earning jobs in the field. About half of all Chief Financial Officers (CFOs), for example, hold MBAs. And the sky is the limit, salary-wise, for CFOs of large companies. The higher end of the typical salary range is $465,750…but CFOs of the largest corporations can make much, much more.
Doctoral Degrees in Accounting
If you decide that you want to teach the next generation of accountants, a doctoral degree will provide the qualifications you need to become a college professor. While that’s the path most Accounting PhD graduates take, you could also go on to work in fields like public policy or corporate consulting.
If you’re considering pursuing a PhD in Accounting, this is a good time to go for it. That’s because there is currently a shortage of qualified Accounting faculty in the United States, so you’ll be in high demand with this degree!