Guide to getting a bachelor’s degree in accounting
Are you driven, detail-orientated, and a whizz with math? Then an accounting program could be for you. Sure, this is not the most glamorous degree choice: accountancy graduates rarely see their name up in lights, and most wouldn’t want to. They prefer chewing on numbers, safe in the knowledge they run the show from behind-the-scenes.
Accountancy can be a stepping stone to the world of business, finance, or management. While you may be able to squeeze into entry-level accountancy jobs with an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s can help you to move up the ranks, especially if you plan to take the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Certified Management Accountant (CMA) exam someday.
Accounting graduates often work in an accounting firms, government agencies, or commercial businesses. Others decide to leave all that behind and become self-employed.
Should you get a bachelor’s in accounting?
Accounting requires deductive reasoning and analytical thinking. It tends to suit people who enjoy investigative research or solving puzzles. If you have this skillset and personality, you are more likely to succeed as an accountant, and enjoy your work.
From an economic standpoint, a bachelor’s degree in accounting is a sound choice. Below, see the median performance of a bachelor in accounting holder compared to all bachelor holders. All data is taken 2 years after graduation.
Bachelors in accounting
The above table provides a snapshot of earnings 3 years after graduation. We compare the earnings of all bachelor degree recipients to those who graduated from this specific program.
Generally speaking, becoming CPA certified requires 2-years of work experience, making the 2 year threshold an extremely pivotal moment for accounting professionals post-college.
Accounting graduates can also expect their salary growth to hold better than those who studied in related fields, as the chart below shows.
Accounting graduates can expect their salary to rise slowly up to the age of 40, and for it to continue to hold its value in later age. There are many possible reasons for this. One is that accounting professionals possess an almost timeless skillset, so whilst there may be some re-training or updating of skills, older professionals are unlikely to lose their job because for refusing to embrace the Metaverse or TikTok.
How to pick a bachelor’s in accounting program?
It is important to check the credentials of any bachelor’s in accounting before applying to the program. AACSB accreditation is a stamp of quality that is respected by most accountancy employers.
Can you get a bachelor’s of accounting online?
Online learning is a relatively new trend, and accountancy tends to move at a lower speed than other professions, such as marketing and technology. Some accountancy employers may be unaware of the new online programs on offer, although this is likely to change as online learning gets a stronger foothold.
Bachelors in accounting
The above table shows the percentage of programs available either completely in person or fully online. Figures that do not add up to 100% indicate the existence of hybrid programs.
The average cost of an online bachelor’s in accountancy is $15,839, cheaper than on-campus courses which average $18,391. While studying online may save on room and board, on campus students tend to go on to earn more money. The average salary for a graduate who studied on campus is $48,201. This drops to $44,555 for graduates of online programs.
The best bachelor in accounting programs
Below you can find our ratings of the comparative earnings, costs, and payback rates of different accounting programs. Please review our methodology for more information on what metrics we look at, and how we determine comparative value between institutions.
The economic valuation model looks first at the number of years it takes students to ” payback” educational cost with new earnings. Then we divide this by how much more or less students earn than the average student in the same field of study and degree level – the ” degree premium”. The better a school’s degree premium and payback, the higher the school ranks on our list. Graduation rates: Graduation rates that under-perform the average in the state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% of graduation rate nationally are pushed to the bottom of our ranking engine.
CUNY Bernard M Baruch College
New York, New York
Admission rate: 41%
Grad rate: 67%
Net cost: $3,562
Vs. state average: $5,010
Economic score: 0.40
CUNY Hunter College
New York, New York
Admission rate: 41%
Grad rate: 55%
Net cost: $2,490
Vs. state average: $-5,158
Economic score: 0.48
CUNY Brooklyn College
Brooklyn, New York
Admission rate: 50%
Grad rate: 55%
Net cost: $2,683
Vs. state average: $-3,775
Economic score: 0.48
CUNY Lehman College
Bronx, New York
Admission rate: 48%
Grad rate: 59%
Net cost: $1,814
Vs. state average: $-10,425
Economic score: 0.50
University of Florida
Admission rate: 32%
Grad rate: 88%
Net cost: $6,302
Vs. state average: $14,488
Economic score: 0.52
Washington, District of Columbia
Admission rate: 17%
Grad rate: 94%
Net cost: $28,909
Vs. state average: $57,532
Economic score: 0.64
CUNY Queens College
Queens, New York
Admission rate: 54%
Grad rate: 57%
Net cost: $3,067
Vs. state average: $-8,048
Economic score: 0.73
University of Connecticut-Waterbury Campus
Admission rate: 97%
Grad rate: 65%
Net cost: $8,046
Vs. state average: $5,006
Economic score: 0.76
Brigham Young University-Idaho
Admission rate: 98%
Grad rate: 65%
Net cost: $7,167
Vs. state average: $13,594
Economic score: 0.79
Point Park University
Admission rate: N/A
Grad rate: 55%
Net cost: $21,470
Vs. state average: $-9,871
Economic score: 4.72
Florida International University
Admission rate: 58%
Grad rate: 66%
Net cost: $7,296
Vs. state average: $10,467
Economic score: 0.79
How much does it cost to get a bachelor’s in accounting?
No big surprise that private schools are both the most expensive, and graduates enjoy the highest earnings 2 years out.
See above how cost and earnings vary depending on the type of institution. Payback refers to how many years it takes students to cover the median costs while earning the median salary. Payback is calculated by subtracting the median earnings of a high school graduate from the median earnings related to this degree.
For-profit schools also perform relatively well. Note that if you are dead set on getting your degree online, the for-profit segment is your best bet – 71% of for-profit programs are entirely online, compared to 10% and 12% for public and private, respectively.
Financial aid and scholarships for accounting majors
The average undergraduate accounting student leaves school owing $22,145 in student debt. This is equivalent to 45% of the median earnings 2 years out, which is a very healthy ratio. There are a number of ways to minimize school cost, and your eventual debt. Check out scholarships in accounting:
What to expect from your bachelor in accounting program
These depend on the type of institution offering the program, but having a high-school diploma or a GED is a general prerequisite. There are institutions with lower enrollment requirements and even some with open admission. These are usually low-ranking institutions with lower admission criteria for their programs.
Duration of studies
Earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting generally takes 4 years, or 120 credit hours. It can be completed in 2 years if you already hold an associate’s degree, as you may be able to transfer your credit hours from that program towards your bachelor’s degree. There are also part-time formats available, which can vary in duration.
Depending on the program you enroll in, you may be required to complete an internship at an approved organization that is related to the accountancy field. Typically internships take place in the summer. Students submit a paper at the outset that outlines their expectations. They then write a second at the end of the internship to reflect on what they have learned. Accountancy internships typically last for between 150 and 250 hours.
Even if your program does not include an internship, it is a good idea to participate in one. Beyond the course credits, an internship can help you to understand the real-life working environment, and what the different accountancy roles involve. You can also make useful contacts that can lead to career opportunities once you graduate.
What type of bachelor’s degrees are there in accounting?
Before we discuss the main undergraduate accounting programs, note that to enter the accountancy field you can also study a related field at bachelor’s level, such as economics. Focusing on accountancy at bachelor’s level can be an advantage, but this specialization can come later, too.
There are 3 main types of bachelor’s in accountancy programs. The first is a bachelor’s of business administration in accounting (BBA). This provides a combination of business and accountancy courses, and their tends to be less emphasis on math in comparison to some other accountancy programs.
The remaining programs are bachelor’s of arts (B.A.) or bachelor’s of science (B.S). The core subjects are similar in both programs, but a B.A. focuses more on other subjects such as history, communication, psychology, or political science.
A B.S. in accounting usually devotes more time to studying subjects related to the major. This means the focus is more on gaining the necessary skills and knowledge needed to work in accounting, which may translate into a deeper understanding of advanced accounting principles.
Choosing one of these courses over the other is unlikely to affect your career. The choice usually comes down to the program that most interests the candidate and the school they prefer to attend.
Type of coursework
Most bachelor’s of accounting programs offer a broad curriculum, with intermediate or advanced courses that focus on specialized topics.
These courses may include:
- Intermediate and advanced financial accounting – Takes a deep dive into collecting, compiling, analyzing, and communicating financial data.
- Intermediate and advanced managerial accounting – Provides advanced understanding of the procedures used to analyze and communicate financial information.
- Accounting software and information systems – Technology is playing an increasingly important role in business. This class covers best practices on how to identify, avoid, and fight against accounting software security threats.
- Economics – Covers how economic principles help accounting professionals analyze various financial situations.
- Auditing – You’ll learn about auditing principles and procedures, with a focus on ethics, laws and regulations, and best practices in the field.
- Taxation – Offers intermediate and advanced knowledge on state and national taxation regulations and practices, including their impact on corporations and other organizations.
- Ethics in accounting and business – Teaches best practices of ethical behavior in accounting and business environments.
- Principles of macro and microeconomics – Students learn how to apply the laws that govern Microeconomics and Macroeconomics in real-life business situations.
What jobs can I do with a bachelor’s in accounting?
A public accountant performs tasks like reviewing financial transactions, auditing tax procedures, or creating financial reports. Even if it’s not a compulsory requirement, many public accountants choose to continue their studies, taking an exam to become Certified Public Accountants (CPA).
Forensic AccountantMedian salary: $72K
A bachelor’s degree in accounting can be enough for a candidate to qualify for entry-level forensic accountancy roles. In these positions, you audit commercial, or non-profit organizations and state institutions, to establish the legality and accuracy of an organization’s financial data. Using the information gathered during the auditing process, you prepare forensic accounting reports needed for litigation purposes.
Responsibilities for this position include various administrative tasks and working with all types of financial documents.
Internal auditorMedian salary: $60K
A bachelor’s in accountancy can qualify you for entry-level internal auditing roles. Internal auditors are employed by a company or a business organization to verify the accuracy, conformity, and legality of all the financial transactions performed by said entity over any given length of time.
A great way to advance your career is to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). This is the certification employers most often request when they hire accountants. The CPA exam requires 150 credit hours to complete, 90 more than an associate’s degree, and around 30 more than most bachelor’s programs. That’s why many choose to earn a master’s in accounting, widely considered the highest level of education in accounting.
To get this certification you have to sit for an exam organized by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). Entry requirements vary from state to state, but most specify that candidates have a bachelor’s degree and a minimum of 2 years of public accounting experience.
Other accounting certifications include:
Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE)
If you’re a forensic accountant and want to advance your career, you might become a Certified Fraud Examiner. Examinations are held by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, and you need to have a bachelor’s degree and become a member of the organization to qualify.
Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)
Internal auditors can upskill to become a certified internal auditor. This requires passing the CIA exam and agreeing to the IIA code of ethics. A bachelor’s degree, professional experience, and IIA membership, are usually required.
To apply for entry-level accountancy positions, an associate’s degree may be enough. That being said, a bachelor’s in accounting provides more options for a career in business, finance, or economics. It is also a required stepping stone to apply for a master’s degree, and later to become a CPA or CMA.
What are the top paying jobs if I have a bachelor in accounting?
These include personal finance advisor, public accountant, forensic accountant, and loan officer.
Is a bachelor’s in accounting a good investment?
Yes, it is. Graduates of this field have a 96% employment rate, and salary growth remains strong even into older age.
What are the different types of bachelor’s in accountancy programs available?
The 3 main programs are: bachelor’s of business administration in accounting (BBA), bachelor’s of science in accounting (B.S.), and bachelor’s of arts in accounting (B.A.). These differ slightly in emphasis, and the choice may depend on the subject matter that most appeals, or the school you wish to attend.
Do I need a bachelor’s in accountancy to become an accountant?
The short answer is no. There are entry-level accountancy positions that require less education, such as an associate’s degree. But if you want to reach the higher echelons, for example becoming a CPA, a bachelor’s is a requisite. Note, this degree does not have to be in accounting, but can be in a related field, for example: business, finance, or economics.
Can I become a CPA with a bachelor’s in accounting?
Yes and no. You need a bachelor’s degree to become a CPA. But typically this will only get you to 120 credits, 30 credits short of the CPA requirement. This is why most aspiring CPAs enroll in postgraduate programs or certificates.
Can I get financial aid to study a bachelor’s in accounting?
Yes, students can apply, for example, for federal student aid (FAFSA). Some schools also offer scholarship opportunities, where your eligibility depends on your circumstances.
Where do the statistics cited on this page come from?
Our in-house methodology (LINK). We aim for complete transparency about how we formulate the data and any limitations that may exist. Our goal is to create the most accurate information for students so that they can make the best decisions.
The AAA is an extensive community of accountants, from all walks of life.
The core mission of the NSA is to help tax and accounting professionals further their knowledge.
The AICPA is the official body that represents CPAs. It also develops and grades the CPA certification examination at state and national level.