What Is a Bachelor's in Accounting and What Can You Do with One?

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Find out more about the different types of bachelor's degrees you can earn when you're interested in studying accounting.

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Accounting is a central business need. Companies, government agencies, and nonprofits all rely on trained professionals to fulfill a variety of financial needs. If you enjoy working with numbers and being analytical, and you are looking for a career with industry flexibility, earning your bachelor’s degree in accounting may be a good choice. 

In this article, we’ll go over what you’ll learn in a bachelor’s degree in accounting program, the difference between an accounting and finance degree, and what you can do with this particular major after graduation. 

What is a bachelor’s degree in accounting?

When you earn your bachelor’s degree, you have the option of majoring in accounting. The way each school handles this major can differ. Some offer it as a stand-alone college major, meaning you can earn either your Bachelor of Science (BS) or Bachelor of Arts (BA) in the subject, while others situate accounting in business school, so you can earn your Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) and specialize in accounting.

While each school’s accounting program will look different, the overall curriculum for any accounting bachelor’s typically involves taking a combination of foundational business courses alongside advanced math courses.  

  • Bachelor of Science in Accounting: Also known as a Bachelor of Accountancy, this degree focuses on a general business education alongside core math requirements, such as calculus and statistics. It can help you prepare to enter the workforce, go on to graduate school, or take the certified public accountant (CPA) exam. 

  • Bachelor of Arts in Accounting: This program isn’t offered as frequently as a BS in Accounting. While it also focuses on business and math, it tends to emphasize a liberal arts education to strengthen your approach to accounting. 

  • Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting: This degree program helps prepare you for the workforce or graduate studies in accounting. Coursework includes accounting, business administration, economics, and management.

Each degree takes between four and five years to earn, depending on your school’s requirements. You can expect to complete a range of core courses during your first two years before moving into your major coursework. The average total cost of a bachelor’s degree, including books, supplies, and living expenses, is $35,551, according to the Education Data Initiative [1]. 

Learn more: Is a Bachelor’s Degree Worth It?

What you’ll learn in a bachelor’s accounting program

Because of the role accounting plays in business, it’s important that graduates understand the fundamentals of business as they pursue accounting roles. The exact coursework in your Bachelor of Accounting degree program will vary, but you can expect to take courses pertaining to business, management, economics, and math. 

Accounting coursework can include: 

  • Principles of accounting

  • Financial accounting

  • Managerial accounting

  • Cost accounting

  • Auditing

  • Federal income taxation

  • Accounting information systems

Business coursework can include:  

  • Financial statement analysis

  • Operations management

  • Leading and managing

  • Principles of marketing

  • Corporate strategy

  • Macroeconomics 

  • Introduction to statistics

4+1 accounting programs

Many schools increasingly offer “4+1” programs so you can earn your master’s degree in accounting with just one additional year of full-time attendance rather than two. With a graduate degree, you may qualify for more advanced roles, such as forensic accounting, tax director, or chief financial officer.  

Bachelor’s in accounting vs. bachelor’s in finance

When you’re interested in working with revenue and expenses, you have the option of earning your degree in accounting or finance. There’s some deal of overlap between the two majors, but typically an accounting degree focuses on a company’s day-to-day finances, while a finance degree focuses on key money management skills with the purpose of expanding a company’s growth and profits. 

Both degree programs share some common courses, such as business law, business ethics, business statistics, and principles of finance, but many other requirements tend to differ. For example, as an accounting major, your classes may include personal taxes, investment and business taxation, and fraud auditing. If you major in finance, however, your courses will include micro and macroeconomics, risk management, and principles of management.

What can you do with a bachelor’s in accounting?

Accountants are in demand, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Accountants and related roles are expected to grow by 7 percent between 2020 and 2030 [2]. The median salary for accountants and auditors is $77,250 [2]. 

Investment analyst 

Individuals and companies need information about where they should invest their resources. An investment analyst reviews asset classes, like stocks and bonds, and makes recommendations to an investment manager. 

  • Average annual salary (Glassdoor)$72,620 + $21,303 average bonus 

Financial analyst

Financial analysts help individuals and companies determine where to invest their resources. They must be familiar with, and comfortable researching, industry trends, evaluating a client’s financial history and data, and preparing reports that recommend an investment strategy. 

 

  • Median annual salary (BLS): $81,410 

Budget analyst 

Companies need to know about their profits and expenses to make informed decisions. Budget analysts create and review a company’s financial performance, including spending and available funds.

  • Median annual salary (BLS): $79,940

Tax examiner and collector 

Tax examiners and collectors tend to work on behalf of a local, state, or federal government. They calculate how much an individual or company owes in annual taxes and set about collecting it. 

  • Median annual salary (BLS): $56,780

Financial examiner

When institutions handle monetary transactions, such as banks, they are subject to laws that require compliance. Financial examiners ensure compliance with those laws by reviewing an institution’s portfolio and developing reports. 

  • Median annual salary (BLS): $81,410 

Controller

Controllers typically lead an accounting team, and are responsible for ensuring a company is doing well financially by reviewing and analyzing its budgets and other financial documents. While you can become a controller with a bachelor’s degree, you must first acquire several years of experience before moving into this senior role.

  • Average annual salary (Glassdoor): $104,337 

Can you become a CPA with a bachelor’s in accounting?

Many accounting students are interested in becoming certified personal accountants (CPA)—or certified professionals who can prepare taxes on behalf of an individual or corporation and conduct audits, among other responsibilities. Each state sets different licensing requirements to become a CPA, but many states require you to complete 150 college credit hours before being eligible to sit for the licensure exam. 

Since undergraduate degree programs require a minimum of 120 hours, you may need to complete additional coursework or consider earning a master’s degree to meet your state’s CPA stipulations. Take time to review your state’s requirements to find out more. 

Learn more: How to Get Your First Accounting Entry-Level Job

Explore further

Earn a bachelor’s degree in general business from the University of North Texas on Coursera. You can learn at your own pace and study from anywhere there’s an internet connection. Try a free course to see if it’s a good fit. 

You can also explore accounting certificate programs and accounting online, such as the University of Illinois’ Fundamentals of Accounting or the University of Virginia’s Financial Accounting Fundamentals. Neither program requires previous experience. 

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Article sources

1. Education Data Initiative. “Average Cost of College and Tuition, https://educationdata.org/average-cost-of-college.” Accessed August 29, 2022. 

2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Accountants and Auditors, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/accountants-and-auditors.htm#tab-6.” Accessed August 29, 2022. 

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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