If you're good at basic math, are well organized and detail-oriented, possess a strong work ethic, and have a passion for problem-solving, then a career in accounting might be a great fit for you. Accounting offers a clear career path with strong earning potential within a stable and growing job market. And, unlike some jobs, being an accountant doesn’t tie you to a specific industry or location—virtually every business needs accountants.
Accountants do a lot more than just keep track of money. They are often creative, adaptable, tech-savvy people who work in a broad range of fields from supply-chain management to law enforcement.1
As with many other professions, getting the right education is key to pursuing the accounting career you want.
Jobs You Can Get with a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting
The field of accounting covers a wide swath of transactional, financial, and other business activities. With a BS in accounting, you can have a rewarding and well-paying career in one of a number of positions, such as
Accountant: An accountant prepares and examines an organization's financial records to ensure that they are accurate and up to legal standards and that taxes are paid properly. They also assess potential opportunities and risks and work to help ensure that the organization runs efficiently. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median annual wage for accountants was $77,250 in May 2021.11
Bookkeeper: Also known as bookkeeping clerks, bookkeepers maintain some or all of an organization’s accounts, which may include the general ledger, payroll, accounts payable, accounts receivable, transaction records, or other accounts. In addition, they often prepare invoices, purchase orders, and other documentation. BLS estimates the median annual wage for bookkeeping clerks at $45,560.1
Budget Analyst: Budget analysts prepare reports on an organization's financial needs and spending priorities. They also evaluate budget proposals for accuracy and compliance and consult with executives and managers on funding for their departments. In its May 2021 estimate, the BLS estimated the median annual wage for budget analysts at $79,940.1
Financial Examiner: A financial examiner reviews financial institutions' balance sheets, evaluates the risk level of loans, and assesses management to ensure that banks offer safe loans and that they have enough cash on hand to manage unexpected losses. The median annual wage for financial examiners according to BLS was $81,410 in May 2021.1
Internal Auditor: Internal Auditors review their own organization’s funds, revenue sources, financial data, and risk management to identify ways to improve the process of finding and addressing waste, fraud, and other financial risks. (External auditors do much of the same, but are employed by outside organizations.) According to Accounting.com, the median annual salary for internal auditors is $57,520.2
Tax Accountant: Individuals and organizations alike employ tax accountants to prepare federal, state and local income tax returns and to provide expertise on tax compliance, bookkeeping, payroll, and other matters. Median annual wage for tax accountants in May 2021 was $77,080, according to the BLS.1
Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
Many accountants also add a CPA certification to their credentials to give themselves an edge in a competitive job market. Many employers prefer—and some require—CPA certification because CPAs are widely regarded as well educated, highly professional, ethical, and reliable accounting experts.
The CPA exam is a rigorous 16-hour assessment consisting of four sections of four hours each, all of which must be completed within 18 months. The exam covers a wide range of knowledge and skills needed to practice public accountancy.
Jobs You Can Get with a Master’s Degree in Accounting
For those who want to advance their accounting careers toward leadership positions, a master's degree can provide a decided advantage over those with a bachelor's degree alone. A master’s in accounting, can prepare you for more specialized roles that involve high-level decision-making, such as
Accounting Manager: Accounting managers are responsible for financial reporting, payroll, budget preparation, billing, and collections. They also recruit, hire, and oversee an organization's accounting staff. Accounting managers earn a median annual salary of $70,069, according to Accounting.com.3
Controller: Overseeing an organization's billing, accounts, budgeting, and other financial and accounting operations is the responsibility of the corporate controller. This typically includes managing accounting personnel and filing reports with the Securities and Exchanges Commission. According to Indeed.com, the average base salary for controllers is $103,712.4
Cyber Accountant: Working alongside cybersecurity and IT experts, cyber accountants have the technological and financial training to assess costs, vulnerabilities, and the risks of cyber-attacks on an organization’s information systems. They can also implement controls to address data security gaps. The salary range for cyber accounts posted on ZipRecruiter is between $61,000 and $133,500 per year.5
Financial Analyst: These professionals use data analysis and risk assessment to support financial decision-making for an organization. Median annual salary for financial analysts is $95,570, according to BLS.1
Forensic Accountant: These financial detectives examine a firm's data and practices to determine if it is engaged in fraud or financial reporting misconduct. They also aid in civil and criminal investigations. Indeed.com puts the median annual salary for forensic accountants at $95,570.6
What to Consider When Choosing an Accounting Degree
Choosing the accounting program that best fits your personal and professional goals will require some research on your part. Here are some things to look at when selecting a program:
- Accreditation and Reputation. First and foremost, you should get to know the institution itself. It should be accredited by one of the nation's reputable regional accreditation agencies to ensure that you’ll be receiving a rigorous, high-quality education. It should also be a school with a solid reputation for academic excellence, as evidenced by the recognition it has received and how it is ranked by respected academic organizations and publications.
- Online vs. On-site. You’ll want to consider the benefits of studying online versus in-person at a brick-and-mortar university. For working adults who need to balance the demands of their jobs, families, and other commitments, online learning offers the flexibility to study anywhere on your own schedule. If you opt for the physical classroom setting, choosing a location that best suits your situation is key.
- Cost and Time to Complete. How long it will take to graduate and how much it will cost are critically important considerations—for some, perhaps the most important. If you opt for an online degree, you’ll need to consider the tuition rates, the cost of books, and other expenses associated with your education, such as certification fees. If you decide upon a residential program, you’ll need to consider these costs plus housing, meal plans, and transportation.
In addition, you’ll want to estimate how long it might take to complete your degree. Different programs have different credit requirements, and a bachelor’s degree typically requires more credit-hours than a master’s. You’ll need to figure out what a realistic course-load is for yourself and whether you plan to attend full- or part-time.
- Courses and Curriculum. It’s a good idea to look at the specific curricula for the programs you’re considering to see if they align with your goals. Whether you’re looking for a more rounded accounting degree or a particular specialization, browsing the course listings can reveal which programs have the courses you need to pursue your desired career.
- Faculty. Take the time to find out about an institution’s academic faculty. Instructors who have relevant, real-world experience can help you understand what types of accounting and business skills are valuable in today’s job market. They can also be a great resource when it comes to networking.
- Career Services. This is one of those considerations that may not seem to be quite as important as some others at first—and then it is. The closer you get to graduation the more your pursuit of career opportunities becomes a priority. It’s important, therefore, to know at the outset exactly what a school can offer you to assist in your job search.
UMGC’s Degree and Certificate Options
UMGC's Bachelor of Science in accounting is designed to help you develop skills in managerial accounting, budgeting, accounting systems, internal controls, financial analysis, financial reporting, auditing, and more. This program can help prepare you for accounting careers and certifications in a range of industries, corporations, nonprofits, and government organizations.
The online undergraduate certificate program in accounting foundations can help you develop the skills and knowledge needed for business transactions, including critical thinking skills for analysis and reporting of the economic activities of an organization.
Our Master of Science in accounting and financial management is designed to provide expertise on executive-level procedures and decision-making skills that can help you move toward a leadership position. Completing this degree program can help prepare you for work as an accountant, auditor, budget analyst, financial manager, or controller.
With a Master of Science in management with an accounting specialization, you'll learn to communicate financial information with high-level decision-makers, as well as advanced accounting knowledge. This program can help you move toward a position as a comptroller, managing partner, or senior accountant in the public, private, or nonprofit sector.
The Master of Science in cyberaccounting program at UMGC can help you develop synergistic knowledge and cutting-edge technology skill sets in cyberaccounting, data analytics, fraud and forensic accounting, and information systems security. This program can help prepare you for work in accounting information systems, cyber forensics in accounting, accounting management and compliance, and IT auditing.
Why Choose UMGC?
UMGC was founded more than 75 years ago specifically to serve the higher education needs of working adults and servicemembers like you. UMGC is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and is a constituent institution of the University System of Maryland. The university has repeatedly received awards and recognition for our innovative educational programs and commitment to excellence.
UMGC’s online classes offer you the flexibility and convenience to study at your own pace, on your own time. As a student, you will have access to a success coach to help keep you on track through graduation. We also offer a variety of ways to help you meet, manage, and reduce your education costs, including tuition and fees that are competitive and affordable, reduced military tuition rates, more than 140 merit- and need-based scholarships, and no-cost digital course materials that replace costly textbooks in nearly every course.
Your accounting courses are taught by our faculty of highly successful and experienced scholar-practitioners who are leaders in their fields. And no matter where you are in your career or how long you may need them, you'll have access to UMGC’s lifetime career services, so you'll never have to face a job search alone.
Whatever area of accounting you may choose to pursue as a career, getting your degree is key to unlocking your potential. A dedicated UMGC admissions advisor can help you get started. To speak with an advisor, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.