What is the Best Degree to Become an Accountant?

AccountantAccounting offers a secure industry for anyone looking for steady and reliable employment, and finding the best degree to become an accountant helps students gain the skills they need to find a job. However, there are many accountants working in all sorts of industries and environments, which means the best degree path may differ depending on a person’s employment goals.

Accounting students who obtain a bachelor’s degree may expect to reach a median pay level of $63,550 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, it’s worth it to consider specialties within accounting that may lead to the highest wages. For example,¬†accountants working in finance and insurance may make more than accountants working in payroll services or bookkeeping.

Becoming a Bookkeeper or Clerk

The swiftest way to work in the accounting field is to become a bookkeeper or clerk, which may require a Certificate in Accounting or an Associate in Accounting degree. In most cases, a certificate program may take around a year to complete, and an associate’s program may take around two years to complete, assuming a student enrolls in classes full-time.

There are a few career paths that a student may take after becoming a bookkeeper including entering a bachelor’s degree program or continuing study into a specialized area of accounting. To enter advanced accounting paths, the best degree to become an accountant tends to be a bachelor’s degree.

Working as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

One of the most respected career paths for students in accounting is the Certified Public Accountant (CPA). To become a CPA, a student must complete a rigorous course of study that usually begins with a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a Bachelor of Accountancy.

The student must also complete a total of 150 semester hours of education to sit for the official CPA exam, which usually means taking classes beyond the bachelor’s degree level, according to the American Institute of CPAs. Schools occasionally offer programs that combine a bachelor’s and master’s degree in accounting that take five years to complete and satisfy the 150 hour requirement.

A master’s degree isn’t absolutely required to become a CPA; however, many students choose to enter one-year graduate degree programs after getting a bachelor’s degree to satisfy the class requirements of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA).

Career Paths in Specialized Accounting

There are many fascinating specialties within accounting that may pique a student’s interest while he or she attends undergraduate school for a Bachelor of Accountancy. For example, the career of a forensic accountant is an interesting one in that an accountant must act as a detective to investigate a company’s accounting history.

To get hired in a specialized area of accounting, a student should think about getting a master’s degree in that specialty. Some areas of specialization include information technology auditing, management accounting, and taxation. Graduate programs may take anywhere from one to two years and are widely available from schools across the country.

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Which Degree Path Should a Future Accountant Choose?

To the uninitiated, accounting might seem like a static profession, but it’s actually an industry with many different specialties. Students who are comfortable with math and numbers will enjoy the detailed and exacting requirements of the profession. The bachelor’s degree is probably the best degree to become an accountant, but specialized accountants may want to consider additional schooling at the graduate level.