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Accounting Major Overview

Have an interest in numbers and finance, or simply enjoy having a routine and keeping organized? Whether it’s one or the other, or if either of those apply to you, you might want to consider looking into an accounting major. Before you decide on anything, though, you should probably know more about what an accounting major is and does.

So, without further ado, keep on reading to find out more about the accounting major, including typical coursework, jobs you can get with a degree in accounting, and how to know if it’s the right fit for you!

Also read: Top majors and careers for introverts

What is an accounting major?

Depending on the particular university you attend, your school’s “accounting” major may go by a variety of different names. These include “Accountancy,” “Accounting and Financial Management,” or even “Accounting Technology.” No matter what your school calls it, there are a few things that every accounting major (no matter the school) will likely have in common.

Accounting majors learn how to create and maintain intricate financial systems that detail a company’s finances. They also learn about accounting theories and principles. All of that learning will help them examine the financial position of any business. Some accounting principles to learn include auditing, reporting, budgeting, and even tax regulations.

See also: Top accounting scholarships

Coursework to expect

Coursework for accounting majors typically starts out more like a broad, liberal arts education. As you progress, you will take classes that are more specific to accounting and businesses. Some of these “liberal arts” classes may include topics such as literature, psychology, foreign language(s), or even sciences like physics. You might encounter classes like “Introduction to Accounting,” Finance, or math classes like statistics. As happens with most majors, the classes generally become more specialized and rigorous as they progress further towards their college degree.

Here is a fuller list of classes that accounting majors may encounter during their time at college:

  • Foreign language (of your choice)
  • Psychology
  • Accounting
  • Taxation courses
  • Microeconomics or Macroeconomics
  • Business Law
  • Accounting theory classes
  • Business communication 
  • Finance
  • Auditing
  • Marketing

See Also: Finance major overview

Opportunities after graduation

Post-graduation, accounting majors have many options, from becoming accountants, to financial advisors, or even CFOs (chief financial officers). Alternatively, however, if they decide not to pursue a career immediately after graduation, another common path is to go on to graduate school. Pursuing a master’s in accounting or a Master of Business Administration are popular choices. Some universities even offer 5-year programs in which students can acquire their bachelor’s and master’s degrees together (and complete an internship!). Here are some common career options for accounting majors:

  • Accountant
  • International Tax Manager
  • Finance Director
  • Financial Analyst
  • Financial Advisor
  • Chief Financial Officer
  • Vice President of Finance (at a corporation)

We know that all these may seem limited to the business world. That is largely because those who go into accounting typically intend on pursuing a career in a business or accounting-related field. So, although it is not necessarily impossible to pursue something outside of the business world after graduating with a degree in accounting, it may be a little difficult due to how uncommon it is. So, if you do not plan or intend on working in business, accounting, or a similar field, we might suggest that you reconsider majoring in accounting. However, if you’re still interested in accounting as a field, consider picking it up as a minor. 

See also: How to pick a major

Jobs you can get with an accounting degree

Accounting majors acquire a variety of skills during their time in college which make them adaptable to a wide variety of careers. Such analytical, organizational, communication, and critical thinking skills that one picks up while majoring in accounting are often seen as desirable by companies and employers, allowing accounting majors to pursue many options post-graduation. But what exactly are some of those jobs, and how much do they make? Let’s check out a few (with data straight from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)!

1. Accountants and Auditors

Accountants and auditors work closely with businesses’ financial records and data, making sure everything related to finances is going smoothly. They are responsible for preparing and analyzing financial records, recognizing areas of opportunity and risk, and creating financial solutions for businesses and individuals. Broadly, they also evaluate the financial operations of companies and make sure that they’re running the best they can (and that they’re compliant with laws and regulations!). While a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field is normally the standard to become an accountant, becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) may improve one’s chances of being hired.

2020 Median Pay: $73,560 per year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): 4% (as fast as average)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

2. Financial Analyst

As suggested by the name, financial analysts study and analyze current and historical business, economic, and financial trends and data in order to help businesses and individuals make smart financial decisions and make a profit. To help such people make these choices, they create written reports, graphs, and other visual representations of data to show how different financial decisions may pan out. The majority of financial analysts have a bachelor’s degree before going into the profession.

2020 Median Pay: $83,660 per year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): 5% (faster than average)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

3. Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks

Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks work strictly with businesses’ financial records, being responsible for entering such financial information and transactions into the appropriate computer software. They also keep track of companies’ costs, income, cash, checks, and vouchers, so that a company is completely aware of the financial state of its business. While some university education is often required to earn this position, many of the necessary skills for it are taught while on the job.

2020 Median Pay: $42,410 per year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): -6%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

4. Management Analysts

Like many other jobs in finance, management analysts recommend ways that businesses can improve. They are, however, unique in that they focus specifically on how companies can increase their efficiency. Gathering and analyzing data on finances, revenue, and other related measures, they use this information to develop and recommend solutions to problems or new systems to help solve them. So, to become a management analyst, one typically needs a bachelor’s degree and some years of related work experience.

2020 Median Pay: $87,660 per year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): 11% (much faster than average) 

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Frequently asked questions

Is getting a CPA license worth it?

Great question! Getting a CPA license (aka becoming a Certified Public Accountant) is extremely useful for those looking to be accountants for some time. This is because passing the exam and becoming a CPA signals to employers that you have both the expertise and commitment necessary to thrive in the workplace. This extra certification is often even rewarded by employers, in the form of higher salaries and more career opportunities than those who are not CPAs. Passing the CPA exam can be difficult, however. If you’re looking for some tips or help for studying for the CPA exam, we highly recommend checking out these 5 CPA Exam Study Tips.

How do I know if Accounting is right for me?

It’s always a little difficult to know whether a major is a good fit for you or not. So, if you’re thinking about majoring in accounting, ask yourself these questions first:

  • Are you detail oriented?
  • Do you value sticking to the rules?
  • Are you passionate about helping companies perform to the best of their ability?
  • Do you enjoy working with numbers?

If you answered “yes” to the majority of these questions, then an accounting major may be a great choice for you! We hope that you love it, but if you don’t, remember that switching majors is always an option (and far more common than you think!). Either way, we wish you the best. Good luck in college!

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