What Can You Do with an Accounting Degree?

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Accountant using a calculator at her desk

When choosing a career or a degree program, students sometimes hesitate to narrow their choices for fear of closing off job opportunities later in life. They might opt for a degree in the broader subject of business rather than in the specialization of accounting. People often associate accountants with the frenzied tax preparers they visit between January and April, but accounting careers are more varied than that. Just what can you do with an accounting degree? Job options are plentiful, and qualified candidates are in demand.

Certified Public Accountant

Certified public accountant (CPA) is the job most people associate with an accounting degree. The key skills that benefit CPAs include analysis, reporting, communication, and an understanding of finance law. Their main responsibilities often involve preparing financial records, assessing record accuracy, and ensuring that taxes are paid properly.

CPAs become certified by passing a four-part computer-based exam, and employers can require job candidates to hold a bachelor’s degree in accounting. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll services jobs was $69,410 in 2017. Other promising BLS statistics for this career predict a 10 percent growth of employment for accountants between 2016 and 2026.

Auditor

For individuals wondering what they can do with an accounting degree, auditing may not automatically come to mind. But the BLS predicts auditing positions to grow by 10 percent from 2016 to 2026. The BLS also put the median wage for auditors at $69,350 in 2017.

According to O*Net, a database of occupation information developed for the U.S. Department of Labor, financial auditors collect and analyze information, detect deficient or fraudulent procedures, identify areas of noncompliance, and inspect procedures. Auditors may also recommend changes in operations or activities to improve compliance and reduce future liabilities.

Most employers require auditors to have a bachelor’s degree in accounting, but candidates with a master’s degree often are preferred. In many situations, there can be additional certification requirements related to specific industries.

Accounting Manager

Professional international staffing service Robert Half reports that accounting manager is one of the top 10 best-paid jobs in 2018. With an average salary of $90,000, those who hold these positions may oversee teams of accounting staffers. They may be expected to report directly to high-level organization members such as chief financial officers (CFOs).

Accounting managers and their teams are often responsible for preparing, reviewing, and maintaining organization ledgers, overseeing transactions, coordinating budget preparations and processes, and a wide range of other tasks.

Employers may require accounting managers to be highly educated. Minimum requirements can begin with bachelor’s degrees in accounting, finance, or business, but job seekers with master’s degrees may be preferred over other candidates. Employers may require that accounting managers have a minimum of five years’ accounting experience. Other requirements can include certifications such as CPA, certified management accountant (CMA), or chartered global management accountant (CGMA).

Financial Manager

According to O*Net, financial managers can be considered responsible for an organization’s overall financial state. These positions may experience fast growth compared to other occupations. The BLS has projected a 19 percent growth rate for this occupation from 2016 through 2026, with a current median wage of $125,080.

Financial managers can be involved in creating financial reports, directing investments, coordinating staff activities, cultivating relationships with clients, evaluating data, and developing strategies to achieve organizational goals. Typically, financial managers can be required to hold a bachelor’s degree in accounting and have at least five years of business or finance experience.

Investment Banker

According to Glassdoor, investment banker positions can comprise a range of roles that may vary widely in responsibilities and salaries. The BLS reports an average job growth rate of 6 percent for this career over the next decade. The tier system of investment banking roles can be complicated:

  • Investment banking analysts may be recent graduates with little to no experience. Their average salary may be up to $135,000 within three years.
  • Investment banking associates can often have seniority over analysts, with salaries that can be up to $200,000 within three years of becoming an associate.
  • Salaries for more senior investment banking staff can vary widely, including those of vice presidents and managing directors. This can make it difficult to determine expected compensation for these kinds of positions.

Investment bankers may work in high-level transactions, mergers, acquisitions, and capital-raising efforts. They may issue securities, create documentation, and offer recommendations. They are usually required to hold MBAs from accredited institutions and may also need to hold chartered financial analyst (CFA) certification.

Chief Financial Officer

While several factors may affect the job hiring outlook and potential salaries of chief financial officers (CFOs), on average CFOs can earn up to $364,649, according to Salary.com. The BLS estimated that the growth rate for these careers was just slightly above the standard growth for other professions at 8 percent.
Investopedia describes CFO work as management-focused, with responsibilities including tracking cash flow, organizational analysis, and financial planning. CFOs can often be responsible for ensuring the accuracy and proper filing of financial reports.

Different employers have varying requirements for CFOs. They may require candidates to have a minimum of a bachelor’s or master’s degree and related work experience.

So, what can you do with an accounting degree like that from Ohio University’s online Master of Accountancy program? There are many possible options. No matter which of these careers an individual selects, an accounting degree or a graduate degree in accounting could be an important step on the path to becoming a competitive job candidate for an accounting job that fits his or her interests and ambitions.

Learn More

Find out more about how Ohio University’s Online Master of Accountancy program strives to prepare students for success as financial professionals.

Recommended Reading

Ohio University Blog, “How to Distinguish Between Bookkeeping and Accounting”
Ohio University Blog, “Discovering the 4 Types of Accounting”
Ohio University Blog, “MBA vs. MAcc: Which Is Right for Me?”

Sources

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Accountants and Auditors
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Financial Managers
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Securities, Commodities, and Financial Services Sales Agents 
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Top Executives
Robert Half, “So You Want to Become an Accounting Manager?”
Investopedia, “What Drives Investment Banker Salaries”
O*Net Online, “Summary Report for Accountants”
Glassdoor, “Investment Banking Associate Salaries”
Salary.com, “Chief Financial Officer Salary in the United States”