If you’re asking this question, you’re probably just starting to explore the field of accounting. Learning about what you can do with a degree is a great idea that will help you gain clarity in two ways.
First, discovering the kinds of jobs the degree will qualify you for will give you a better sense of whether accounting is for you.
Second, exploring the career opportunities will help you decide whether earning a degree in accounting is worth it and how this path might compare to others you’re also considering.
In this article, we’ll describe the main areas of accounting along with some common positions. We’ll also provide some important data about salaries and job prospects. Finally, we’ll cover the kind of accounting degree you’ll need to earn to qualify you for a job.
Areas and Jobs in the Accounting Field
Let’s start with a basic description of what accountants do. Most people know their work has something to do with keeping track of finances, and we often associate them with taxes. We can make this vague picture more precise by identifying three key areas in which accountants are involved.
- Preparing financial information: Accountants help to organize financial information and prepare documents that are used to report it. This can range from helping an individual client prepare a budget to assisting a major corporation in filing tax forms. This kind of information is crucial both for internal decision-makers and outside investors.
- Ensuring compliance: Accountants are trained in best practices and are knowledgeable about laws and regulations so they can make sure companies or individuals have reliable financial information and are following legal requirements.
- Offering guidance: As an accountant, you may be called upon to advise clients about how they can increase efficiency, cut expenses, or strategically lower their tax burden.
We can add to this an important distinction between Public Accounting and Private Accounting (also known by other names including Managerial Accounting). Public Accountants work for a number of different clients, often as an employee of an accounting firm. Private Accountants serve internally as an employee of a particular organization.
The areas described above combine with these two types of accounting roles to yield a large number of possible positions. Here are some examples.
- CPA: This stands for “Certified Public Accountant,” a license needed for those who work in public accounting for an accounting firm. They can have many specialties, from preparing required financial reports for businesses to auditing the work of internal accounting teams.
- Tax Accountant: These accountants specialize in preparing and filing taxes for individuals or organizations. They can be self-employed, work for a firm, or be part of an in-house team.
- Forensic Accountant: Accountants in this role investigate potential financial fraud, including tax evasion, improper reporting, and crimes relating to finance.
- Auditor: This role involves inspecting the finances of an organization to make sure proper accounting practices and legal requirements have been followed.
- Managerial Accountant: This person works within an organization and typically has a dual role of helping to produce financial data as well as taking an active part in management. This could include creating budgets, formulating strategy, and making business decisions.
You can find variations for each of these positions, including whether it is broad or focused on a narrow specialty. There are even opportunities for those with an accounting degree in related fields like becoming a financial advisor or a business analyst.
What about Job Prospects and Salaries in Accounting?
Maybe one or more of these areas within accounting sounds like a great fit for you. If so, you’re likely to have two very practical questions: How hard will it be to find a job? And what can I expect to earn?
As for job prospects, an individual’s particular qualifications are obviously always an important factor. But according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in accounting is expected to grow at a healthy rate over the next several years.
In the near term, businesses are struggling to fill positions in accounting, which means qualified candidates are facing a favorable job market.
What about salaries? According to BLS data (the most recent is from 2021), the median pay in the field is $77,250. For those just entering the field, Indeed lists the average salary for an accountant at $55,870.
More experienced positions, like Senior Accountant, can earn over $100,000 a year while the median salary for a Managerial Accounting Manager is $114,258.
What Kind of Degree Will You Need?
Though it is possible to get an associate degree in accounting, most jobs for accountants will require a bachelor’s degree. It is also possible to obtain a master’s degree in the field, which may make sense down the road as a way to open up more senior opportunities. It certainly isn’t necessary, though.
Earning Your Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting at Athens State
If you already have some college credits under your belt, Athens State can be a great place to earn your accounting degree and get started in the field. We are dedicated to serving transfer students and have designed our program to give you maximum flexibility and ensure you receive as much credit as possible for the work you’ve already done.
You can complete the accounting program either on campus or completely online. Either way, you’ll receive rigorous instruction in a supportive environment that will qualify you to sit for the CPA exam in the state of Alabama. Becoming a CPA will open up more opportunities and help you stand out in the job market.
One of our program distinctives is the opportunity to add a forensic accounting minor to deepen your knowledge in this exciting area of practice and qualify you for additional opportunities.
Interested to hear more about what Athens State University has to offer? Find the details on the accounting program page.