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What You Should Know About Accounting Degrees

August 12, 2021
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There’s much more to accounting than what meets the eye—after all, it’s the #13 best business job for a reason.1 Accountants don’t just deal in math and spreadsheets; they have to understand, analyze, and report on the financial factors that drive substantial decisions, as well as coordinate between teams, track various projects and variables at once, and adhere to the latest laws and regulations. From a single person to an international company, accounting has a significant influence on the entities with whom they work.

It takes a specialized skill set to balance all of that responsibility with a level head. Because of this, it takes a fair amount of time and education to excel in any of the numerous accounting positions available today. An accounting degree is a necessity for all of these roles, but there are a few different options and levels of degrees to choose from.

Keep reading to find out some of the most frequently asked questions about accounting degrees, including common career paths and how to determine if accounting is right for you.

Is accounting hard?

As with anything in life, your ability to excel will depend on your existing knowledge and familiarity with the subject. However, you should know that working in accounting does not mean you have to be a math genius. At the end of the day, accounting is primarily about translating numbers and abstract information into summaries, analyses, and action plans. The degree of difficulty can vary based on the industry, client, and project, as well as your seniority level and the size of your team, but the basic principles will always be the same.

Every accountant, at every level, should have an understanding of basic bookkeeping to build up to more complex (and equally necessary) accounting topics like auditing, payroll, financial reporting, and taxes. All of these require a good deal of critical thinking, problem solving, and in-depth analysis to master, so your aptitude for those traits will help determine how challenging the work will be for you.

Is accounting right for me?

If the idea of numbers, statistics, and math scares you, then you know right away that, unfortunately, you probably shouldn’t pursue a career in accounting. But if you’re passionate about helping people and companies maximize their money and want to help power smarter business decisions (with some numbers, statistics, and math mixed in), then you’ll find a lot of satisfaction and success in this field.

Beyond your technical accounting knowledge, most businesses want someone who is generally organized, detail-oriented, motivated, and adaptable. Since you’ll be dealing with a lot of confidential and potentially compromising information, it’s also important that you’re respectful, trustworthy, and a good problem solver. Lastly, teamwork and collaboration are a big part of the accounting process, so you’ll do well if you have strong communication skills and a desire to collaborate.

What degrees can you get in accounting?

Choosing the right university for your education is crucial. You must establish a solid foundational knowledge before you can move on —and move up—to other areas in accounting. Look for a university that’s accredited by the Association for Advancing Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP), or the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE) to make sure you have the knowledge and skills you need.

To start a career in accounting, many students get a two-year associate’s degree, or a one-year accounting diploma from a community college. With this route, you’ll be able to secure most bookkeeping jobs, or become an assistant to an accountant. If you want to grow beyond those opportunities, you could use your associate’s degree as a stepping stone to earn your bachelor’s degree at another university.

On that note, the most common educational choice is a bachelor’s degree in accounting. Most universities require at least 120 credit hours to graduate, which puts you well on your way to the 150 credit hours needed for the Uniform CPA Examination®. Courses will help you build a strong foundation in auditing, tax, financial reporting, and consulting for careers that match those disciplines.

If you’re interested in becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or a more senior position that requires that designation, a Master of Science (MS) in Accounting is one of the best places to start. Not only does it help you fulfill the 150 hour requirement for the CPA exam, but it also gives you deeper, more robust knowledge in accounting principles and emerging financial trends. To take your education a step further, an Online MS in Accounting from Yeshiva University’s Sy Syms School of Business includes courses on data analysis, ethics, and business impact, all of which incorporate the latest findings and best practices in FinTech, cryptocurrencies, and NFT.

Other master’s degree options include a Master of Accountancy, Master of Professional Accounting, Master’s of Science in Professional Accountancy, or an MBA in Accounting. Pay attention to the degree name and curriculum, as it likely means there’s a specialization or specific career path in mind.

What can you do with an accounting degree?

Since business and finance are so intertwined, you’ll likely find more jobs that you can get with an accounting degree than you previously thought.2

With a bachelor’s degree in accounting, you can find jobs as a:

  • Budget analyst
  • Auditor
  • Financial planner
  • Consultant
  • Technical accountant

With a master’s degree in accounting, you could land positions like:

  • Corporate controller
  • CPA
  • Forensic accountant
  • Compliance officer
  • Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

Luckily, the knowledge and skills you learn in accounting are mostly transferable. You’re not limited to working in an accounting firm, or even in an accounting department; you could move into the public sector as a government officer, into entertainment as a production accountant, or several other industries. Either way, you’re sure to have options: accounting jobs are expected to grow 4% from 2019 to 2029, with about 125,700 new job openings per year.3

Earn Your Accounting Degree at Yeshiva Sy Syms

A degree in accounting is anything but boring. An Online MS in Accounting from the Sy Syms School of Business will challenge you in all the right ways to equip you for success. Led by a faculty of accomplished business leaders and intellectuals, our program combines leading-edge accounting practices and principles with ethical leadership to help you excel in modern business.