If you are considering pursuing a degree in accounting to follow the career path of an accountant or auditor, there’s a good chance that you are curious about what to expect during your academic career. The first accomplishment you must achieve to become an accountant is earning an undergraduate degree. When earning a bachelor’s in accounting degree, students – especially those who aspire to become certified public accountants (CPAs) – should expect to take courses in basic and intermediate accounting, business, finance and economics. They should also be prepared to spend as many as five years of full-time study getting their degrees.
The Five-Year Degree
One major distinction between undergraduate degree programs in accounting and those in other academic disciplines is the length of time required to complete the program. A bachelor’s degree in either arts or science is often referred to as a “four-year” degree because the educational requirements of the program can be completed in four years of full-time study, even if many students take longer than four years. Many accounting degree programs, instead, require five years of full-time study or 150 total semester hours rather than the 120 usually required to earn an undergraduate degree. That’s because most states require that candidates for the CPA certification have a minimum of 150 semester hours of study to take the CPA exam, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.
If the bachelor’s in accounting degree program at your desired school is only four years, be aware that it won’t be sufficient to prepare you for taking the CPA exam. Many schools offer a one-year master’s degree or a combined bachelor’s and master’s degree program to fulfill this fifth year of study requirement. Planning ahead to make sure your academic career provides you with the required 150 semester hours of study can help you achieve your goals more efficiently.
Common Coursework for Accounting Students
No matter where you earn your bachelor’s in accounting degree, there are some courses that you are likely to take. Students will often take classes in principles of accounting, financial reporting, taxation, ethics, economics, business, communication, management, finance and marketing. Often, students have the opportunity to gain real world experience through internship opportunities, as well. Some degree programs even allow students to take specialized courses, such as forensic accounting, internal auditing, and accounting for non-profit organizations or government agencies. These courses can help prepare students for work as forensic accountants or internal auditors.
A bachelor’s degree is just the first step toward a career as a CPA, which requires successful completion of the four-part CPA exam as well as continuing education experiences. Earning your degree is, however, one of the most important steps toward success. As an undergraduate accounting major, you will develop a solid background in the basics of accounting and business and build your intermediate and advanced skills, preparing you for taking the CPA exam and ultimately finding success in your future accounting career.