If you're passionate about money management, budgeting and strategic financial planning, an accounting degree could give you the skills you need to kick start a rewarding financial career.
While many accounting degree holders find work as certified accountants and analysts, similar professions are also available across many industries. The analytical and critical thinking skills gained in an accounting program can help prepare you for more careers than you might think.
"Through the advancement of auditing software, many of the functions of an accountant have been made more efficient, which allows for more opportunity in interpretation and analysis," said Keely Griffith, associate dean of online programs at Southern New Hampshire University. "This increases the value of an accounting education, as communication and analytical skills are emphasized more heavily."
What Will I Learn in an Accounting Degree Program?
By earning a bachelor's degree in accounting, you'll build a strong foundation of business knowledge that can be applied to many different career paths.
You'll learn how to analyze and apply financial rules and regulations, how to generate financial records and how to communicate these reports with internal and external stakeholders. You'll also gain valuable experience in business strategy, risk management, information systems, quantitative analysis and business ethics.
You'll explore the current business landscape and develop analytical, critical thinking and strong communication skills to prepare you for a variety of jobs for accounting majors, from financial planning and consulting to budget management and data analysis.
What To Do with an Accounting Degree
By earning an accounting degree, you'll prepare to enter the fast-growing financial world. Explore the jobs below to learn more about these alternative careers for accountants:
- Financial Examiner - With a career as a financial examiner, you'll help ensure compliance with laws governing financial institutions and lending practices, evaluating the health of financial institutions and protecting consumers from risky loans. On average, financial examiners earn $81,690 annually, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. More than 5,000 new financial compliance jobs are projected to be created by 2026, as financial institutions work to comply with changing regulations, BLS data predicts.
- Financial Analyst - As a financial analyst, you'll assess the performance of stocks, bonds and other investments, and work with organizations and individuals to make strong financial decisions. Financial analysts earned an average of $84,300 in 2017, according to BLS data. Working as a financial analyst can also offer strong job growth. BLS data predicts analyst jobs will grow by 11% by 2026, as big data and technological advances make higher quality analysis possible.
- Finance Manager - With a finance manager job, you'll be responsible for the overall financial health of an organization, directing investment activities, reviewing financial performance and overseeing long-term financial planning. Finance managers earn $125,080 on average, according to BLS data, and are in high demand, with a more than 19% job growth (or 108,600 jobs) expected by 2026.
- Chief Financial Officer - As a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) you'll have the opportunity to lead the financial future of an organization, overseeing budget management, cost benefit analysis and securing new funding. According to BLS data, top executives earned an average of $183,270 in 2017. BLS data predicts executive jobs will grow by about 8% by 2026.
- Budget Analyst - With a career in budget analysis, you can help organizations and businesses organize their finances, prepare budgets and monitor spending. In 2017, budget analysts earned an average of $75,240, according to BLS data. Budget analyst jobs are projected by BLS data to grow about 7%, or 3,800 jobs, by 2026.
- Business and Financial Consultant - A degree in accounting can give you the skills you need to work as a business and financial consultant, helping entrepreneurs and small business owners find financial success. As a business consultant you can help other business owners manage start-up costs and investments, create a financial plan for their business and monitor day-to-day bookkeeping. According to Payscale, business consultants earn an average of $71,259 each year.
Is an Accounting Degree Worth It?
Whether your goal is to become a financial accountant, managerial accountant or you're interested in alternative careers for accountants, you'll need a bachelor's degree to start your career in the financial world. Interested in a particular facet of accounting and finance? Earning a master's degree in accounting will let you dive deeper into an area of specialization - such as forensic accounting, auditing or taxation - and boost your expertise.
It is important to make the most of your education through considering your career goals and interests, said Griffith. Getting an internship, taking relevant electives - such as finance, financial planning and economics - and focusing on developing soft skills like communication, data analysis and problem-solving can help set an applicant apart when entering these high-demand financial careers.
"Accountants can no longer just number crunch and perform calculations," Griffith said. "They must understand and effectively communicate the data story. Employers want to see that you have the technical skills, strategic mindset and the ability to communicate proficiently to various stakeholders."