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Accounting is the act of recording financial transactions within compliance regulations. It can involve summarizing or conducting analyses of stored or retrieved information, as well as providing guidance to keep a business financially healthy. Accounting degrees are available as certificates, associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s, with rare opportunities for even higher education. Good candidates for accounting degrees include those with an affinity for mathematics and organization.
Earning a certificate in accounting typically takes a year or less and is considered an introduction into accounting without a long-term commitment or the associated expense. The certificate course usually covers the basics of the accounting field, including balance sheets, financial statements, cost controlling, as well as cash handling. For those with a business degree already, earning an accounting certificate can assist with understanding aspects of accounting to improve business procedure or with completing the CPA exam for a career switch.
With a certificate in accounting, career options include: Bookkeeper, Accounts Payable Clerk, Accounts Receivable Clerk, Teller. Entry-level positions usually earn a salary between $35,000-$50,000.
To acquire a mid- or senior-level position in the accounting field, a baccalaureate is typically required. Common course studies include economics, statistics, business law, and corporate finance. A bachelor’s degree is required to become a certified public accountant, or CPA, though passing this exam is not required to be an accountant. CPAs typically perform audits and represent companies during IRS audits. A CPA designation requires 150 hours of education, so many colleges offer a 5-year program since a standard BA only encompasses 120 hours. Average entry-level CPA salaries clock in at $66,000 per year.
The other option to taking your career a step further after earning a baccalaureate, rather than becoming a CPA, is becoming a CMA, or certified management accountant. CMAs have a different focus. They handle cost accounting, financial planning and analysis, decision support, professional ethics, as well as management reporting. Salaries for CMAs range between $84,000 to $127,000.
Both CPAs and CMAs are required to complete a baccalaureate degree, have some amount of work experience, take ethics courses or pass an examination, and commit to Continuing Professional Education (CPE).
Career options for graduates with a baccalaureate in accounting include: Accountant, Accounting Manager, Financial Controller, Chief Financial Officer, Tax Examiner, Internal Auditor, Actuary, Forensic Accounting, Financial Analyst, Accounts Payable/Receivable, Environmental Accountant, Real Estate Appraiser, Tax Attorney, Securities Broker, Auditor. Starting salaries are between $40,000 and $65,000.