Accounting and finance are two distinct subjects in a broader field-business-that attracts more majors across American universities than any other sector. Finance and accounting diplomas are classified as money-making college degrees with excellent outlooks, comparatively likely to pay for themselves within a reasonable time frame.
While the pay and prestige in finance and accounting varies significantly, the field as a whole benefits from strong growth. Most sizable organizations hire financial professionals to manage their books and taxes. Skilled accountants and tax professionals are projected to remain in high demand in the years to come.
A worker in this field needs to be able to obtain and sustain relationships with clients. They need to be able to keep up with rapidly changing laws, trends and protocols. Students who work well with numbers, are independently motivated, have some business sense, are socially outgoing, and can work under pressure should consider a career in accounting and finance.
Finance and accounting graduates work in retail banking, insurance, pensions, as financial managers and auditors for small and large firms alike. A few become employed in "high finance," where the work centers on investment banking, asset and fund management, mergers and acquisitions, and private-party banking through the stock markets.
Accounting schools should be accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, or AACSB. Do state-based boards of accountancy require AACSB accreditation prior to licensing program graduates? It depends on the state. Note that some states base CPA licensure on the type of degree earned, and others on the accreditation of programs. About half of states do not distinguish between the two at all.
Specializations in this field are numerous, even within specific areas of focus. A technologically-focused accounting education, for instance, might focus on IT auditing, enterprise risk management, or accounting information systems. Some specializations are more competitive than others. For example, experienced IT auditors are being paid up to $100,000 annually, a 3.6% increase over 2012 according to AccountingWeb.com.
Here are eight accounting and finance positions that are in high demand:
1. Financial analysts
2. Business systems analysts
3. Senior accountants
4. Internal auditors
5. IT auditors
6. Cost accountants
7. Compliance officers
For most freshly-graduated accountants, the first step is to join their state's CPA society and register with its Board of Accountancy. State CPA licensing is required for certain kinds of accounting work, such as document-filing with the SEC. Even where it is not required, licensure can boost accountants' employability.
Some financial professionals must comply with government regulations. While terms like "broker" or "financial planner" are frequently used in a generic sense, their definitions are more specific in a legal sense.
For example, a "broker-dealer" is someone that buys and sells securities of various types, either on behalf of customers as a broker, or for his own benefit as a dealer. Broker-dealers must register with the Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, and remain in good standing with FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. Similarly, the SEC regulates investment advisors who manage more than $110 million in assets at a time.
Most accounting graduates will want to acquire their CPA certificate, and for that they will need to pass the national exam and supply proof of solid work experience. The national Uniform CPA Examination is administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, or AICPA, the premier U.S. association of CPA professionals. AICPA is responsible for enumerating trade ethics and keeping practices compliant with government auditing protocols.
Most accountants have at least a bachelor's degree in accounting or other business-related field of study. This is also true of finance. Some accounting programs are very general and others, more specialized. For example, a bachelor's degree in business with an accounting concentration would provide a more general overview than a Bachelor of Accounting. Students should strategically map out their desired final outcomes in order to choose the right program.
These days, there's a lot of unique, emerging areas of focus as well, many of them emphasizing cutting-edge sectors such as energy and the environment, social entrepreneurship, risk management, business intelligence, telecommunications management, and more.
Depending on the employer, a master's degree may be necessary to acquire a well-paying job. A Master of Business Administration, or MBA, is considered the gold standard in the business world. MBA programs have several traditional concentrations, among them accounting and finance, along with management and marketing.
Aside from an MBA, the most competitive graduate-level credential is that of the Chartered Financial Analyst, or CFA. The designation, issued by the CFA Institute, is the most reputable credential in the world of finance, especially in the field of investment analysis. CFAs are knowledgable about current practices in accounting, macroeconomics, ethics, money management and financial security. CFA degrees are considered equivalent to master's-level diplomas.
Although MBAs are usually costly and CFAs are very demanding, each of these distinctions carries a great deal of weight in a field where career advancement often hinges on having higher levels of education.
There are numerous certifications finance professionals can achieve to demonstrate competence. Because this sector is so diverse, however, the necessity and value of additional certifications depends on the specific pathway students are considering. Those looking into risk management, for example, will want to take the FRM, or Financial Risk Manager, exam. Financial analysts may pursue the Chartered Financial Consultant or Chartered Life Underwriter certifications to get an edge in a field that rewards such efforts.
We found 1596 schools offering accounting degree programs in the U.S.
|Abilene Christian University||Abilene||TX||4739|
|Adelphi University||Garden City||NY||5908|
|Aib College of Business||Des Moines||IA||875|
|Aiken Technical College||Graniteville||SC||2268|
|Akron Adult Vocational Services||Akron||OH||325|
|Alabama A & M University||Normal||AL||5523|
|Alabama State University||Montgomery||AL||5269|
|Albany State University||Albany||GA||3525|
|Albertson College of Idaho||Caldwell||ID||774|
|Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute||Albuquerque||NM||17265|
|Alcorn State University||Alcorn State||MS||2936|
|Alderson Broaddus College||Philippi||WV||751|
|Alexandria Technical College||Alexandria||MN||2192|
|Allan Hancock College||Santa Maria||CA||12110|
|Allen County Community College||Iola||KS||1968|
|Altoona School of Commerce||Altoona||PA||57|
|American Commercial College||Abilene||TX||117|
|American Commercial College||Lubbock||TX||117|
|American Commercial College||San Angelo||TX||117|
|American Commercial College||Wichita Falls||TX||117|
|American Commercial College of Texas||Odessa||TX||94|
|American River College||Sacramento||CA||28420|
|American School of Business||Shreveport||LA||173|
|Andrews University||Berrien Springs||MI||2749|
|Anoka - Ramsey Community College - Coon Rapids Campus||Coon Rapids||MN||5844|
|Anoka Technical College||Anoka||MN||2046|
|Appalachian State University||Boone||NC||13227|
|Aquinas College||Grand Rapids||MI||2605|
|Arizona State University at the Tempe Campus||Tempe||AZ||44126|
|Arizona State University at the West Campus||Glendale||AZ||5325|
|Arkansas State University - Main Campus||State University||AR||10429|
|Arkansas Tech University||Russellville||AR||4970|
|Asa Institute of Business and Computer Technology||Brooklyn||NY||1432|
|Athens State University||Athens||AL||2662|
|Atlantic Cape Community College||Mays Landing||NJ||5162|
|Atlantic Technical Center||Coconut Creek||FL||1570|
|Atlantic Union College||South Lancaster||MA||755|
|Auburn University - Montgomery||Montgomery||AL||4900|
|Auburn University Main Campus||Auburn University||AL||21860|
|Augusta State University||Augusta||GA||5070|
|Augustana College||Rock Island||IL||2230|
|Augustana College||Sioux Falls||SD||1783|
|Avila University||Kansas City||MO||1412|
|Azusa Pacific University||Azusa||CA||6497|
|Baker College of Auburn Hills||Auburn Hills||MI||1910|
|Baker College of Cadillac||Cadillac||MI||864|
|Baker College of Clinton Township||Clinton Township||MI||2559|
|Baker College of Flint||Flint||MI||3896|
|Baker College of Jackson||Jackson||MI||1027|
|Baker College of Muskegon||Muskegon||MI||2727|
|Baker College of Owosso||Owosso||MI||1905|
|Baker College of Port Huron||Port Huron||MI||1230|
|Baker University College of Arts and Sciences||Baldwin City||KS||828|
|Baldwin Park Adult & Community Education||Baldwin Park||CA||3295|
|Ball State University||Muncie||IN||19004|
|Barstow Community College||Barstow||CA||2785|
|Bay State College||Boston||MA||608|
|Belmont Abbey College||Belmont||NC||886|
|Belmont Technical College||Saint Clairsville||OH||1524|
|Bemidji State University||Bemidji||MN||4118|
|Bennett College for Women||Greensboro||NC||619|
|Berkeley City College||Berkeley||CA||3984|
|Berry College||Mount Berry||GA||2033|