Is An Accounting Degree Program The Key To Your Success?

An Accounting Degree Program is the right choice for many students, but will it be the right choice for you?

As we’re at great pains to tell you, despite the way accountants are depicted on television and in the movies, accounting is a varied and exciting career field. 

Far from dry and boring, most accountants are savvy business professionals, well respected, and trusted for the advice they offer every department in a company.  

It’s a noble profession and one worthy of your consideration.  It’s also a demanding profession, requiring long hours and dedication without a lot of recognition.  Accounting is not for everyone.

What are the benefits of an Accounting Degree Program?

Perhaps, like many students, you enjoy working with numbers and you appreciate the order and finality of balancing your check book or creating a personal budget.  You may even work as an accounting clerk or bookkeeper and have real experience posting payments, creating invoices, and reconciling inventory.  If so, you are familiar with the day to day work of recording key transactions for an organization.   

Undertaking an accounting degree program is crucial, however, if you want to take your career beyond this transactional level.  There was a time when hands-on experience, intelligence, and a strong work ethic were enough to advance an accounting career.  

In all but the smallest organizations these days are long gone.  Today many accounting clerks and bookkeepers have some kind of accounting degree, and the competition for promotion and advancement is brutal.  

The simple fact is that without an accounting degree to set you apart, you run the risk of being passed over for advancement – no matter how hard you work!  

Accounting Degree ProgramAccounting Degree Program

Benefits of an Accounting Degree Program

Accounting courses are challenging.  If you are working while you go to school, it can be difficult to balance the course load with your day to day life.  Any degree program requires a significant investment of time and money.  

What is the return on investment?

  • Every organization has an accounting function of one type or another.  Your completed degree gives you employment opportunities in any industry you can think of
  • Accounting itself has multiple applications.  While many think of auditing and tax, accounting is really much more.  You can find yourself managing costs within a manufacturing environment, creating complex budgets and forecasts, reporting results to stockholders, or digging into financial records to prove criminal intent.  
  • Do you have an entrepreneurial heart?  If so, the right accounting degree is your ticket to owning your own business.   As a business consultant, private practice CPA, or independent bookkeeper you can earn a living on your own terms.
  • Top accounting careers command impressive salaries, on par with senior executives.  Education is a crucial factor in the race for these positions. 

Just like many other professions, your marketability in accounting increases as your educational level increases.  The more you know, the more competitive you are.  It’s that simple.  An accounting degree opens career doors for you.  The right accounting degree opens even more doors.

The Dark Side of Accounting

Unfortunately, accounting is not all fun and games.  Accounting as a profession has challenges.  Realistically, before you pursue an accounting degree you need to understand what you’re getting into.

  • Long Hours – Accountants work long hours.  It’s just a fact of life.  Tax accountants work long into the night during tax season.  Managerial accountants work weekends and evenings during accounting period close.  Special projects arise suddenly, and there goes your weekend.  Be prepared.
  • Ethical pressure – Accountants are ethically bound to follow standard accounting procedures and practices.   Unfortunately, some corporate managers are willing to pressure their accounting staff to deviate from ethics.  Think Enron and Arthur Anderson.  Numbers don’t lie, but sometimes accountants are asked to. 
  • Conservative – Let’s face it.  Accountants aren’t all boring, but most are conservative.  Does that fit with your style?  If the thought of dark suits and a professional atmosphere makes you cringe, accounting might not be for you.
  • Multiple Demands – Managerial accountants work with most departments in an organization.  Public accountants have multiple clients with varying needs.  A successful accountant balances multiple deadlines, personalities, and requests every day.  Can you handle it?
  • Productivity Pressure – A CFO was once heard to tell his CEO “there are numbers and then there are accurate numbers.  Accurate numbers take time.”   Accountants work under pressure to produce accurate numbers in amazingly short periods of time.  

How can you know if a career in accounting is right for you?

If you read the above list and found yourself excited instead of frightened, you are on the right track.  Successful accountants thrive on the pace, variety, and challenge of accounting.  

Is One Accounting Degree Program Better Than Another?

The answer to this question is simple, and at the same time complex.  Accounting degree programs are often ranked by academics, reputation, and placement results.  The simple truth is that some programs are better than others.  

The more complex reality is the highest ranked program may not be the right one for you.  It depends on your situation and your goals.  

Consider your professional goals:

  • For those students who want to enter public accounting or a career in a specific industry a Bachelor Degree in Accounting remains the most popular choice.
  • Are you hoping to compete for a top accounting position at one of the big public accounting firms?  If so, a Master in Accounting from a University with a top reputation could be your best pathway. 

Along with location, campus cultures, and cost, consider these factors:

  • Academics – The best accounting programs have a rigorous academic program. In addition to the standard accounting classes they offer hands-on learning opportunities, a strong internship program, and a well-defined CPA preparatory path.  Want a simple way to judge the strength of the program?  Review graduate first time success with the CPA exam.
  • Reputation – In general, the strength of a business school’s reputation is based on the strength of its MBA or executive management program.  A good reputation and a strong accounting program do not always go hand in hand.  Having said that, a degree from a school with a solid accounting program and a great reputation will get you noticed by top firms.
  • Placement Rates – Where are this school’s graduates being hired?  What industries and professions are being drawn to?  You can learn a lot by reviewing this information.  For example, Northwestern University has a business school with a great reputation, but very few graduates are hired in accounting.