Every business will need to utilize some form of accounting in their day to day operations. Whether they chose to have their own accounting department or use a public accounting firm (Deloitte, PwC, Ernst and Young, etc.…) is a matter of personal preference. An accounting major is a great way to get your foot in the door for almost any position in the business world.
A great way to think of accounting is to think of it as the “language” of business. People from Italy speak Italian, people of business speak accounting, if that makes sense. An accounting degree will teach you the “language” of business and open up many different possibilities in the business world. Check out our rankings of the best online accounting programs in the United States.
What is Accounting?
The definition of accounting is “the action or process of keeping financial accounts.” Accounting in business is recording financial transactions of a business. An accountant must also be able to store, sort, retrieve, summarize and be able to present the information.
Accountants must be able to provide the management of a company the information it needs in order to keep the business profitable. Use our free college major finder to find every school in the U.S. that offers an accounting degree.
Interested in other business majors? Check out our total guide to business majors.
3 Main Sectors of Accounting:
Public accountants will work for public accounting firms and will participate in a wide variety of tasks that may include accounting, auditing, taxes, and consulting projects. If you are in the public sector you will most likely be working with numerous different companies. This may be a good or bad thing, depending on how you look at it. If you like to change things up and don’t like doing the same thing over again, then the public sector may be something you look into. Most public accountants are Certified Public Accountants (CPA’s). In order to become a CPA, you must take the CPA exam for your state and become licensed.
A private accountant will work for a single organization. A private accountant will do many of the same tasks as a public accountant except for the fact that they are only working for the single organization. They will record and analyze financial information which is used only by internal business managers. The information they provide will help those managers budget and evaluate company performance.
Not-For-Profit accounting includes many different areas and offers a great variety. Some of the different areas include city, county, and state governments, federal agencies, k-12 public school districts, non-profit college and universities, charitable organizations, and most healthcare organizations. Just because it falls under the “Not-For-Profit” category does not mean that you will not get paid! The average starting salary in this sector is in the mid $30,000’s.
Characteristics of Accounting:
- Detail oriented: Accountants deal with many numbers and it is very important that these numbers are accurate.
- Organization: There will be many different documents, paperwork, and data that you will need to keep track of, so it is important that you are able to stay organized.
- Knowledgeable: Not only should you know the general rules of accounting, you should be up to date with certain tax codes, new advances in technology, and happenings in the company you are working with/for.
- Trustworthy: A lot of the information you will be dealing with is confidential so it is important that you are trustworthy. Being a trustworthy person will enable you to earn new clients as well.
- Accountability: You should be able to have people rely on you. Some documents/reports in accounting are time sensitive so you should be able to prepare what you need to for those deadlines and for the people relying on those documents/reports.
Jobs With Accounting Major
Below we have listed some potential jobs an accounting major would provide you with. Please keep in mind that an accounting major opens up many different doors in the business world because you know the “language” of business. Read below to see what jobs you can get with an accounting major.
Accountants and Auditors
An accountant/auditor will prepare or examine financial records. They can work in any of the three sectors (Public, Private, Not-For-Profit). They need to make sure the financial records are accurate. They are also in charge of helping make sure organizations are running efficiently.
|Average pay (per year)||$67,190|
|Number of jobs (2014)||1,332,700|
|Job outlook (2014-2024)||11%|
|Employment change (2014-2024)||+142,400|
A budget analyst helps companies organize their finances. Their main job is to keep spending in check and develop a budget report for the company. A budget is a major key for a company. A budget keeps spending in check and allows the company to grow and expand. This job could work in any of the 3 sectors (Public, Private, or Not-For-Profit). Government agencies use budgets all the time when creating new projects. Corporate businesses use budgets to help growth and to remain profitable. Some people in the personal sector may hire you as a consultant to help them create and manage a personal budget plan.
|Average pay (per year)||$71,590|
|Number of jobs (2014)||60,800|
|Job outlook (2014-2024)||3%|
|Employment change (2014-2024)||+1,500|
Cost-Estimators gather and look at information in order to estimate the time, money, materials, and labor required manufacture a product, provide a service, or build something (warehouse, production plant, new building, etc.…)
|Average pay (per year)||$60,390|
|Number of jobs (2014)||213,500|
|Job outlook (2014-2024)||9%|
|Employment change (2014-2024)||+18,700|
These are just a couple of examples of jobs available with an accounting degree. A majority of the jobs fall under accountants and auditors (1,332,700!) but this does not mean that is all that is available. We keep on placing an emphasis on the fact that accounting is the “language” of business and by knowing the “language” you open yourself up to so many different opportunities in the business world.
*statistics from Bureau of Labor Statistics
Accounting Major Salary
Students who graduate with an accounting degree can expect to begin a very lucrative career. As with anything, you will need to work your way up the ranks as an accountant – earning your CPA designation is a great way to climb the ranks and earn an increase in salary. According to PayScale, students who graduated with a degree in accounting have an average salary of $70,216.
Some of the biggest employers in the field of accounting are the Big 4 – The Big 4 is made up of Ernst & Young, KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), and Deloitte. The Big 4 are the 4 largest professional services networks in the world and offer services such as audit, assurance, taxation, management consulting, and legal services to their clients. Look at the table below for a breakdown of accounting major salaries at the Big 4.
|Company||Tax Associates||Management Consultant|
Accounting has a reputation for being one of the harder majors. When people think of accounting they think of a lot of math and numbers – while this may be true, you do not have to be a math wiz to be a successful accountant. As long as you are detail oriented and have a good work ethic, you can succeed as an accounting major. Accounting did not make our list of hardest college majors.
No! While accountants deal with a lot of numbers everyday, a lot of the calculations they are doing are simple math operations. In most accounting programs, you will be required to take a math course which will bring everyone up to speed. As technology increases, accountants can rely more and more on that technology to do the math for them.
Accounting is a very stable career. The average salary for someone who graduated college with an accounting degree is $70,216. Students have the power to increase their earnings when they enter the workforce by earning their CPA designation. The Big 4 accounting firms also pay very well and are a great option for students looking to join the workforce.