We always keep our inboxes open to answer questions from our readers, and we get a lot of versions of, “Is accounting a good major?”
Well, there are undoubtedly many opinions on both sides of this, so we understand why so many of you asked. We will try to express some of the pros and cons of both schools of thought so that you can make an informed decision regarding what is best for you.
Is Accounting a Good Major?
Choosing a major is hard – people often say that you will not wind up employed in the major you initially chose, which can be true even for accounting. Making such a big decision can feel daunting, and hearing things like that can be intimidating. What if you choose the wrong thing? And what if you choose something you love, but you can’t find a job after graduation? Or, what if you prefer a major that affords a lot of job opportunities, but then you hate it? These are normal things that go through a person’s mind when making such an important decision. It is excellent that you are trying to research the field more before making a choice.
So, is accounting a good major? An accounting major is a great asset for any student looking to enter the business world. Through your education, you learn how to understand and evaluate the underlying financial model of a business. This type of insight is critical to any role in any industry and makes you an excellent fit for lots of entry-level positions.
Accounting Education & Coursework
Typically, the coursework involved with an accounting major is quite tricky, more so than a major in marketing or business management. You will spend more time in the library than your friends, especially in your fourth year when you are preparing for your CPA Exam.
Also, it’s essential to note that if you are going to become a CPA, you’ll need 150 credit hours to become licensed. Therefore, you’ll need to pursue a master’s degree (preferably a MAcc), or graduate with a bachelor’s in accounting and enroll in a bridge program to earn the additional 30 credits you’ll need. F
Finally, you’ll need to have an intimate working knowledge of the classes that are required for the state in which you want to sit. Not every state has the same requirements; some states, like California and Florida, have very rigorous CPA requirements that are difficult for some candidates to meet. So, factor in the 5th year of education that will be required if you choose to become a CPA, as well as the specific coursework required for your desired state board of accountancy.
That said, your payoff will be sweet. If you’re looking for a career in accounting, this is going to be a major that pays for itself again and again over time, starting from your very first job out of school.
What does an accountant do?
While deciding whether accounting is a good major, it’s essential to have a good understanding of what an accountant does. Accounting itself covers a wide range of tasks and responsibilities, including recording transactions, collecting financial data, and analyzing as well as presenting this information. On the job, accountants may do some or all of the following tasks:
- Ensure financial statements and records comply with the laws and regulations
- Examine financial statements to ensure their accuracy
- Compute taxes owed, help prepare tax returns, and ensure prompt payments
- Organize and maintain the financial records
- Inspect the ledgers and accounting systems to keep them updated and accurate
- Improve business financial efficiency
- Suggest ways to reduce costs and improve profits, while enhancing revenues
- Provide auditing services for businesses, as well as individuals
- Make recommendations of financial best-practices to management
These are just some of the main tasks an accountant can do. However, there are different types of accountants, and the tasks you do can vary based on who you work for and where you work. If you provide accounting for individuals, for example, this will be different than corporate accounting. Also, you might work for a non-profit, which will be different than a for-profit agency or business. And of course, if you work in government accounting, that’s also going to be different, with varying sets of job tasks.
What jobs can I get with an accounting major?
The types of jobs you can land may seem obvious, but there are actually quite a few different types of jobs that you can get as an accountant. You can be a public accountant, a management accountant for a firm or company, a government accountant who maintains and examines the records for a government agency, or an internal auditor, to name a few. Some of these are going to require a CPA in addition to an accounting major.
Most people initially think of accountants as the people that help you complete your taxes each year. While this is true, tax accountants are not the only types of accountants out there.
Most accountants coming out of college will want to land a job in public accounting, where there are several different types of roles. Public accounting gives you more flexibility in the types of jobs you can qualify for. Most graduates will choose between either tax or audit when applying for public accounting positions.
Other Accounting Jobs and Understanding the Role
It’s essential to understand your role as a tax professional for a company if you plan to pursue this path with an accounting degree. Tax professionals work to help companies prepare and manage their tax requirements and compliance. Working as a tax accountant gives you in-depth knowledge that can be one day used to run your own tax practice. The starting pay is a bit higher, but the work is monotonous if you do not love it. Of course, around the busy season, you will be working around the clock.
Now, what about auditing? What do these accountants do? Audit professionals work to verify the accounting information that the client provides to the general public. Consequently, working as an auditor means that there will be a lot of interaction with clients, intense scheduling, and high travel, which results in time on the road. Typically, accountants use the audit as an exit strategy to become a controller or industry accountant. So, if the latter sounds like the career path you want to be on, this is how you can get there.
Should I Be An accountant?
Now, answering the question, “should I be an accountant?” is a different story. To understand this, you need to know more about how becoming an accountant would help you personally. And while no one else can make that decision for you, I do hope that I can provide you enough information in this post that you will feel capable and ready to make that decision for yourself.
Accounting, especially at public accounting firms like the Big 4 (KPMG, Deloitte, PWC, EY), is a great way to launch any career. You will quickly gain a lot of training and experience that you will not get in most other places. You can also build a great name brand for your resume. However, you will be expected to put in long hours, maybe even upwards of 80+ each week during the busy season, but your compensation will reflect your hard work.
What Happens After Graduation?
Note that after graduation, your work is not over. To pursue a career in the accounting industry, you will need to continue by becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), which can take years of studying for hours of tests. Again, your hard work will pay off because you can get an advantageous and financially lucrative position with an accounting major and a CPA. Just know that it does require the work and investment to get there.
And if you’re not wanting to work 80+ hours per week as an associate in a Big 4 firm, all while taking the CPA Exam, you’re not alone. Plan to take the CPA Exam in your 4th or 5th year or school so that you can get straight to work upon graduation with no other studying obligations.
Due to the nature of the industry, it is typically more accessible for high GPA graduating with a degree in accounting to secure a role in a Big 4 firm, especially when they are preparing to complete their CPA.
Accounting is an extremely stable industry and a secure way to grow a great career. Basically, there is always a need for CPAs. So, if you’re interested in becoming an accountant and you want to work in one of the fields or roles we described above, this could be right for you. The first step is to make a decision. Because it is a significant time and financial investment, you need to be sure it’s right for you.
Deciding if Accounting is Right for You
As you look to choose a major or a career, spend time researching and reaching out to people like my readers did to see if it is the right fit. It is essential to speak to people in the industry and get a feel for the culture of the work and the lifestyles they live. Gaining a comprehensive look at the day-to-day life of an accountant will give you more personal insight into whether it might be the right career for you. Getting this kind of perspective is really the only way to find out beforehand what it’s going to be like for you.
Big 4 Internships
Probably one of the best ways to get a first-hand glimpse into accounting is to secure an internship. Big 4 internships are some of the most competitive to land, but if you do get hired as an intern in a Big 4 firm, the benefits are plenty. First, getting into a Big 4 internship gives you a much higher chance of scoring full-time employment within a Big 4 firm. Many interns are made offers at the end of their internships if they are a good fit, show competency in their work deliverables, and the firm has positions available.
Second, working in a Big 4 firm gives you exposure to all types of clients: fortune 500 companies, smaller non-profits, and more. So, you’ll have the chance to work on a wide variety of engagements.
Finally, a Big 4 internship will provide you with an opportunity like no other to see the types of personalities and people that you’ll work with daily. Do you like your peers? Were the seniors and managers helpful to you? You should be able to tell by the end of your internship if accounting is a good fit. If you dreaded going into work every day, there is a chance that working in accounting won’t be a good fit for you. However, if you were able to feel relatively excited and happy about waking up to another day of internship work, you may be in exactly the right spot.
Industry & Non-Big 4 Internships
If you have no desire to work at a Big 4 firm, or do not possess a high enough GPA, you may find yourself as an intern for a private company (e.g., Fortune 500 or smaller). Additionally, you may get hired as an intern within a smaller, non-Big 4 public accounting firm.
Either way, both internship types will allow you precious insight into life as an accountant. If you’re considering becoming an accountant, landing a good internship is almost a must. Without an internship, you won’t have first-hand knowledge of what daily tasks accountants handle. Consequently, you may also end up as an accountant when it’s not a good career choice for you.
So, becoming an accounting intern gives you peace of mind about your decision to pursue an accounting major.
If you’re considering becoming an accountant, weigh the pros and cons. Also, examine the career path you want to pursue and make sure getting a major in accounting is the right path to your end goals. Finally, you will want to explore the commitment involved and make sure this is something you are ready to commit to.
All of the facts and the evidence shows us that accounting is an excellent major to choose. There will always be job demand, and there are a variety of different tasks you can do and jobs you can take within this field. It all starts with an accounting degree.
Are you ready?
What schools are recommended for an accounting degree?
Hello! There are so many schools — you may wish to consider ones that have the highest CPA pass rates. NASBA has a book with this information, and I believe it’s called the Candidate Performance Bulletin. You can also utilize a college or university placement service. Good luck! 🙂
Thank you a lot for the post. It helps me a lot in guiding my career in accounting. I want to pursue a career in accounting but at the same time plan to do a second major in information systems. Which career branches will allow me to use both of my majors? Thank you so much.
Hi Ngoc, you could look into specialized careers like CISA and and IT audit careers. Cheers, Stephanie