I thought I would start a thread about majoring in accounting since many people seem to ask the same questions.
1. What is the immediate job outlook? As one professor of accounting has noted, "I haven't seen it this good in decades." There are a LARGE number of jobs for accounting grads. In fact, it probably is one of the best fields for immediate, high paid employment around. What is interesting about accounting, unlike that of other fields like engineering and science, is that accountants are needed in both booming economies and in recessionary economies.
2. What can I do with accounting if I don't want to practice accounting? People seem to ask whether they should major in finance or some other area of business. Without question, an accounting major opens up more opportunities that that of any other business major. You not only can practice accounting, but accountants are found in many areas of management, and also found in the financial sector.
Many folks think that majoring in finance is the major ticket to investment banking. This isn't necessarily true. From what I have seen, accountants, who do very well in school, have as great and maybe even a better shot at investment banking jobs. Accounting enables you to understand the inner workings of business. It is truly the language of business. Thus, many folks in top management have accounting backgrounds.
3. What do I need to get a job with the Big 4 or top consulting firm? For the Big Four, you usually need an accounting degree PLUS grades of at least a 3.3+ overall and in accounting. Moreover, the higher your grades, the better the chance of an interview. Consulting firms also like accountants;however, they will also take folks from other majors as long as you have at least a 3.5+ and/or attend a top named school such as UVA, IVY etc.
4. Should I go to the highest ranked schools for accounting? This question seems to be asked in one way or another many times and is probably the most frequently asked question about accounting.
Answer: As long as a school is accredited ( AACSB accreditation and regional accreditation), it DOESN'T MATTER which school you attend. The reason is that the State Boards of Accountancy mandate the curriculum. Thus, from school to school, probably 80% or more of the courses taken will be the same. Even the books used are usually the same. Thus, going to Wharton, vs. University of Texas, vs. UVA, vs. Baruch College vs. Maryland will probably not increase your job opportunities that much from school to school for accounting jobs. Moreover, the pay is fairly set among starting accounting jobs. Attending a top, name school might get you a few thousand dollars more to start ( and I mean only a few) ,but it usually evens out among school.
You should understand the process: Accounting firm partners usually interview at their local schools. Thus, if you want to live and work in Memphis, Tennessee ( as an example), you probably have an edge going to college in Tennessee than at University of Texas. The same can be said about NY schools. Again, for accounting, it won't make a difference whether you attended Stern ( NYU) or Baruch College.
I should note that there is one exception to what is noted above. Corporations ( that aren't accounting corporations), tend to interview in greater numbers at the better schools. Thus, in that way it might make a difference. However, for accounting jobs with accounting firms, the school is irrelevant as long as it is accredited.
5. What is majoring in accounting like? Accounting is a surprisingly tough major. People think that because the math isn't that sophisticated, it should be a snap. Nothing can be further from the truth! First, accounting is akin to living an SAT all of your life. There is constant problem solving all the time. However, what makes it hard is that it is more akin to law. You have to know reams of information and, most importantly, learn to apply this information to practical problems.
Moreover, accounting tends to be a "weed-out" major. Accounting is not known for grade inflation ,which is akin to engineering. At many schools, it isn't unusual to have a 50% attrition rate among kids who started off in accounting. Some schools, such as Towson University, even have a special comprehensive test that must be passed in order to receive your degree.
Trust me: I don't care if you had all 800s on your SATS, you will find accounting challenging.
6. What are the requirements for graduation. Generally, you would take 24 credits in accounting which comprise courses in intro accounting ( two courses), cost accounting, two courses in tax, two to three courses in intermediate accounting, advanced accounting, and accounting information systems. Accounting students also take courses in economics, statistics (usually two courses),management, marketing, plus the usual load of liberal arts. As you can see, they get a very broad base of business subjects, which makes them eminently employable.
Also, in order to take the CPA, you must have 150 credits. This means that you need 5 years as an undergrad or you can get a masters after you finish your undergraduate degree. Interestingly, the extra thirty credits can be in anything. They don't have to be accounting related. Thus, if you want to double major in sign language, economics, finance, you can for these extra credits.
7.What is the best preparation in high school? Surprisingly, I do NOT recommend that you take any accounting in high school. You will get plenty of that in college. You should take a strong college preparatory program, which should include four years of math, English, history, economics, science etc.
8. How much money can I make in accounting? The answer varies by field and state. Starting accountants with strong GPAs can easily start at $57,000++ at the largest accounting firms and about $46,000 to $51,000 at the mid size firms,although many mid size firms are now paying what the top firms are paying in order to get the quality applicants.
Usually the big 4, start folks at about $57,000 per year. However, they don't pay for overtime,which the mid-size firms do. Thus, the initial pay does tend to equalize among firms.
Corporations tend to pay about $10,000 less to start.
Once you are in accounting, you can receive some nice raises. It certainly isn't unusual for accountants to be making over $100,000 per year, plus a host of fringe benefits, after 6-7 years in the field. See 2006 salary data here:Holland & Associates, LTD. Baltimore Accounting Jobs, Eastern Shore Accounting Jobs, Maryland Tax Jobs
(You should update these numbers by 10% for inflation.)
Partners in mid sized accounting firms earn between $200,000 to as much as $500,000+ per year! Big 4 partners eventually earn over $1,000,000 per year. Try doing that in engineering or science.
However, make no mistake, to make this kind of money, you will be expected to work HARD! In addition, you will be expected to work competently and to provide a lot of chargeable hours for billing. During tax season, it isn't unusual to work 60-70 hours a week or more!
9. Miscellaneous: If you want a job in accounting, you really need to know that accountants are numbers oriented. Thus, the better your GPA, the better your chances. The higher your GPA,the better the chances with the better firms. However, GPA will only get you the interview. You must sell yourself and do well in the interview for you to be hired.
Also, accountants are notoriously bad writers. Lets face it, if they could write well, they might have majored in English. Thus, if you have good writing skills, emphasize that on your resume and interview. Most partners assume that a top notch accounting GPA proves decent problem solving skills and decent accounting knowledge. Having other skills such as strong speaking or writing skills will be a definite plus. Also, having a strong work ethic is crucial. If you are a hard worker, emphasize this on interviews. Finally, having good people skills always comes in handy when dealing with clients and partners.
I hope that I have answered most of your questions.