What Can I Do With An Accounting Degree – Part 1 of 3


In Part 1 of this series, I’ll discuss the different career paths that a student with an Accounting degree can pursue, as well as briefly describe what it means to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

Career Paths: Industries & Specializations

Accountants can choose from a variety of different career paths; there are several different industries and specializations that an accounting graduate can pursue.  Choosing an industry basically means choosing who you want to be employed by.  There are 6 primary industries: Public, Corporate, Non-Profit, Education, Government, and Consulting.  I will review each of these in further detail.

Public – Public is usually used as an abbreviation for Public Accounting Firm.  The vast majority of students who graduate with an undergraduate degree choose to work for a public accounting firm performing accounting services for a variety of different clients.  Some of the major public accounting firms include: PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Deloitte, KPMG, and Ernst & Young.

Corporate – Corporate refers to accountants who work in an accounting or finance role for a for-profit company like Kraft Foods, Sara Lee Corporation, or PepsiCo.

Non-Profits – Some accountants choose to work for non-profit organizations like the YMCA.

Education – Other accountants choose to use their accounting skills in the education sector to teach various accounting courses to college students.

Government – There is always a need for accountants in every aspect of federal, state, and local government.

Consulting – Consulting refers to using your accounting expertise to provide advice to clients.

Within each of the above discussed industries, there are also several specializations to choose from.  They are as follows: Audit, Forensics, Information Technology, Personal Financial Planning, Tax, and Business Valuation.

  • Audit involves ensuring a company’s financial statements are accurate.
  • Forensics involves investigating accounting fraud.
  • Information technology involves translating accounting into technology.
  • Personal financial planning involves helping individuals achieve their financial goals.
  • Tax involves helping companies stay on track with all of the tax laws and regulations.
  • Business valuation accountants help companies determine what they are worth.

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

“CPA” stands for Certified Public Accountant.  This title is given to accountants in the United States who have passed the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination.  All CPAs are accountants, but not all accountants choose to pursue the CPA certification.  The CPA credential is highly valued in a lot of accounting related careers.  In general, CPAs are considered to be trusted financial advisors who help individuals, businesses, and other organizations plan and reach their financial goals.

In order to earn the CPA designation, you must pass a series of examinations, as well as meet certain educational and job experience requirements.  These requirements are called the 3 E’s (Exam, Education, and Experience) and vary from state to state.  The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) determines the laws and rules for each state.

Brief Introduction: Part 2

Part 2 of this series will describe the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam requirements and the different types of services that are provided by CPAs, as well as explain the concept of Continuing Professional Education (CPE).  Part 2 will also introduce various professional accounting organizations.

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Lauren Anderson is a certified school counselor who's passionate about helping students all over the world successfully transition from high school to college! After spending 6 years as a business professional, she obtained her Master’s degree in School Counseling and now spends her spare time helping students.

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