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Accounting Programs: Curriculum, Accreditation, and More

By Brendan Conway updated on Monday, January 28, 2013

Accounting programs will obviously be very important to your career and education if you plan on becoming any kind of accountant. With very rare exception, a would-be accountant needs to attend at least some kind of undergraduate accounting program before being a viable candidate for positions in the field of accountancy.




About undergraduate accounting programs

Undergraduate accounting programs will cover topics such as macroeconomics, microeconomics, mathematics, accounting procedure, business, and more. A dedicated accounting program might take less than 4 years to complete, but it is more likely that any given accounting program would take 4 years to complete successfully.

Undergraduate accounting programs that provide bachelor's degrees would be functional for most of the purposes of those who are interested in entering into the accountancy field. That said, of course, there are certifications and qualifications that might require additional learning than is offered by an undergraduate accounting program.

Accounting programs to become a CPA

Some would-be accountants will pursue additional accounting programs that will allow them to become CPAs, or Certified Public Accountants. Becoming a CPA is most often helpful because only CPAs may actually file reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission, so becoming a CPA opens up an entire additional portion of the overall profession to interested individuals.

In order to become a CPA, an individual would need to attend accounting programs that would provide 150 semester hours of coursework, which is 30 hours beyond the normal amount of coursework provided in 4-year accounting programs which provide bachelor's degrees. There are 4 states which do not have such requirements; these are California, Colorado, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

In order to become a CPA, an interested student should at least look into combined bachelor's/master's degree programs in accountancy. Such accounting programs may take 5 years to complete, instead of the normal 4, but they would also provide all the necessary requirements and education to both earn a master's degree in accounting and to then become a CPA shortly after graduation.

It is important to note, however, that a master's degree is not actually required to become a CPA; instead, the additional time in education and knowledge enough to pass the necessary examinations are the only requirements to become a CPA. It is simply easier, due to the nature of the accounting programs, to pursue these combined programs than it might be to pursue CPA certification separately from an accounting degree.

Important items to keep in mind for accounting programs

Accounting programs are likely to vary depending upon which states they are offered in, particularly with respect to the requirements held by each state in terms of becoming an accountant and becoming a CPA. Any individual interested in becoming an accountant should check out the state requirements, both for the state in which he or she anticipates working and for the state in which he or she intends to pursue the degree. He or she should make sure that any accounting programs he or she looks into will provide the necessary knowledge and expertise to work at the level of accountancy in which they are interested.

In pursuing accounting programs, it can sometimes be beneficial for an interested student to have an idea of a specialty area in which he or she would like to become expert. Such specialties are not offered by all accounting programs, but where offered they can provide important additional education and skills for interested students. Specializing in forensic accounting, for instance, would be of great help to becoming a forensic accountant; specializing in internal auditing would similarly open up another set of opportunities.

Alternative accounting programs

Accounting programs need not only provide bachelor's degrees or master's degrees in accounting, however. There are accounting programs which exist in junior colleges, which can provide necessary degrees or certifications to allow individuals to enter into the accounting field, albeit at junior positions or levels. Similarly, an individual might be able to enter into the accounting profession without pursuing any accounting programs, if he or she was able to get enough experience working in bookkeeping or related fields.

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About the Author

Brendan Conway is the Web Content Editor for Peterson's Interactive and is well-versed in the world of higher education and admissions. He is a graduate of Hamilton College, and has been working in admissions advice, test-prep advice, career planning advice, and similar fields for the majority of his career since graduation. Brendan endeavors to provide the most relevant, useful, and interesting information via Peterson's Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ feeds. Brendan enjoys lexicological oddities and voraciously reading in his free time.

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