General Accounting

Accounting Degree Programs

General accounting degrees teach students how to address a breadth of accounting-related issues from both a theoretical and practical standpoint. Programs are available at nearly every academic level, from non-degree certificates to research-driven Ph.D. accounting degrees. Many accounting schools also offer online accounting degrees online or blended programs, and some may feature programs with flexible start dates, part-time scheduling or self-paced coursework.

Whether earning accounting degrees online or on-campus, undergrads are introduced to basic principles of the field, including financial accounting, which centers on preparing and analyzing financial statements for investors and other external groups. Undergrads also gain experience with accounting information systems and industry-standard computer applications. Other common topics include business law, accounting ethics, federal corporate taxation, cost accounting, and auditing. Students pursuing associate or bachelor's degrees complement their accounting studies with general education coursework. This typically includes courses in social science, English composition, communication, math and other core subjects.

Master's and doctoral accounting degrees expand upon the lessons learned in undergraduate programs. Graduate programs often emphasize managerial decision-making or advanced research. These programs also typically offer more flexibility when it comes to course selection, letting students focus their education in specialty areas such as public accounting, government accounting, taxation, forensic accounting or auditing.

Admissions requirements vary from program to program. For example, some master's and doctoral programs may require students to have a bachelor's in accounting or a related subject while others may not. To learn more about individual accounting degrees and programs, refer to our list of accounting schools at the end of the page.

Accounting Careers

Accounting professionals who have mastered the key concepts of tracking, analyzing and recording monetary transactions are valuable assets to organizations and individuals looking to get a handle on their finances. Those with accounting degrees can look to take on the challenges of modern accounting in a number of different career avenues, from tax preparation to internal auditing to public accounting.

Those with accounting degrees may find work in a variety of settings, including government agencies, billing departments, international accounting firms and non-profits. Some may even start their own business. Career opportunities for graduates of traditional and online accounting schools largely depend on the type of accounting degree earned and previous experience. Refer to the following table for a few examples of accounting careers, along with their general job duties and training requirements.


Common Duties

Typical Education Requirements

Certification Options

State Licensure Required?

Accounting Clerks

  • Work in specialized areas such as accounts payable or payroll.
  • Post transaction data into accounting software.
  • Balance billing vouchers.
  • Calculate interest owed on accounts.

High school diploma, but employers may prefer those with a college degree.

  • The American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers offers the Certified Bookkeeper designation.
  • The National Bookkeepers Association offers certifications in bookkeeping, payroll, Excel, QuickBooks and taxes.


Management Accountants

  • Record and review an organization's private financial information.
  • Determine cost-effectiveness of company operations.
  • Help upper-management make financial decisions.

Bachelor's Degree

  • Certified Management Accountant (CMA) from The Institute of Management Accountants
  • Chartered Global Management Accountant from the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)

Only if becoming a Certified Public Accountant

CPA licensure required if filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission

Tax Examiners, Tax Collectors, and Revenue Agents

  • Make sure government bodies receive proper tax payments from constituents.
  • Ensure claimed credits and deductions are legal.
  • Contact taxpayers who have over- or underpaid.

Bachelor's Degree



Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012

Job Outlook and Salary in Accounting

Because accounting degrees can potentially lead to so many different career paths, job outlook and salary figures for accounting graduates are difficult to pinpoint. As a starting point, please refer to the following table, which provides job outlook and salary information for the careers mentioned in the previous section.


Mean Annual Wage

United States

(May 2012)

Projected # of New Jobs

United States


Projected Job Growth Rate

United States


Bookkeeping, Accounting and Auditing Clerks



14% (Equal to national average)

Accountants and Auditors



16% (Above national average)

Tax Examiners, Tax Collectors and Revenue Agents



7% (Below national average)

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012; Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, 2013

*Salaries and employment opportunities may vary based on experience, education, location and other factors.


  • Accountants and Auditors, May 2012 Occupational Employment and Wages, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013
  • Accountants and Auditors, Occupational Outlook Handbook (2012-13 Edition), Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012
  • Bookkeeping, Accounting and Auditing Clerks, May 2012 Occupational Employment and Wages, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013
  • Bookkeeping, Accounting and Auditing Clerks, Occupational Outlook Handbook (2012-13 Edition), Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012
  • Tax Examiners and Collectors, and Revenue Agents, May 2012 Occupational Employment and Wages, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013
  • Tax Examiners and Collectors, and Revenue Agents, Occupational Outlook Handbook (2012-13 Edition) Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012