Accounting Degree Program

An accounting degree program can prepare students for a variety of career opportunities in both the private and public sectors. Businesses of all sizes, from the one-person sole proprietorship to international corporations, need the expertise of accountants. The aspiring entrepreneur may need advice on setting up the financial record keeping for the business and assistance with tax consequences of various business decisions. International corporations will have entire accounting departments with specialists for the separate financial areas such as budget planning, raising capital, and risk management. Nonprofit companies need accountants and bookkeepers to track contributions from donors, to keep administrative expenditures within acceptable levels for charitable groups, and to ensure that the funds are available to meet the goals and objectives of the organization. All sizes and levels of government, from tiny village councils to federal agencies, employ accountants and bookkeepers to create budgets, keep track of the tax dollars, perform internal audits, and prepare reports for elected officials. Law enforcement officials often call on specially-trained forensic accountants to help solve complex criminal cases involving such diverse crimes as money laundering, embezzlement, and insider trading. An accounting degree program is an important first step toward any of these employment possibilities.

Prospective students can receive an accounting education by attending traditional classes or through online or distance programs. These latter allow more flexibility for students who may already have full-time jobs or other responsibilities that make it difficult to attend traditional classes. More information on an educational institution's accounting degree program can be obtained at the school's website or by reviewing a current catalog. Both these resources should provide such information as the types of degrees offered by the school, the application process, any prerequisites needed before applying, and a breakdown of tuition, room and board, and other fees. Information on online or distance learning should explain any residency requirements, such as week-long seminars, classes, or workshops that the student will need to attend. Many distance programs require students to spend a week or so at the physical campus taking an intensive course that covers a semester's worth of material in a short amount of time. The prospective student will also want to know how the coursework is structured. Some classes are provided on CDs or DVDs with downloadable textbooks. Others may require participating in videoconferencing sessions. Additional questions on an accounting degree program can usually be answered by making a phone call to the school's admissions department or the accounting department itself. Advisors should be available to assist both prospective and current students reach their educational goals.

Depending on the goals and objectives of the specific program, the student may be able to obtain a certificate or an associate, bachelor, master, or doctoral degrees. The most basic education, the certificate, will provide a student with the skills needed for an entry level position. The program for basic certification will be relatively short, perhaps only a few months or so. But for someone who doesn't want to spend several years in college, the certification can provide a valuable job skill. Certificate and associate degree programs are often offered by community colleges. Those who aspire to greater responsibilities, and the correspondingly higher paychecks, will want to spend the extra time needed in an accounting degree program to get an undergraduate or graduate degree. The graduate degree may either be a Master's in Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in accounting or a Master's in Accountancy (MAcc). Those interested in research and academia may wish to further their education by doing the necessary work to get a postgraduate, or doctorate, degree. This kind of educational expertise can open up exciting employment opportunities. In Biblical times, a talent for finances could lead to a high position in a wealthy household. The gospel writer and historian Luke quotes Jesus as saying: "And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing" (Luke 12:42-43). Similarly, modern companies and government agencies entrust accountants to be trustworthy in their handling of financial data. Courses in ethics are often included in a reputable accounting degree program.

Many students who graduate with accounting degrees want to become certified public accountants (CPAs). Individuals can only use this designation if they have met specific criteria regarding both education and employment experience. They also have to pass a state test. Other designations include certified internal auditor (CIA) and certified management accountant (CMA). Individuals cannot sit for the exam for any of these designations unless they have the required education and experience as determined by each state's licensing board. These requirements vary from state to state. The exams are held only at certain times of the year and only at authorized test centers. More information about the testing can be found by doing the proper internet search. Additionally, the student's accounting degree program should be able to provide information about the exams and help prepare the student to pass it. Aspiring certified accountants may be surprised to learn, however, that some states will substitute a certain number of years of relevant employment experience for a college degree. This is only an acceptable option for someone who has learned a great many skills while working in the field. Someone who is just beginning a career path should start out with the training offered by a reputable accounting degree program. Having that college credential will benefit the student throughout her career.

Accounting Masters Degrees

Graduates with accounting masters degrees are highly sought after by corporations of every size and type in the nation. From Mom-and-Pop operations to major conglomerates, individuals skilled in the art of helping firms run more efficiently and profitably are in high demand. In spite of economic recessions and volatile stock markets, businesses must still keep accurate financial records and comply with state and federal tax regulations and employment laws. Individuals with accounting masters degrees are needed in every sector of the population, including educational institutions; churches and non-profit organizations; cyclical and consumer industries; retail and manufacturing companies; and municipal, state and federal governmental agencies. "The heart of the prudent getteth knowledge; and the ear of the wise seeketh knowledge. A man's gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men" (Proverbs 18:15-16).

The entire monetary system of the United States is largely managed by highly qualified professionals who work behind the scenes to ensure that the corporate machinery in private and public enterprise continues to run smoothly. Educational institutions employ graduates with accounting degrees to manage fiscal operations and employee payroll. Health care organizations must not only manage fiscal affairs for hospital operating expenses, but also for employee payroll and benefits packages and patient care. Every patient account must be managed, as well as records for independent contractor physicians, radiologists, anesthesiologists, and specialists. Mega-churches operate much like corporations and as such, they must utilize professionals with accounting masters degrees to manage assets and control expenditures, administer employee payrolls and benefits, and help administrators decide on funding of foreign and domestic missions, student education programs, promotional advertising, and physical plant maintenance.

Local and online institutions offering programs leading toward accounting masters degrees provide students with instruction necessary to grasp and apply theory and principles governing the complex financial aspects of keeping an enterprise in the profit margin. Not only do students learn how to balance the books, but also how to plan and control corporate budgets, conduct audits and evaluations, and assess and implement cost controls to help regulate expenditures and keep fiscal affairs in the profit margin. Accountants also ensure that corporate employer taxes are accurately computed and filed in a timely manner, and help ensure that employer-matched long-term retirement accounts, such as Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), 401(k)s, and Roth IRAs are properly managed. Astute fiscal management not only helps safeguard employer-matched retirement funds, but also ensures that corporate investments, capital gains, and tax-sheltered annuities remain intact, in spite of a fluctuating economy.

Anyone in the field of business and money management recognizes the importance of continuing education to keep up with changing federal and state regulations, especially in a technically-advanced global business market. Certification in basic bookkeeping is insufficient for keeping up with changing economic times or qualifying for higher paying positions. By enrolling in post graduate coursework, applicants can position themselves for greater opportunities. Accounting masters degrees help provide degreed undergraduates with the minimum 150 credit hours required as a prerequisite for taking a state Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam. A CPA can almost write their own ticket to any position available due to the vast knowledge, experience and expertise that the title implies. Doors of opportunity exist on American shores as well as in foreign countries for highly qualified accountants and finance professionals.

As certified financial planners, individuals with accounting masters degrees are called upon to help solve financial problems resulting in corporate restructuring and downsizing, or mergers caused by economic downturns and job outsourcing. Before companies decide to lay off employees, restructure assets and long-term retirement funds, or make offshore investments, it is usually upon the advice of corporate accountants and financial officers who have a assessed the company's fiscal weaknesses and strengths. CPAs conduct audits of businesses who are failing as well as those who are succeeding and can pinpoint excessive spending or recommend allocations for areas that can turn a failing business into a profit-making enterprise. Men and women who hold Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees may opt to add a master's degree in accounting in order to prepare for key positions in corporate management. In the health care industry, financial institutions, and manufacturing, keen fiscal management can keep an enterprise from becoming a victim of recession or market failures.

To register for online or local programs for accounting masters degrees, applicants must be at least 18 years of age and have earned an undergraduate degree in accounting from an accredited institution. Most institutions require a minimum grade point average in undergraduate work, along with prior certification. Distance learning programs offer the majority of instruction via web-based delivery; however some courses may require on-campus attendance and are known as hybrid courses. On-campus institutions may waive attendance for foreign and domestic online students who reside too far away from the campus to participate in onsite instruction. Campus advisors may devise alternative instruction plans and delivery methods, such as audio and videoconferencing, telephony, and instant messaging.

Accountants are number crunchers and should have an above average aptitude for business math, along with manual and digital bookkeeping skills. Depending upon the area of concentration, candidates for accounting masters degrees should possess prior coursework in business taxation, payroll computation, preparation of federal and state employer reports, and corporate budget development and implementation. Undergraduate coursework, whether derived from online or brick and mortar schools, should include computerized bookkeeping, principles of auditing, cost and payroll compilation, personal and corporate finance, and advanced spreadsheet applications. In spite of the economic outlook for other professions, accounting still offers a viable and profitable option for college graduates across the country.

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