How Long Does It Take To Get An Accounting Degree?

An accounting degree is needed by those who want to pursue a career as an accountant or auditor. There are actually three types of educational degrees that students interested in an accounting or finance career can pursue: 1) Associate’s Degree in Accounting, 2) Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting and 3) Postgraduate Studies (e.g. Degree in Accounting or a Master’s Degree in Accounting in Business Administration with an accounting focus). Most employers prefer applicants who have finished at least a bachelor’s degree.

Associate’s degree programs in accounting last for about two years. Bachelor’s degree programs can be completed in four years. These programs cover courses on taxes, economics and business administration. It is possible to finish a bachelor’s degree in accounting in only three years if the student enrolls in what is known as an accelerated bachelor’s program offered in some schools. This program requires the student to maintain excellent grades to complete the courses within the shortened time frame.

Those who wish to deepen their knowledge further about accounting through postgraduate studies will need to spend more time in school. A master’s degree in accounting or a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) will require another two more years of study. Those who wish to obtain a doctorate degree in the field will have to study for two to three years more. The advantage of holding advanced degrees like the MBA and PhD is the fact that it gives an accountant the edge when it comes to promotions for senior management positions while enabling those who wish to impart their knowledge to students to teach at universities and colleges.

Obtaining an accounting degree is often just the beginning of an accountant’s journey. Most of them work towards becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) so that they can improve their chances of getting a job or if they are already connected with a company, to be able to file a report with the Securities and Exchange Commission and other government regulators.

Those who wish to become CPAs must first finish 150 semester hours of coursework in college. This is 30 hours more than the traditional bachelor’s degree in accounting. In a lot of schools, this requirement is fulfilled in a five-year program that enables students to obtain both a bachelor’s and master’s degrees. A master’s degree is not needed to obtain CPA licensure.

Aspiring CPAs have to pass the Uniform CPA Examination from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) before they are given their designation. Comprised of four parts, CPA candidates must finish all four parts of the test in 18 months after successfully hurdling the first part. They must also continue to take required continuing education courses so they can retain their CPA license. Those who already have the CPA designation may also choose to undergo more experience and education so they obtain Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV), Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP) or Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) certifications.

There are also other certifications for other specialties offered by other bodies, such as the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) designation from the Institute of Management Accountants. Instead of a four-part exam, this test is only comprised of two parts and will include topics on capital structure, risk management and financial statement analysis, among others.

Career Spotlight: Accountant

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  1. Laurence Jacobs says:

    I already have a 4 yr BA in Healthcare…what additional steps are needed to get an accounting degree?

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