What is generally included in an accounting concentration or major? This will vary across institutions, however, there are a common set of courses that you will find in any business school. The first classes that an accounting student will take our financial and managerial accounting.
Financial accounting regards the process for accounting for or keeping track of business operations revenues and costs of the organization. Ultimately the student learns how to construct the primary financial statements of the company. These include the income statement, the statement of cash flows, the balance sheet, and the statement of owners equity. The majority of the upper-level courses focus on some specific aspects of financial accounting. Most curricula include at least two courses on financial reporting. Other common courses include cash flow accounting, cost accounting, and financial statements (which can also be oriented toward managerial accounting).
In managerial accounting, the student will learn methods of applying their understanding of company operations to managerial decision-making. This means that students will read the financial statements and other reports of company operation. From there, the students will make decisions on how to manage company resources. This generally includes understanding how to measure company performance through ratios and comparisons. It also includes the ability to evaluate company operations and performance.
Taxation is another important area of accounting. Students learn the fundamentals of individual and business taxation. Individual and business taxation may be broken into two or more courses, depending on the academic institution. The primary focus at the undergraduate level is on income taxation. Higher levels of study of taxation might include nuanced transactions involving gain, transfer taxation, international tariffs, value-added tax, etc.
Auditing is another unique area of accounting practice. Auditing is the process of substantiating or verifying the adequacy of records or record-keeping methods of a company. In essence, auditing is a form of inspection. Accountants conduct audits to evaluate and ultimately certify whether the reporting methods used by a company are adequate and, assuming the information supplied to the record keepers is accurate, the information reported to company stakeholders is accurate. An institution may offer specialty auditing courses, such as forensic auditing.
A common specialized area of accounting practice is investigative accounting or forensic accounting. Students study methods of identifying relevant company information that may or may not have been disclosed or disclosed accurately to company stakeholders. Many individuals involved in forensic accounting do so as members of a regulatory body, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Federal Trade Commission, or one of the many other state or federal regulatory agencies charged with overseeing company activity.
Career Paths of Accounting Majors
Students following an accounting concentration within business schools generally have a high degree of employability. It provides the ability to go out and open up your own practice (undertaking tax services or accounting services etc.) or you can work within a large organization.
Also, it combines well with being a general business or management major because you have a stronger working knowledge of the metrics that gauge or judge how you’re delivering value to the customer. For this reason, statistically more CEOs come from the accounting field than any other.
Some of the core functions or compiling data on assets, liabilities, accounts. You produce the financial statements of the corporation. You generally documented audit, different transactions to make certain they are compliant with applicable rules and regulations and that they are accurate in nature. You ensure compliance with different obligations, such as taxation and in some cases you make certain that the securities disclosures and things of that nature are accurate and timely. All routine financial transactions, generally, accounting is going to document and then oversee them in some way, shape or form — whether it’s their account payable, account receivable, etc.
Generally, the key skills associated with an accounting position is someone who’s organized, has a good attention to detail, meticulous in nature, and process-driven. So much of the documenting of the value metrics in the business is based upon standardized processes. It’s those processes that allow you to compare your performance against prior periods and other businesses.
Certified Public Accountant or CPA – In accounting, everyone understands the certified public accountant and then their role in either preparing business, taxes or the function of preparing financial statements or the different compliance. The payroll, compliance and different things that they do for members of the general public every year. The CPA, but that’s just one track or very common track.
Certified Managerial Accountant or CMA – Another track would be to go inside of a larger business or corporation and be more on the management tracks. Early on, you’re going to do something more along the lines of say a staff accountant working within the organization. You slowly work your way up to have more managerial responsibilities. So, rather than a CPA, a common designation for accountants that move up in an organization is the certified managerial accountant that is a CMA. These individuals might move up all the way up to the controller of the company or even the CFO.
Auditor – Auditors are commonly in house; but they can be with an accounting firm or on their own. They serve the function of going into other businesses or organization and back checking the accounting that was done and the metrics that were recorded for business performance. They work backward to make certain that the statements that are produced internally are accurate or that they are consistent with management’s assertion as to the performance of the company. So it’s more of a verification process and it’s a very unique skill unto itself. There are more specialized roles such as that for forensic accountant which typically goes in and mines for important accounting data that is particularly relevant when doing audits. Auditors often find positions with the government, such as the IRS or Securities Exchange Commissioner, or any government organizations that commonly undertake audits of corporate records. So it’s a more investigatory function
Tax Preparer – Someone with knowledge of taxes can serve as a tax preparer, rather than a tax accountant. This is someone who opens itself to the public and takes in individual tax returns and prepares them. It’s not really required that you have an accounting degree, but it certainly does help.
Bookkeeping – A bookkeeper records the transactions associated with the business (any payment, any receivable, any purchasing, etc.). She will accurately document the records for developing financial reports and preparing taxes at a later point in time.
Assistants and Clerks – Accounting assistants and accounting clerks are common in CPA firms and in an organization that has staff accountants. They assist accountants. Accounting clerks record transactions associated with accounts payable, accounts receivable, payroll, etc.
Budget Analyst – A budget analyst helps put together a budget or in some cases analyses the budget of certain sectors or segments of an organization. The purpose is to make certain there is no waste and the budget is being allocated as efficiently as possible in order to achieve the major goals of the business.
So again, there are a lot of different areas you can go into with an accounting degree. Remember, it doesn’t limit you from any of the general business functions – consulting, internal management, etc.