Accounting is a career path with a high median salary, faster than average job growth and great opportunities for advancement. However, generally speaking, you can’t work in the field of accounting without a college degree. Most accountant and auditor roles require at least a bachelor’s degree, and even many paraprofessional roles such as bookkeeping and accounting clerk require at least some postsecondary education, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Earning a degree requires you to invest time, effort and money into your education, but there are ways you can make getting a college education in accounting a little easier.
Competency-Based Accounting Degrees
Traditionally, you earn a college degree when you complete the required courses and the required number of credits. Rather than measuring what you have actually learned, this system of education measures only the time you have spent working toward the degree. Of course, you don’t earn credits if you fail a class, but still, much of your progress toward your degree comes from sitting in a classroom listening to a lecture.
Competency-based accounting degree programs are different. They award credit toward graduation not for spending a set number of hours in a lecture hall, but rather, for being able to prove that you have learned the material needed to work in the field of accounting. In a competency-based program, students earn credit by passing assessments or exams based on the subject matter. You can find competency-based programs at the associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s and even Ph.D. levels.
For students who have some bookkeeping or accounting experience already but are being held back by their lack of a formal education, competency-based degree programs are the easiest way to earn a degree. You can test out of courses if you already know the subject matter, so you can graduate sooner start putting your education to good use.
Some competency-based accounting degree programs also award credit for other external experiences, including military experience, professional certifications, workforce training and CLEP and DSST exams.
Associate’s Degrees in Accounting
The easiest level of degree you can earn in accounting is the associate’s degree. This two-year degree is offered at community colleges, so it tends to take less time to earn and have a far lower price tag than a bachelor’s degree. Associate’s degrees in accounting prepare students for careers as bookkeepers, accounting and auditing clerks and other paraprofessionals. They tend to be career-focused and include more coursework on the practice of basic financial reporting tasks than on the theory and concepts of accounting and auditing.
It’s important to know that an associate’s degree alone will probably not be enough to help you get started in a career as an accountant. However, it could be a stepping stone to a bachelor’s degree, which can put you on that career path.
The Easiest Bachelor’s Degrees for Accountants
The minimum education needed for most entry-level accounting and auditing roles is a bachelor’s degree, the BLS reported. However, there are different types of accounting bachelor’s degrees with different degrees of difficulty. A Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) or Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA) degree with a concentration in accounting is among the easier options, because the curriculum tends emphasize the study of a breadth of general business topics. Bachelor of Accountancy (BAC) degrees include more coursework in accounting concepts and practices. The Bachelor of Science in Accounting (BSACC) degree tends to include more high-level mathematics, analytical and technical coursework, and so it may be the most difficult option at the bachelor’s degree level.
Any of these bachelor’s degrees can prepare you for a career in accounting. Students should consider whether having the breadth of business knowledge of a BBA or the depth of accounting knowledge of a BAC or BSACC would benefit their future career goals more.
Dual Degree Accounting Master’s Programs
No graduate school program is truly “easy,” but a dual degree program is perhaps the closest you will get. Dual degree programs are accelerated programs of study that allow you to earn your bachelor’s and master’s degree in less time. The way dual degree programs typically work is by allowing undergraduate students to take graduate coursework and count those credits toward both degrees. This process sometimes makes for a more intensive workload during your undergraduate studies but ultimately allows you to take fewer courses and earn your degree more easily.
Whether or not they are part of an accelerated program, master’s degree programs in accounting involve advanced studies into accounting theory and practice. Often, graduate programs in accounting include specialized coursework. Taxation, managerial accounting, internal auditing and forensic accounting are just a few of the specializations offered at the graduate degree level.
There are many reasons students choose to earn a master’s degree in accounting, but becoming a CPA is a popular one. A graduate degree isn’t a requirement for CPA licensure, but in most states, an additional year of study beyond a traditional bachelor’s degree is, the BLS reported. The coursework you take as part of your master’s degree program can also help you prepare to pass the CPA exam.
Most dual degree programs take five years to complete, but some combined bachelor’s and master’s in accounting programs are even shorter.