The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the federal agency of the United States responsible for tax collection, naturally has a need for skilled accounting professionals. If you want to work for the IRS, you will be in good company, as the organization is “one of the largest single employers of professional accountants.” Both entry-level and experienced accounting professionals can seek employment with this agency within the U.S. Treasury. To attain a position as an accountant for the IRS, you need a college education that includes a minimum number of accounting courses.

What Degree Do IRS Accountants Need

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Requirements for IRS Accounting Jobs

The requirements for an accounting job with the IRS might surprise you. For one thing, you don’t necessarily need to major in accounting – or even a related field such as business or finance – to get a job in the agency, according to the official IRS website. Your exact major matters less than what you learned during your college education, and you must only meet the minimum number of college accounting classes needed for the position for which you are applying. That can be as little as six semester hours for tax compliance officer role or 12 semester hours for a senior tax specialist role.

Civilian government in the U.S. jobs are classified into 15 grades within the General Schedule (GS), the civil service pay scale. Generally, the higher the pay grade of the position, the more senior the role is and the more extensive the education and experience requirements for that position are. Education requirements range from just a high school diploma, at the lowest pay grades, to a Ph.D. at some of the highest pay grades.

For Internal Revenue Agents, the basic education requirement you must meet for a position at the GS-5 grade is a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school. While an accounting degree is preferable, it is also possible to qualify for this position if you earned a bachelor’s degree in another subject but spent at least 30 semester hours on accounting coursework. Classes in finance, economics, financial management, business law, computerized accounting systems and statistical and quantitative methods also count toward this requirement.

You don’t need to go to graduate school to attain a GS-5 grade accounting role with the IRS, but you may if you want to eventually move up into the GS-7 grade and beyond. Candidates for GS-7 Internal Revenue Agents must demonstrate “Superior Academic Achievement.” This means an overall undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or a 3.5 GPA in undergraduate accounting or at least one year of accounting, business, finance or related studies at the graduate level. At the GS-9 grade, candidates should have a master’s degree or otherwise complete two academic years of graduate school.

About eight percent of all accountants and auditors in the United States work for government entities, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported

Accounting Degree Coursework

You don’t have to have a specialized accounting degree to find employment with the IRS. The coursework found in an accredited bachelor’s degree program in accounting is typically sufficient. The minimum number of accounting courses needed to become an IRS special agent is less than what is required to graduate from most bachelors in accounting degree programs or to attain a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license in most states.

The coursework found in an undergraduate accounting degree program encompasses a core of general business studies as well as more specialized classes in the principles and practices of financial reporting. You can expect to take courses in accounting fundamentals, financial accounting, corporate accounting, managerial accounting, cost accounting, auditing, accounting information systems and taxation. As you progress through your college education, you will move from introductory accounting coursework to intermediate coursework. If you choose to go to graduate school for accounting, you will take more advanced and highly specialized classes.

Newly hired IRS agents undergo training both in a classroom setting and on the job and keep learning through continuing education programs throughout their careers. Your training by the IRS will include studies in fraud detection, tax law and taxpayer relations.

Benefits of Working for the IRS

Why would you want to work for the Internal Revenue Service? There are many benefits to this career path. Accountants working for the IRS have a great deal of potential for advancement in terms of both salary and work responsibilities. As of 2018, the salary for a GS-5 grade government position can go up to $37,630, GS-7 can rise to $46,609 and GS-9 can increase to $57,015. For those who advance to the top levels of the pay scale, such as senior-level roles and management roles, six-figure salaries become possible. As part of the IRS workforce, you can also see compensation increase in the form of step increases within your grade on the GS scale, performance bonuses and annual across-the-board pay increases. If your job requires you to work overtime, weekends, evenings or holidays, your overtime pay will reflect premium rates above and beyond time-and-a-half pay.

There are many other benefits to employment with the IRS. As an agency of the federal government, the IRS offers employees access to federal health, dental and vision insurance, as well as a long-term care program and flexible spending accounts for health care and dependent expenses. You will be part of the Federal Employees Retirement System, and the agency pays for part of your life insurance policy, as well. The IRS offers numerous flexible work life programs, such as telework opportunities, flexible schedules, a transportation subsidy to cover the cost of your commute and on-site services such as child care, health care units, fitness centers, credit unions and cafeterias.

In addition to being one of the largest federal agencies, the IRS has repeatedly been ranked highly among both public and private sector work settings. 

Additional Resources

What Kind of Government Jobs Can You Get with an Accounting Degree?

What Classes Will I Have to Take for a Degree in Accounting?

What Are the Benefits of Pursuing a Degree in Accounting?