If you’re torn between majoring in general business and majoring accounting, then you should learn as much as you can about the pros and cons of each decision. While there is a good deal of overlap between these two degree paths in both subjects of study and career opportunities, there are many benefits of pursuing an accounting degree over a business degree. A few of the best advantages of studying accounting rather than general business include developing the specialized knowledge employers are looking for, enjoying an unexpectedly wide range of job opportunities and benefitting from above-average rates of job growth.
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In-Demand Specialized Knowledge
Along with subjects such as finance, accounting is what The Washington Post refers to as a “math-focused business major.” Students who graduate from a math-focused business major rather than general business or business marketing majors enjoy benefits such as higher wages and lower unemployment and underemployment rates, generally, The Washington Post reported.
These math-focused business subjects develop more than your math skills. As you learn the concepts and practices of accounting, you also cultivate skills in critical thinking, analytical reasoning and even communication that students of general business programs might not have much opportunity to develop. These crucial skills combined with your specialized knowledge in the field of accounting can be far more compelling to a potential employer than that of a student majoring in general business. Business administration degree programs have a reputation for bringing about less growth in terms of these vital skills. Their major studies focus more on learning the basics of a breadth of business subjects than on developing a depth of expertise in any one discipline.
As a whole, business majors are among the most popular college majors, accounting for one in five college degrees.
You might expect that the specialized knowledge that distinguishes an accounting degree from a business degree would also mean that graduates of this degree program have less flexibility in their job search. After all, business majors go on to become sales managers, store managers, project managers, account managers and marketing managers. Accounting degrees correspond most closely with accountant jobs.
However, accounting jobs are just as varied as business management jobs, if not more so. Public accountants take on an array of accounting tasks, from tax preparation to auditing and from consulting to forensic accounting investigations, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The field of private accounting, which has more in common with business management roles, can including roles in management accounting, cost accounting and other corporate accounting job duties. Further, the skills and specialized knowledge accounting students gain can position them for non-accounting jobs such as financial examiner, financial analyst and budget analyst.
If you think accountants can’t work in management roles, you might be surprised. Senior management positions in Certified Public Accounting (CPA) firms often offer six-figure salaries, and roles like finance manager, controller and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) are all possibilities for accountants with plenty of ambition, experience and education. Business administration degree programs might prepare students for eventual management roles, but they still need to gain the work experience that will help qualify them for leadership opportunities. However, many general business majors find themselves underemployed after graduation, working in roles that don’t require a college degree or that simply aren’t relevant to their field of study. Accounting majors, on the other hand, can immediately start out working in junior accountant roles and work their way up to senior accountant and management positions, especially if they choose to attain an advanced education or professional certification along the way.
Just because accounting is a more targeted degree path than general business doesn’t mean that students are missing out on learning the foundations of business. Accounting degree programs require core coursework in a variety of business subjects.
High Job Demand
Even during economic downturns, the field of accounting has consistently low unemployment rate. During profitable and less-than-profitable times, individuals and businesses still require help with their financial reporting needs. Career prospects are strong for graduates of a bachelor’s degree program in accounting, but they are even better for those who pursue a graduate education.
The recruiting process for candidates with a master’s degree in accounting often begins before they have even started their graduate-level studies, according to U.S. News & World Report. It’s not unusual for schools to begin working with students who have been admitted to the master’s in accounting program to improve their recruitment prospects over the summer before the students begin grad school. Within the first few weeks of accounting students’ first term, recruiters may already be on campus to meet face-to-face with potential employees.
Overall, jobs for accountants and auditors will grow by a faster than average rate of 10 percent over just a decade, the BLS reported.