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Accounting Degree Requirements You Should Know

By Steve Smith

The information presented here is true and accurate as of the date of publication. DeVry’s programmatic offerings and their accreditations are subject to change. Please refer to the current academic catalog for details.


September 25, 2023
10 min read

If you’re thinking about pursuing an accounting career, it’s important to consider what education and experience is required. Accounting degree requirements vary according to the type of accounting career you want to consider. Some areas of accounting may also be more competitive than others, so preparing for this career requires careful planning at each step of the journey.


In this article, we’ll talk about what to expect when preparing to pursue an accounting career, the projected job outlook for this field, explore whether an accounting degree is worth it and examine some of the various degree programs that will help enable you to meet academic requirements for accounting careers at different levels.

Becoming an Accountant: What to Expect

Whether your goal is to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), management accountant, auditor or other accounting professional, you should begin with basic education in accounting and business management.

Accountants are typically required to have a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field, like finance. Specific accounting degree requirements will vary by the employer and the industry you hope to work in. 

Depending upon the school and degree program you choose, the time required to earn an accounting degree may vary as well based on a number of factors like course load, the number of credit hours you take per term or whether you enroll as a full or part-time student.  

In a typical undergraduate accounting program, you can expect to take courses on topics like:

  • Economics

  • Auditing 

  • Cost or Managerial accounting

  • Business ethics

  • Statistics

  • Financial management

Completing an internship while working on your undergraduate degree can be a good way to beef up your resume, gain required real-world experience and make industry contacts.  

If you plan to become a licensed CPA, it’s important to know that this is managed by the Board of Accountancy of the state in which you plan to practice. CPA candidates must complete 150 semester hours of college coursework, pass the Uniform CPA Examination and then take continuing education courses to maintain their licenses. States may have their own individual requirements as well. There are similar requirements to obtain the CFP (Certified Financial Planner) and CMA (Certified Management Accountant) certifications.

What Do Accountants Do on a Daily Basis?

Working in areas like tax accounting, auditing and compliance, corporate accounting or investment accounting, their duties and responsibilities may include:

  • Preparing tax returns

  • Advising on or creating budgets

  • Reviewing bookkeeping for accuracy

  • Updating accounting procedures as needed

  • Building financial forecasts

  • Communicating with clients and stakeholders

  • Working with internal and external auditors to ensure regulatory compliance

Accountants can work to advance in their careers in many different ways. Public accountants, for example, may move up to senior-level positions as they gain experience, becoming managers, supervisors or partners, or even by opening their own public accounting firms. In doing so, they are likely to become CPAs, which qualifies them to perform the public accounting work that is limited, by law, only to those who’ve obtained CPA licensure.

Management accountants, who work internally within the structure of a large corporation or public-sector organization, may be able to rise similarly through the ranks of their companies, attaining senior-level positions in cost accounting, auditing and budgeting. Depending on their experience and education, some management accountings may even work their way up to the C-suite level as vice presidents or chief financial officers.

Those who start out as accounting majors can also work toward careers in investment banking and management consulting, two specialized areas that may require education beyond and undergraduate degree to pursue.

Accounting Degree Options

At DeVry, there are a number of degree programs available that can help you work toward meeting the academic requirements for accounting careers. We offer undergraduate and graduate education in programs that explore many of the concepts relevant to today’s accounting field and dynamic business environment. Whether you are looking to begin your education in accounting, expand your knowledge to prepare to pursue advanced career opportunities or earn some additional credit hours towards the CPA exam requirements, our online accounting degree programs are designed with your career path in mind.1

Is an accounting degree right for you? Read about our programs below, and check out some frequently-asked questions about accounting

Bachelor’s Degree

A bachelor’s degree is the highest academic level of undergraduate education and is considered to be a degree accountants need to start acquiring the 150 credit hours needed to earn their license. 

At DeVry, our Online Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting is designed to give you a strong foundation in accounting principles and economics, helping you understand how to:

  • Prepare and analyze financial statements

  • Use technology to support the accounting function

  • Understand federal income taxation concepts

  • Apply managerial & cost accounting strategies

  • Utilize effective accounting research methods

  • Demonstrate ethical reasoning skills

  • Develop auditing skills

  • Analyze business operations

Coursework in this program also includes elements of Becker Professional Education’s industry-leading CPA Exam prep.1

To earn this Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting, students must successfully complete 120 semester-credit hours of coursework in areas that include accounting finance and management, communications, humanities, social sciences and mathematics.

Master’s Degree

A master’s degree can help you gain skills that are required to pursue advanced career opportunities or earn additional credit hours towards professional licensure requirements. To enroll in a program such as our online Master’s Degree in Accounting, you will have to first complete a bachelor’s degree. Courses in this program can also help you prepare to pursue either CMA or CPA certification. 

Designed for individuals with an undergraduate degree in accounting or finance, the Master’s Degree in Accounting program from DeVry and our Keller Graduate School of Management prepares students to apply current accounting theory and practice in a wide range of occupations. The program enables students to analyze new and existing regulations and standards, and equips students to conduct accounting research regarding technical, tax and audit issues. Elective courses provide the flexibility to choose topics to further personal and professional goals. This degree program requires completion of 30 semester-credit hours of coursework. 

MBA with Specialization in Accounting

A Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree can help you develop leadership and analytical skills to help you learn how to improve the productivity and profitability of a business and manage its resources. If you have the desire to advance your ambition in accounting, our online MBA with a Specialization in Accounting program can help you build a strong background in the theory and application of managerial and financial accounting in a business environment. 

The core curriculum in our MBA Accounting Specialization helps you to develop leadership skills, analyze data to help make informed business decisions, analyze business opportunities, risks and options to manage financial resources, apply strategic thinking techniques to improve organizational productivity and more. The accounting specialization focuses on the use of financial statements in the decision-making process, the application of managerial and cost accounting strategies to interpret financial data, reporting decision making based on analysis of standards and technology to support the accounting function. Completion of a minimum of 39 semester-credit hours is required for graduation.

Graduate Certificates

For individuals who’ve completed a bachelor’s degree and want to further their education to expand career opportunities or prepare to pursue a professional licensure, DeVry and Keller offer graduate certificates in both accounting and CPA exam preparation. 

Our Graduate Certificate in Accounting can help you understand the next level of accounting concepts and build upon the skills you’ve already developed. Earned online or in a hybrid format2 that combines online and in-person learning, this credential gives you the option of earning it on its own or transferring credits into one of our graduate-level accounting programs.3 

Our Graduate Certificate in Accounting Certification Preparation is designed for students interested in preparing to pursue either the CMA or CPA exams by focusing on professional competency in advanced accounting coursework geared toward whichever track you choose .1 CPA coursework focuses on decision making and ethics, professional communication and accounting standards, while CMA courses will cover financial management, analytics and planning, and performance evaluation. Some credits earned in this program may be applicable to a master’s degree or an MBA in a related field.

What to Do with an Accounting Degree

Once you’ve earned an accounting degree, you can apply it to a broad range of accounting careers in the private or public sector. The career roles you choose to pursue will be based on your degree level, the certification or licensing requirements for the job and the amount of experience you’ve gained. Here’s a sample of some of the different careers for accountants and auditors based on occupational data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):

  • Government accountants: Employed by federal, state or local governments, these accountants maintain and examine the financial records of government agencies and audit private businesses and individuals whose financial activities are subject to government regulation or taxation. 

  • Management accountants: Preparing financial information intended for internal use by business managers rather than the public, management accountants (also called private accountants or corporate accountants) often prepare budgets and evaluate performance by integrating financial and non-financial data. Some of them work with financial managers in asset management.

  • Public accountants4: Taking on a variety of accounting, auditing, tax and consulting tasks, public accountants work with individuals, businesses, governments and nonprofits. They help clients prepare and file the financial disclosures and tax returns that are required by law. Some public accountants focus on tax matters, advising businesses of the tax advantages of certain business decisions. Others specialize in forensic accounting, investigating financial crimes such as securities fraud and embezzlement or looking into bankruptcies and contract disputes. Many public accountants are licensed CPAs, and have their own businesses or work for public accounting firms.

  • External auditors: Employed by an outside organization, external auditors provide an objective, third-party assessment of an organization’s funds, revenue sources and internal controls. They review financial statements and report to authorities, investors and regulators as to whether those statements have been correctly prepared and are without misstatements. 

  • Internal auditors: Internal auditors review the finances of their own organizations and look for ways to improve processes and profitability by rooting out waste, fraud and other financial risks.

Accounting Career Outlook

The outlook for accounting over the next decade looks positive. Citing a growing economy, a complex tax and regulatory environment and the continuing globalization of business, the BLS projects employment of accountants and auditors to maintain steady growth of 4% from 2022 to 2032. This amounts to about 126,500 openings are projected each year, on average, over the decade.5 This growth is projected on a national level and local growth will vary by location. This projection is not specific to DeVry University graduates and may include earners at all stages of their careers. 

The BLS further notes that employment growth in this occupation is expected to be closely tied to the health of the overall economy and that, with economic growth, the need for professionals to prepare and examine financial records will be sustained. Technological advances over the projection period may enable the automation of routine tasks like data entry, making accountants’ work processes more efficient and, rather than diminishing the accountant’s or auditor’s role, making their advisory and analytical capabilities more prominent.

Looking to Get Your Accounting Career Started?

If you’re preparing to pursue a career in accounting, DeVry can help. Our accounting programs, like our Online Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting can help you develop a strong foundation of knowledge in accounting and economics and an understanding of business technology, administration and management. Knowledgeable faculty with real-world experience guide your academic journey as you learn to prepare and analyze financial statements, apply managerial and cost accounting strategies, analyze business operations, develop auditing skills and much more. 

Online learning with DeVry helps you balance your commitment to education with work, family and the other important things in your busy life.  

Classes starting every January, March, May, July, September and November session.

 1Most state boards of accountancy require 150 credit hours of post-secondary education in order to sit for the CPA exam. As this program is less than 150 credit hours, this program alone does not meet the minimum coursework requirements to sit for the CPA exam. Students interested in sitting for the CPA exam should check their state’s requirements. Credits and degrees earned from this institution do not automatically qualify the holder to participate in professional licensing exams to practice certain professions. Persons interested in practicing a regulated profession must contact the appropriate state regulatory agency for their field of interest. DeVry is not able to recommend graduates for professional licensure in any state. New York students should contact the NYSED Office of Professions regarding professional licensure.

2Program, course, and extended classroom availability vary by location. In site-based programs, students will be required to take a substantial amount of coursework online to complete their program.

3At the time of application to the next credential level, an evaluation of qualifying transfer credit will occur and the most beneficial outcome will be applied. Number of credit hours and courses vary by program. See catalog for complete details. En-route graduate certificate credits apply to the relevant master’s degree or MBA with a relevant concentration.

4Employment in this occupation may require years of relevant experience. 


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