Learn Business Accounting

Business accounting is important because it allows for the analysis of income and expenses, which gives an overall picture of the business's financial health. This separates business accounting from bookkeeping, which is more focused on recording business activity and producing documentation of transactions.[1] Business accountants manage and produce financial statements, pay taxes for the company, and oversee all necessary financial reporting. Most companies either keep their business accounting functions internal or outsource them to accounting firms. It can be a challenging and rewarding field for anyone interested in finance. Learn business accounting by training on the job, or taking courses and classes to learn about the responsibilities and requirements of the job.


Preparing for a Career in Business Accounting

  1. Take the right classes in high school. High school students interested in pursuing accounting careers should choose classes that fulfill the prerequisite requirements for college-level classes. Mathematics classes prepare you for the courses you will need to take in accounting. In addition, you will need to take classes to prepare for the general education requirements.[2]
    • College accounting programs usually require students to have completed two years of high school algebra and geometry and one advanced math class such as calculus.
    • If you have the opportunity to take business or economics classes in high school, you should. Also, high school statistics classes are valuable for learning to apply your math skills to think critically and solve problems.
  2. Choose a course of study in college. It’s not always necessary to have a degree to work as an accountant. But, most accountants attend college and earn a bachelor’s degree in accounting. Also, some states require accountants to have a minimum number of credit hours in accounting. For most bachelor’s degrees, you will need 150 credit hours in accounting and related business areas.[3]
    • Accounting degree programs are available at most colleges and universities throughout the United States.
    • US News and World Report has ranked the best on-campus and online accounting degree programs.[4][5]
    • Many colleges and universities offer on-campus and online degree programs. Some online programs may grant credit for your prior work experience in the field.[6]
  3. Choose classes related to a career in corporate accounting. Corporate or business accounting is different from public accounting. The bulk of public accountant work in big firms is auditing, which is confirming the accuracy and validity of financial records. Corporate accountants work in the accounting department of a business. They handle day-to-day accounting tasks such as balancing the books, tracking expenses and revenue, executing payroll and paying the bills. They also prepare financial statements to comply with government regulations. When choosing your college accounting classes, consider the requirements of a corporate accountant. Select classes that give you the appropriate knowledge and experience.[3][7][8]
    • Financial accounting and corporate reporting classes familiarize you with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and teach the basics about ledgers, balance sheets, cost accounting and inventory methods.
    • Internal auditing and forensic accounting classes teach you how to enforce GAAP by looking for irregularities in a company’s accounting practices.
    • While some corporate accountants may not prepare tax returns, you should still take classes in principles of taxation to familiarize yourself with these concepts.
    • In addition to accounting classes, prepare for management positions and graduate work by taking other business classes such as economics, finance, management, communication, and quantitative analysis.
  4. Participate in accounting-related extra-curricular activities. These kinds of activities fill your resume with valuable experience. They also demonstrate your initiative and level of preparedness for college and your career. Join a professional accounting organization such as the on-campus Accounting Student Association or your college’s chapter of Beta Alpha Psi (BAP), the international honor society for financial information students. Involve yourself in community service work, such as preparing free tax returns for senior citizens or educating community members in financial literacy. Participate in a team sport to demonstrate your ability to work well with others towards a common goal.[9]

Getting On the Job Training

  1. Get an accounting internship. Before you graduate, get an internship in accounting. This gives you some valuable experience that you can put on your resume. Also, you can make connections to use as references or who can give you leads for paying jobs down the road. In addition, you will receive valuable on-the-job training in your chosen career path.[10]
    • Talk with you advisor about the whether or not you meet the requirements to qualify for an internship. Many firms only consider applicants with a stellar GPA of 3.5 or above.
    • Use school resources such as job fairs, student organizations and the career center to learn about available internships.
    • Contact firms directly to ask about available internships.
  2. Get an entry-level job. Once you have your degree, you can begin to look for a paying job as an accounting. Entry-level positions have job titles such as “Junior Accountant,” “Accounting Assistant” and “Accounting Clerk.” The responsibilities in these jobs are basic, such as completing journal entries, handling accounts payable and compiling information to prepare financial reports. These jobs give you an opportunity to not only improve your understanding of accounting, but also to understand the business sector in which you are working.[11]
  3. Get a job without a degree. There are paid business accounting positions for those without a four year degree. For example, some businesses will hire you as an accounting clerk or a bookkeeper with only a high school diploma or an Associate’s Degree. These positions give you experience with a range of routine financial tasks, such as assisting with payroll, accounts payable or inventory. Also, you may generate documents used in financial transactions, such as purchase orders or invoices.[11]
    • You would work under the supervision of an accountant or business manager in the company.
    • Some companies may offer tuition assistance to allow you to pursue your bachelor’s degree.
    • Some colleges and universities may grant you credit for your work experience in these jobs.

Looking for Continuing Education Opportunities

  1. Attain a Master’s Degree. After you get your Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting, you can go forward to earn a Master’s in Accounting. Another option is a Master of Business Administration (MBA). The degree you choose depends on your career goals. Many accounting firms and businesses prefer applicants with graduate degrees.[12]
    • If you are interested in eventually getting a leadership position and want a broader focus than just accounting, then an MBA might be right for you.
    • If you have strong technical skills, then the Master’s in Accounting might be the way to go.
  2. Become a Certified Management Accountant (CMA). The CMA certification is the top tier certification for corporate accounting. It is similar to the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certification in public accounting. CMAs work on financial analysis, organizational performance measurement, budgeting and strategic assessment of a company.[13]
    • Candidates must pass an exam with four major components: Business Analysis, Management Accounting and Reporting, Strategic Management and Business Application.
    • In addition to passing the exam, you must already have a bachelor’s degree, have at least two years of professional experience and be a member of the Institute of Management Accounting (IMA).
    • CMA’s must complete 30 hours of continuing professional education annually.
  3. Earn additional industry-specific certifications. Acquiring additional accounting certifications offers you many benefits. For example, it makes you a more attractive candidate in a competitive job market. Also, if you are ever laid off from a position, having additional certifications opens many doors when looking for a new job. In addition, accounting certifications boost your salary and bonuses. You can also choose from several other certifications.[14]
    • A Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) evaluates a company’s accounting practices to ensure that they are compliant with all regulations.[15]
    • A Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) investigates, identifies and prevents financial crime and fraud.[16]
    • A Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) audits a company’s information systems to review systems controls, data integrity, operational procedures and security.[17]
    • A Certified Bank Auditor (CBA) enforces bank laws and regulations.[18]

Sources and Citations

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