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Every student interested in the accounting profession wants the best accounting training they can locate and afford. All accredited undergraduate business schools provide good accounting training that is recognized by the employment market. The answer to the question “Which is the best for me?” becomes as much a personal decision as an education choice.
Get as much information as possible: through the Internet, library, family, and friends, to make a comfortable selection. If you have an idea about your specific career goals, examine the curriculum of any accounting school that interests you. While the majority of core courses will be similar at all top business schools, some may have electives that better fit your career desires than others. Another effective source of information is current and former student comments. You can try to get this information from accounting universities' alumni office or website (knowing that comments will, of course, be positive) and searching the ‘Net for student or alumni blogs or other sites giving candid comments.
When all of your evaluation efforts are complete, the best accounting training will be offered by the college or university that you judge to offer the best accounting degree program that “fits” your desires. Whether online or on campus, all of these accounting schools are good; you will decide which is “best."
There are many excellent universities offering accounting as a major. Some of the recognized leaders:
While your career choices are not totally infinite (brain surgery or quantum physics might be a stretch), you will have a wide vista of employment opportunities if you graduate from a top accounting school. Public accounting, private industry, government agencies, non-profit organizations and international entities are all highly interested in talented graduates of top accounting programs. Since accounting is the “language” of all domestic and international business, there are many lucrative career paths available.
There are many positions that require accounting certification (CPA,
Job titles such as Accountant, Senior Accountant, Accounting Manager, Controller, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), and Treasurer are one popular career path. Another lucrative choice is Internal Auditor, Senior Internal Auditor, Internal Audit Manager and Vice President – Internal Audit. The range of choices is wide and includes financial entities (banking and investment firms), government (Internal Revenue Service, General Services Administration, etc.), health care, nonprofit (Red Cross, American Heart Association, etc.) and many more.
There are quite a few organizations that compile information and rank business and accounting schools. The Internet and your local library are the best immediate sources of finding helpful information. When using the Internet, you must be aware that many websites that you'll find when you perform a “rankings” search are information databases that contain those universities that choose to associate with these sites. This is not a negative, just a caution to investigate multiple websites to get as much information as you can. In many cases, the information shown will be identical on a variety of websites, but at other sites, you may learn additional facts that help your evaluation.
Any source that provides business school rankings uses certain criteria for establishing its data. It is important that you become aware of the criteria used by each author. Some sources can be a bit “hazy” about their ranking criteria. Others are very public and open about their source of ranking criteria. For instance, one of the more popular Internet and print sources of rankings is The Princeton Review. While its primary focus is providing materials to help students pass entrance-related exams (
All ranking information is subjective as there is no hard rule or data that can be used to evaluate business schools. There are, however, some that will be better for you than others because of your interests, future career plans, and type of education environment you desire. Get as much information as you can and, in the end, create your own business school ranking.
The best method to learn about an accounting school, of course, would be to “try out” the school of your choice. Since that is realistically impossible, you must use every source of information available. First, use the Internet to its maximum. Check out the websites of many potentially acceptable accounting schools, but don't stop there. A college or university website has at least one characteristic of all company sites: It hopes to portray the company, in this case the school, in the best light imaginable. Make a further investigation by finding independent websites that have information and/or evaluations of accounting programs and schools. Without a profit motive or specific “agenda,” third-party school evaluations performed by qualified people can be very helpful.
Contact with alumni offices can also provide useful data. Obviously, they are not disinterested parties,but they may have good information that clarifies other questions you have about undergraduate conditions and post-graduate employment or careers. This data can help you both get a better “feel” for the school and help you evaluate the level of employment assistance you can expect shortly before graduation.
Finally, don't forget your “network” of friends, family, co-workers, etc. who can sometimes provide excellent information about top business schools. They may have some inside or real world information about some schools you are considering. While you should never accept pure opinions as fact, knowledge is power. Hence, the more information you have, the better equipped you are to make good decisions.
Because of the ever-changing landscape of corporate, government, and international operations, the real-world answer to the question, “How long does it take to get an accounting education?” is forever! However, on a pragmatic level, the following time periods are widely standard:
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|