Accountants ensure that the financial functions of businesses and individuals are efficient and accurate. Using manual and computerized systems, accountants create and analyze financial documents, file tax forms and suggest ways to reduce costs and enhance profits. Becoming an accountant requires extensive education, experience and licensing. The foundation of all accounting is contained in coursework in financial accounting, cost accounting, tax accounting and auditing.

Licensing and Education Requirements

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost all states now require accountants to complete at least 30 credit hours of coursework beyond the completion of a bachelor’s degree. Some schools will offer 5-year master’s degree accounting programs meeting the 150-hour coursework requirements for accounting professionals. In addition to education requirements, accountants who wish to broaden their career opportunities seek a Certified Public Accountant license. The CPA examination process is rigorous and requires passing all four sections of the Uniform CPA Examination. In addition to the CPA license, accountants can seek several other certifications including Certified Internal Auditor, Certified Management Accountant and Certified Information Systems Auditors, among others. All certifications require passing specific experience, education and exam elements.

Management and Liberal Arts Courses

In addition to accounting coursework, future accountants need to develop skills essential to the management of any business. Courses in strategic management, economics, statistics and marketing create the foundation of understanding the elements of a functioning business. In addition, courses in computer tools and technology will develop an accountant’s ability to use computer software to develop financial documents and communicate information. Liberal arts courses in English, communication and the arts will help develop the soft skills necessary to appropriately communicate and work with clients.

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Financial Accounting

Students will begin their accounting education by learning about the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. Financial accounting courses cover the rules used in accounting, the chart of accounts and the examination of the accounting environment. Coursework will provide students with the foundation concepts of debits and credits and the knowledge to perform basic accounting transactions. In addition, students will begin to establish an understanding of assets and liabilities and the creation of financial reports and balance sheets. Financial accounting courses develop the accountant’s ability to show the results of financial transactions and the financial health of an organization or individual.

Cost Accounting

The core accounting concepts found in cost accounting are key to developing skills in the financial decision-making process. For example, cost accounting is used in the manufacturing sector to determine costs associated with the manufacturing process; accountants are key to optimizing this process to enhance profits. Students will determine the cost of goods, labor and overhead in the manufacturing and business sectors. Cost accounting coursework will include the use of cost-volume-profit analysis, job and process costing and other cost analysis used in financial decision-making. Cost accounting is used in the manufacturing sector to determine costs associated with the manufacturing process; accountants are key to optimizing this process to enhance profits.

Tax Accounting

Tax accounting coursework studies taxation at the state and federal levels for both businesses and individuals. Students will study income, property, and business taxation and codes while completing their coursework. Tax accounting coursework will also teach you how to identify tax liability when conducting property and personal transactions, determining business entity classification, retirement calculations and other business investment transactions. Tax accounting helps corporations and businesses make decisions and comply with the law.


Auditing seeks to test the compliance of financial figuring and reporting, ensuring that corporate entities practice appropriate accounting procedures. Students will learn to use methods of statistical testing of financial documents and evidence formulation in auditing. In addition, the ethics and legal liability surrounding the verification of financial statements and accounting processes will be studied. Students will practice writing audit reports and reviews of financial statements. Coursework on internal auditing will focus on using the Institute of Internal Auditors International Professional Practices Framework for consulting with businesses to improve management and financial procedures.

About the Author

Amanda Schroeder holds a BS in Hospitality Management from Keuka College and a MSed in Vocational Education from SUNY Oswego. She has experience in restaurant management and is educated in school district business administration. Schroeder is currently teaching business and family and consumer science in New York State.