I have a bachelor's degree in accounting. Now what?

graduating with a bachelor's degree in accounting

To many, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in accounting sounds like a one-way street to doing other people’s taxes or auditing financial statements. Though these are common jobs for accounting majors, those are just a few of the paths available.

The reality is your career options are more diverse than you think, especially if you decide to get an advanced degree, license or certification. Let’s look at a few of those options and how they can make for an interesting and fulfilling career.

Before you dive in, listen to Becker National Instructor Michelle Moshe answer the question, "What can you do with an accounting degree?" for some added inspiration. 



CPA licensure opens the door to public accounting

Becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) makes it possible to work in both public and private sectors, take on greater roles in leadership, and earn a higher income. Having your CPA license also proves that you have more specialized knowledge and expertise than other accounting professionals.

To become a CPA, you must meet your state’s education and experience requirements and pass a four-part CPA Exam. It’s not an easy path--opting in means studying 300 to 400 hours, often over nine to 18 months. It demands grit, but the hard work is worth it because you’ll have greater professional opportunities for your future. 

CPA career options

Doing taxes isn’t always what comes next after your accounting degree. Depending on the role, your career as a CPA may include:

  • Business valuation 
  • Financial forensics 
  • Filing reports with the SEC 
  • Preparing financial statements and signing tax returns 
  • Representing your firm before the IRS to defend a return 
  • Conducting external company audits

And rather than private accounting, a CPA license may lead you to a variety of settings, including:

  • Public auditing and attestation 
  • Overseeing clients at a public accounting firm (partner) 
  • Government accounting 
  • Management accounting (cost/industrial accounting) 
  • Forensic accounting (financial crimes)

Like most roles that require advanced education, CPAs are involved in more publicly-facing, higher-stakes work as a result of their credentials.

Do you have what it takes to be a CPA?

Becoming a CPA also means you’re more likely to enjoy greater career mobility and flexibility, like consideration for leadership roles and the ability to work in a broader spectrum of companies, industries and functions. The cache, credibility and distinction earned from passing the CPA Exam also command a 10 to 15 percent higher annual salary than non-CPAs.

Money aside, you might be well-suited for the CPA life if you also have a good mix of hard and soft skills, for example:

  • Continual learning mindset (new clients, challenges, trends) 
  • Emotional intelligence (managing relationships with clients and leadership) 
  • Technical skills (e.g. data analytics, business intelligence systems) 
  • Problem-solving (finding solutions to complex financial situations)

What is CMA Certification?

Becoming a Certified Management Accountant (CMA) may be a good fit if you love turning numbers into strategies and financial plans or you imagine yourself leading teams or a company one day. This is a designation from the Institute of Management Accountants that is globally recognized in over 150 countries. A CMA certification is a “gold standard” that shows mastery of management accounting and business concepts.

To become a Certified Management Accountant, you’ll need to meet the IMA’s experience and education requirements and CMA Exam--an eight-hour exam comprised of multiple choice and essay questions taken in two parts:

  • Part 1: Financial Planning, Performance and Analytics 
  • Part 2: Strategic Financial Management

CMA career opportunities

Earning your CMA certification prepares you for planning, leadership, and management positions in corporate finance, which regularly include the following responsibilities:

  • Risk management 
  • Business strategy 
  • Financial analysis, planning and analytics 
  • Cost management 
  • Planning, budgeting, forecasting 
  • Decision analysis 
  • Financial reporting

More specifically, this certification prepares you for roles, such as:

  • CFO Controller 
  • Financial analyst 
  • Director-level and above in the finance department 


The CMA Exam pass rate was under 50 percent in 2020, which is on par with the CPA Exam pass rate. But with the right CMA Exam Review, passing becomes a lot easier. And for many, the benefits of going for CMA certification are worth the rigorous studying.

Along with having international “street cred” within the corporate finance world, becoming CMA-certified means enjoying an average median compensation that’s 58 percent higher¹ than those without it. Job growth is also projected to rise 17 percent each year, which shows organizations’ willingness to invest in talent who can help them proactively minimize financial risk and find opportunities.

Getting your CMA certification makes you uniquely qualified to take on the critical work that directly impacts strategic financial decisions. That’s a huge confidence-builder for your ability to counsel and lead others at scale.

Who should get a CMA certification?

You might be a good match for CMA certification if you’re interested in the future-focused side of accounting, working alongside finance executives, and have solid quantitative skills. That’s why you need at least two years of work experience to sit for the CMA Exam. Fortunately, this time means you can look further into the horizon when you think about what’s next after your accounting degree; your next professional milestone doesn’t have to come right after your bachelor’s degree.

You don’t need to have management experience to take the CMA Exam, but experience with managerial responsibilities and big-picture thinking can save you the effort of learning this material from scratch. Similarly, if you’re a leadership-minded CPA considering CMA certification, your advanced accounting knowledge is likely to overlap with the CMA Exam material and may make studying for it easier.

What is the MBA?

The Master of Business Administration (MBA) is an optional advanced degree that teaches you executive-level communication, business, management, leadership and strategy skills across all concentrations. To be eligible to apply for an MBA program, candidates must have an undergraduate degree and take the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). They must then be accepted into a graduate program at an accredited college or university.

This program gives you a wider range of business expertise that’s likely to increase your earning potential and employability. You may also find greater networking opportunities in an MBA program as it’s a formative experience shared with like-minded people in a smaller class setting. The same people who sit next to you in class may end up as a colleague later on.

Should I get an MBA after my bachelor’s degree in accounting?

If CPA licensure and CMA certification don’t align with your goals for what’s next after your accounting degree, and you want a master’s degree rather than a license or certification, an MBA may be a better option. These programs are a great fit for mid-career professionals who are interested in accelerating their path to management in their field. It’s also a common way to use your degree to pivot careers³ altogether, giving you plenty of career options. Some popular, post-MBA jobs⁴ include:

  • Financial manager 
  • Management consultant 
  • IT manager 
  • Healthcare administration

Graduating from an MBA program shows commitment to developing your business acumen and leadership skills, which are sought after by all companies.

What’s next after my accounting degree?

Just because the accounting discipline deals with the concrete (e.g. math, regulations, Excel formulas) doesn’t mean that careers within the field are also fixed. By supplementing your bachelor’s degree in accounting with additional credentials, you can expand your expertise and ability to branch out into other gratifying occupations.

Learn how to thrive in your career with Becker

If you're already about to start your new accounting career, you probably have some questions. Don't worry, Becker asked hundreds of top accountants and CPAs what they wish they knew and tips to succeed and we put it all together in one course: Survive and Thrive to Start Your Accounting Career

From learning how to prioritize and take ownership of tasks to building better relationships and setting boundaries, you'll have the strategies and confidence you need to thrive! 


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