Are you currently attending a community college to study accounting and are wondering what the best game plan is to start your career? Maybe you received a bachelor’s degree in a subject other than accounting and now you’re looking to start over by majoring in accounting as a second degree. Either way, you’re trying to figure out the best steps to getting started in the accounting industry by taking courses at a community college.
How to Get Started
There are many community colleges that offer an associate’s degree in accounting and attending a community college has added benefits of financial and time flexibility. These two factors make it easier to obtain credits in accounting while working and raising a family. If you’re not ready to move onto a 4-year university, it’s good to know that not all accounting firms require a bachelor’s degree in accounting to get hired. Earning an associate’s degree in accounting will allow you to start working in the accounting industry right away while providing you with industry experience. Some jobs you can get with an associate’s degree in accounting are bookkeeper, billing clerk, or accounting clerk.
However, if you think you’ll want to take your accounting degree to the next level, you’ll want to eventually become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). If you’re considering the CPA route while at a community college, you’ll want to ensure that your college courses count towards your state’s CPA requirements for eligibility.
Many states also require a bachelor’s degree of some sort to take the CPA Exam, and while community college is a great place to start your accounting journey, you’ll need to start thinking about transferring to a 4-year university. Which is a great thing! Guest author Professor Tchaikovsky, CPA, recently wrote a great article on how to jump start your accounting career as a transfer or community college student.
Do I Choose a Community College or a 4-Year University for my Accounting Career?
The choice is up to you! You can most certainly obtain your associate’s degree in accounting and work as a bookkeeper or billing/accounting clerk, in which case you’ll only have to attend a community college.
However, if you’re looking to become a CPA and boost your career to the next level, you’ll need your bachelor’s degree. Many people start at a community college and stay for 2 years fulfilling prerequisite and introductory classes. If you choose this route, you can later transfer to a 4-year university to take the more intermediate and advanced level classes, and finish your undergrad (and even Master’s degree if you choose). This way you’re paying for tuition at a 4-year university for only 2 years, which can cut down a lot of cost and reduce your school loan debt. In addition, many community colleges have excellent accounting programs to help you get prepared for the next level of classes.
Other people who decide to go to a 4-year university right off the bat choose to do so in order to take advantage of university benefits, such as going to Meet the Firms events, taking advantage of accounting organization membership such as Beta Alpha Psi, and other resources larger campuses have connections to such as networking and industry exposure. Since firms recruit from larger universities, ambitious university students can get to know these firms earlier on if they’re going to career fairs in their freshmen and sophomore years. This can be advantageous since the firm recruiters will also get to see how they have progressed and grown throughout their academic journey and are more likely to receive offers when they’re ready in their junior or senior years.
However, there are of course other ways to boost your marketability to firms no matter how many times you’ve met the recruiter, such as work experience. Showing a potential employer that you’ve already done the job successfully can go a long way. Also, finding an internship with an accounting firm is one of the best ways to jump start your accounting career immediately before or after graduation. Recruiters will choose a candidate best fit for the firm, so no matter where you started your degree, as long as you work hard, are passionate, and enthusiastic, you’ll land a job offer no matter what.
Whatever route you choose, just remember that it comes down to your personal situation and where you want your accounting journey to go in the future.
You’ll need to consider job position, career trajectory and of course, salary. Once you map out what’s most important to you for your career, you can make the best decision about your education.
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