5 Ways to Identify a High-Quality Accredited Accounting Program

June 22, 2013 ·

Once you decide to become an accountant, you’re faced with one of the biggest challenges of your life: which program would best for you? The answer will set the stage for your entire career, and many college freshmen have to make up their minds at only 18 years old.


That’s a lot of pressure, but there are a few key traits that the best programs have in common, which makes them fairly easy to identify.


Start with the basics and understand that nobody has to go to an Ivy League school to be successful, although that certainly can improve your odds. There are plenty of second-tier schools that have been and will continue to be the launching pad for stellar accountants. They certainly can be a great way to save money a savvy move on the part of an aspiring accountant.


Take these five factors into consideration when looking at different programs. They can guide you to a successful and happy career.


1. Check for accreditation


A school simply must be accredited to make it worth anyone’s time. There are no exceptions here. Students can check to see if a school is accredited by visiting the website for the U.S. Department of Education and searching for the school in question.


If a school promises accreditation is around the corner or tries to tempt students with lower tuition, that is simply not good enough; no accreditation means it’s an automatic no-go. Everyone deserves an education from an accredited institution. Practically speaking, most employers won’t give you the time of day if you haven’t attended an accredited school.


2. Check the rankings


The names of a few schools are ready to hand for the average high school senior, and sometimes he or she can get caught up in a magical fantasy that might not be either feasible or realistic. For a pinch of reality, US News regularly rates accounting programs across the country, and this is the best place to get started if you have a competitive GPA.


You may find a few surprises in store, especially the fact that the University of Texas, Austin, is rated number one for 2013, which is a very different setting from Harvard up in the chilly northeast.


3. Visit the school


It’s important to visit any school you are considering in two different ways: first, online and second, in person. Online, students can see the graduation rate for accounting students and possibly find statistics such as how quickly graduates land a job. The average salary of accounting majors can be a key point of interest, too.


This provides clues to your potential success, but it’s just as important to visit each school in person. The environment and culture of the school can make or break a new student when it comes to success and happiness during your years there.


4. Investigate corporate preferences


Some students know early on that they want a future internship with a leader like Merrill Lynch. It’s great to have a five-year plan, but many corporations have preferences or outright agreements with certain schools.


For students committed to a particular career track, it’s worth checking into various corporations’ internships, fellowships, and entry-level job requirements. You may wish to pursue a career through a different school, or go aggressively after acceptance at a few key ones because they are preferred by the corporation(s) you aspire to join.


5. Variety is the spice of school


Take a look at the course offerings in the accounting department by year. Some schools offer specialized programs, while others take a more traditional route.


Depending on the student, this may influence where you want to go. You might be drawn to a school that offers a slew of courses in accounting for nonprofits. Electives are your opportunity to explore different specialties, but that’s not possible if the diversity isn’t there.

Choosing an accounting program can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Decide what the musts are for you, and research as much as possible. The right fit is out there.


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