BBA vs BS in Accounting: What’s the Difference?

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Reviewed By: Melissa Anderson, MS.Ed. / Reading Level: Grade 9 / First covered: January 2016

Key Takeaways:

  • Purpose: A Bachelor of Science (BS) in Accounting is tailored for individuals aspiring to become accountants or CPAs, focusing on accounting principles. In contrast, a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) in Accounting blends business management courses with a detailed study of accounting.
  • Course Focus: A BS in Accounting offers in-depth coursework covering financial competencies, ethics, leadership, and accounting principles like GAAP, auditing, and corporate finance. On the other hand, a BBA in Accounting provides a broader education encompassing business administration topics alongside accounting studies.
  • Career Paths: A BS in Accounting is ideal for those pursuing careers as auditors, CPAs, or in financial roles, while a BBA in Accounting prepares individuals for business administration positions within accounting or finance. The choice between the two degrees depends on career goals and aspirations.

There is a difference between a business administration program with an accounting concentration and a BS degree in accounting. This difference lies in the purpose of these two degrees and the student’s desired career path. The BS in accounting is for people who want to become either accountants or licensed CPAs. If you want to become a CPA then the online accounting degree is definitely more worth it. The Bachelor of Business Administration with an accounting concentration or minor is different. It is for people interested in general business administration and management courses who want to study accounting in greater detail. The following sections break down the differences between the two degrees.

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Student working towards an online business degree.

BS in Accounting Degree

A BS in accounting degree provides the fundamental skills and knowledge to excel in accounting. To prepare students for a future career, all degree programs are comprehensive. They include accounting classes in critical financial competencies and other key accounting coursework. Students pursuing accounting careers will gain a broad understanding of subjects like:

  • Ethics
  • Leadership
  • Professional Values
  • Strategic Thinking Skills

Theoretical knowledge in accounting is also covered. Students will become familiar with the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). They will also receive an introduction to the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). A BS accounting will include a variety of accounting classes covering business topics as well. Examples include:

  • Law
  • Statistics
  • Economics
  • Auditing
  • Financial Accounting
  • Taxes
  • Corporate finance

Students pursuing future careers as CPAs will need a master’s in accounting degree. This is due to the educational requirements for the CPA certification exam. Every state and U.S. territory requires at least a bachelor’s degree to become a licensed CPA. Some states allow you to take the CPA exam with only 120 credits but still require 150 credits for licensure. Yet, 150 college credits aren’t the only requirement for this career path. Each state also has requirements for how many credits must be accounting-related. Some even require a certain number of upper-level accounting and graduate-level courses. Requirements vary from state to state. So, you’ll want to be sure to check the requirements in any state in which you might pursue licensure.

Some states, like Illinois, only need 30 hours in accounting-related subjects. Others have much more granular requirements. Many colleges and universities are aware of these stringent requirements. These schools design their BS and MS in accounting programs to fulfill as many state requirements as possible. Anyone who wants to become a CPA should start with a BS in accounting.

Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting (BS) Coursework

Bachelor of Science in Accounting online curriculum

The curriculum for a BS in accounting degree is designed to develop specific skills. Examples include:

  • Computer Applications
  • Principles of Finance
  • Business Policies
  • Macroeconomics
  • Microeconomics
  • Auditing
  • Individual Income Taxes

Let’s break it down:

  • Computer Applications: Basic accounting requires familiarity with spreadsheets, databases, and desktop publishing programs. Students will take courses like:
    • Digital Foundations for Accounting
    • Quickbooks for Accounting Professionals
  • Finance: Students will develop an understanding of the principles of finance through the study of specific courses. These classes include:
    • Financial Accounting
    • Principles of Finance
    • Financial Reporting
    • Financial Statement Analysis
  • Business Policies: Accountants must be aware of standard business practices and policies. Many courses cover these policy topics. Examples include:
    • Principles of Management
    • Principles of Marketing
    • Operations Management
    • Business Policies
    • Business Statistics
    • Business Communications
    • Business Law
  • Economics: Accountants must be aware of basic economic principles. Expectations and strategies for businesses change based on the economic climate. The government sets tax and economic incentives according to the economy’s health as well. Thus, having a basic understanding of economic theory is essential. This will be covered in courses on macroeconomics and microeconomics.
  • Auditing: Many people associate auditing with the IRS. Even so, it’s essential for businesses and their accountants to conduct regular internal audits to make sure all the numbers add up. Additionally, accountants who work for consulting firms are often called in as third-party auditors. In this role, they help businesses solve various problems from an objective point of view. The skills necessary to perform audits are covered in BS accounting programs. This curriculum will feature courses like:
    • Auditing
    • Accounting Theory
    • Financial Statement Analysis
    • Data Analytics
  • Taxes: Most people think of taxes when they think of “accountants.” And for good reason. Taxes are a huge part of any accountant’s job. There are a couple of tax courses that you will find in any accounting curriculum. These classes cover:
    • Individual Income Tax
    • Tax Planning
    • Decision Making

These accounting degree courses lay the foundation of skills for the future career path of a great accountant. As you can see, the coursework is highly focused on topics directly related to accounting. Less focus is placed on general business operations compared to a business administration in accounting (BBA) degree program. This makes the program much better suited for anyone who wants to become a CPA.

Business Administration (BBA Degree) in Accounting Coursework

Synchronous online business administration course

A business administration degree program with an accounting concentration covers much of the basic accounting groundwork. But it goes far less in-depth than the Bachelor of Science in Accounting. It is possible for some bachelor of business administration in accounting degrees, when paired with a master of science in accounting, to meet the CPA exam educational requirements for some states. Because the business administration degree program (or BBA program) is less comprehensive, extra attention will be required to ensure your credentials meet the standards of the specific state where you intend to work. The other issue at hand is flexibility. The business administration (BBA) degree will not likely fulfill the CPA licensure requirements for all states. This could lead to a situation where if you decide to move from one state to another, you may have to take more courses to qualify for licensure.

This is not to say that a Business Administration degree (BBA program) with an accounting concentration is worse than a BS in accounting. It’s just different. What you sacrifice in accounting courses, you gain in courses on business administration and management. And these extra classes can be immensely helpful to certain career paths. Think chief financial officer, management analyst, or other executive or high-level managers in project management or human resources. Some accounting degree courses that count towards this bachelor’s degree in business administration program are like those mentioned above. You will take courses on intermediate accounting, cost accounting, federal income tax, auditing, and advanced accounting.

You will also be able to use electives to take classes in business administration. Some of these classes include:

  • Management Fundamentals
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Analysis and Design of Organizations
  • Human Resources
  • Contemporary Management Issues

This extra focus on business administration and management is something there just isn’t much room for in a BS degree in accounting.

Do I need to become a CPA for an accounting career path?

Certified public accountant online career preparation

There are plenty of career opportunities for accountants without a CPA. However, future career goals and advancement in the accounting career path tend to be more limited for those who don’t have CPA licensure. Non-CPA accountants can still get jobs managing accounting-related departments. These include:

  • Payroll
  • Receivables and Payables
  • Jobs as Corporate Controllers

These positions tend to pay well. Most medium and large-sized companies want somebody with a CPA for positions like CFO.

Does this mean that a BS in accounting degree is your best program choice if you want to be an accountant? Yes, if you are sure you want to be an accountant with career advancement opportunities, that is. In this case, the more narrowly focused degree will likely serve you better than a business administration degree in terms of future career goals.

Is it worth the extra effort it takes to become a CPA? There is currently a shortage of CPAs. According to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, roughly 75% of current CPAs are expected to retire in the next 15 years. This means significant numbers of top-level positions will start opening up. These accounting careers will need people to fill them. The future is bright for CPAs. If you put in the work, you will likely have every opportunity to advance in the coming years.

Is this a mark against the Business Administration accounting concentration program option? Not really. The accounting profession is currently going through the process of automating a lot of basic work. This means the productivity of any single accountant will rise. There is a strong argument that the added management and business skills in a Bachelor of Business Administration degree will provide you with more options as the industry evolves. During times of innovation and change, flexibility is the key to success. In evolution, it’s not the strongest that survives. It’s the most adaptable. So, in the end, either degree can be a great choice. Automation or not, the need for CPAs isn’t going anywhere any time soon. So whether you plan to earn the BBA or the BS in accounting, we suggest going the extra mile for that CPA licensure.

So which is better: BBA in Accounting or BS in Accounting?

Both of these degree programs are great, and it all depends on your goals and intended career paths. If you are all-in on accounting, then the BS is probably your best choice. It’s heavily accounting-focused. Plus, it will give you the in-depth understanding necessary to excel as an accountant. The Bachelor of Business Administration degree provides you with greater flexibility in terms of how you function in a business setting. It includes courses on essential management skills that can help you flourish in your career. You sacrifice some accounting knowledge. However, you will still take enough courses to qualify for the CPA exam after earning your master’s degree in accounting. It comes with the cost that it may not qualify you for the licensure exam in all states, even with a master’s degree. This can be a bit of an inconvenience at a time when it’s so common to move between states for jobs. So, in the end, it all comes down to you and what you want in terms of career opportunities. Hopefully, this informative article will help you choose between the two degree programs: a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Accounting or a BS in Accounting.

Sources

  • American Institute of Certified Public Accountants
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook