At the bachelor’s degree level, there is a difference between a business administration degree program with an accounting concentration and a BS degree in accounting. This difference lies in the fundamental purpose of these two degrees and the student’s desired career path. The BS in accounting is designed for people who want to become either accountants or licensed CPAs. The Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA degree) with an accounting concentration or minor is for people who are more interested in general business administration and management courses but also want to study accounting in greater detail. The following sections break down the differences between the two degrees.
BS in Accounting Degree
A Bachelor of Science in accounting degree provides the fundamental skills and knowledge needed to excel in the accounting profession. To prepare students for a future career in this challenging field, all degree programs are comprehensive. This means they will include accounting classes in critical financial competencies and other key accounting coursework. Students pursuing accounting careers will gain a broad understanding of ethics, leadership, professional values, and strategic thinking skills. Theoretical knowledge in accounting is also covered. Students will become very 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, and corporate finance.
After graduation, students who want to pursue future careers as CPAs will generally need to pursue a master’s degree in accounting. 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 with 150 credit hours of coursework 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 of those credits must be accounting-related. Some even require a certain number of upper-level accounting courses and graduate degree- 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 require 30 hours in accounting-related subjects. Others have much more granular requirements. The good news is that many colleges and universities are aware of these stringent requirements. These schools specifically design their bachelor of science in accounting degree and master of science in accounting programs to fulfill as many state requirements possible. Anyone who wants to become a CPA should start with a BS in accounting.
Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting (BS) Coursework
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, and individual income taxes.
- Computer Applications: Basic accounting requires familiarity with spreadsheets, databases, and desktop publishing programs. Thus, students will take courses like digital foundations for accounting and 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, and financial statement analysis.
- Business Policies: Accountants must be aware of standard business practices and policies. There are many courses that cover these policy topics. Examples include principles of management, principles of marketing, operations management, business policies, business statistics, business communications, and 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 health of the economy 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, and data analytics.
- Taxes: To be honest, taxes are what most people think of when they think of “accountant.” And for good reason. Taxes are a huge part of any accountant’s job. There are a couple of courses dedicated to taxes that you will find in any accounting curriculum. These classes cover individual income tax, tax planning, and decision making.
These 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
A business administration (BBA) degree program with an accounting concentration covers a lot 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 in which 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 in order to qualify for licensure.
This is not to say that the Business Administration (BBA program) with accounting concentration is worse than the 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 manager in project management or human resources, for example. Some of the accounting 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, and 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?
There are plenty of career opportunities for accountants without a CPA. But 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, or 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 is your best choice of degree programs if you want to be an accountant? Yes. If you are sure that 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, it’s likely you will 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 survive. It’s the most adaptable. So in the end, either degree can be a great choice. Automation or no, 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 the choice for you. It’s heavily accounting-focused. Plus, it will provide you with 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 related to essential management skills that can help you flourish in your career. You sacrifice some accounting knowledge. But 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 the master’s. This can be a bit of an inconvenience in 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 make the right choice between the two degree programs: a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Accounting or BS in Accounting.
- 100 Most Affordable Accounting Degrees Online
- Accounting Degree Online: Top 30 Values
- Top 25 Accelerated Master’s in Accounting Online Programs
- Master’s in Accounting Online: Top 20 Values
- Business Administration Degree Online: 30 Best Values
- 50 Most Affordable Competitive Small Colleges for Business Administration
- Bachelor of Finance Online: 15 Best Values
- Master’s in Finance Online: Top 15 Values
- Choosing the Right Business Degree Program
- 30 Colleges Helping Students Manage Finances