Career Guide to JMU Majors: Accounting
Learn more about this major by watching the JMU Accounting promotional video.
Admission and Progression Standards:
Visit the Major Snapshots site to learn more about the admission and progression standards of this major.
Description of Major
The undergraduate Accounting major is designed to prepare students for entry into high-quality graduate programs and for positions in industry, government and non-profit organizations that do not require postgraduate education. Forty-seven states now require a 5th year of college to qualify for the CPA exam. Students interested in public accounting will wish to major in Accounting and continue their education in the Masters of Science in Accounting program. Accounting graduates develop technical accounting competence and proficiency in information technology. The program also develops critical thinking, teamwork and communication skills. Graduates are hired by the "Big Four" international public accounting firms, local and regional accounting firms, government and non-profit organizations and companies in a variety of industries. The field of accounting has one of the highest demands of new graduates of any area in today's market.
Students who have completed their lower-level business requirements must formally apply for admission to the College of Business. Students interested in pursuing a business major are encouraged to begin taking lower-division business courses as early as possible.
Tell me more about this field of study
Accounting is the study of how organizations measure and report their performance in meeting organizational goals. Accountants engage in a wide variety of activities besides preparing financial statements and recording business transactions. These include: measuring costs and efficiency gains from new technologies, participating in strategies for mergers and acquisitions, developing tax strategies, developing and using information systems, and helping determine corporate strategy. The field of accounting offers stimulating and challenging work that is constantly evolving. The demand for technologically-competent accountants far outstrips the supply, resulting in starting salaries in the mid-$50,000 range and up. Average salaries for 2006-2007 year were between $45,000 and $60,000.
Tell me more about specialization
Starting accountants work for public accounting firms, government agencies, consulting firms, or corporations. Within these work environments, accountants can specialize in auditing, systems design and development, or in managerial, financial or tax accounting. Auditors verify accounting procedures within corporations and government to assure compliance with national and international accounting standards. Management accountants analyze the organization’s performance and participate in planning and management decisions. Financial accountants prepare financial statements and participate in important decisions involving mergers and acquisitions, raising capital and long-term financial projections. Tax accountants prepare corporate and personal income tax returns and formulate tax strategies. Forensic accountants utilize accounting, auditing and investigative skills to detect and prevent fraud and assist in litigation support.
Successful accountants combine technical expertise with teamwork and communication skills. Technological competence, problem solving skills, and professionalism are important attributes of today’s accountants.
Many graduates choose typical career paths associated with this major. However, some graduates choose unrelated careers that utilize skills and experiences developed during their years in college. Keep in mind, that some fields will require graduate study or further training. The listing below offers examples of possible career paths and is not meant to be comprehensive.
Who employs graduates?
The majority of our graduates go to work for public accounting firms. These include the Big-4 international accounting firms, regional firms and local firms. Other students seek jobs in industry, the nonprofit sector and with the federal and state government.
Many accounting students receive paid internship opportunities. Typically, internships last eight to ten weeks and students participate in audits, preparation of tax returns, or other activities representative of responsibilities of first year accountants. Students interested should consult with the internship faculty coordinator. Students may also want to get involved in one of the student organizations, such as the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA), or Beta Alpha Psi (Accounting Honor Society).
View our list of internship coordinators for each major.
A broad range of resources on career fields, internships, and job search information is also available in the Career & Academic Planning Resource Center. A few titles from our Resource Center related to this field include:
Make an appointment with a CAP career counselor to learn more about this major and your career options.
© Career & Academic Planning, James Madison University, 2013All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without permission from JMU Career & Academic Planning. Content for each major has been written/reviewed by faculty in the respective department and is revised each year. Requests to update content can be submitted to the Career Guide editor, Nina Stensby-Hurst.