Analyze your Accounting Degree

Smeal’s Accounting Degree

While many students with an accounting degree pursue becoming Certified Public Accountants (CPA), there are also many other paths one can take. With an industry that has such high demand, Penn State Smeal College of business provides the ideal resources and courses for students to determine their strengths within the field in order to succeed in the workplace.

Areas of Accounting

There are many different areas of accounting which include tax, audit and advisory. Students will be exposed and gain experience with many different areas of accounting through their core and suggested classes. Penn State also offers Masters of Accounting (MACC) 5 year programs which students can apply for in the spring of their sophomore year.

Accounting is a versatile major.  Many students will work for one of the CPA firms who recruit from Smeal.  But others will pursue different paths, such as working at a corporation or enrolling in graduate school or pursuing an entrepreneurial venture (among others),” said Scott Collins, Assistant Clinical Professor of Accounting.

Smeal College of Business’ course offering is diverse to provide students with extensive knowledge of the wide field. Courses such as ACCTG 471: Intermediate Financial Accounting I, ACCTG 404: Managerial Accounting: Economic Perspective, ACCTG 472: Intermediate Financial Accounting II, ACCTG 405: Principles of Taxation and ACCTG 403W: Auditing are required courses for students pursuing an accounting degree. Recommended academic plans can be found on Smeal’s website on the link below.

Career Opportunities

There are many different career opportunities related to accounting. Students with an accounting degree may go into Professional Services, Industry, Government and Education.

“We have a few different pathways available in our department.  The CPA pathway and the corporate accounting pathway are the two most common, but there is also an opportunity to pursue a career in the governmental sector — FBI, CIA, and IRS, to name a few agencies. The entry-level accounting jobs of the near future will involve a lot of data analysis.  Lower-level accounting tasks will be completed via algorithms and bots. So accounting students who expect to compete in the job market of the near future will need to learn a few data-related subjects now. Seek to become an advanced user of Excel. Strive to learn about a programming language such as Python.  Learn how to use the R Statistical Software package. Extend your Excel knowledge by creating data visualizations in Tableau and Microsoft’s Power BI. Pay attention in your statistics classes,” said Collins

Transferable Skills Learned in Accounting Courses

Smeal College of Business accounting courses help prepare students to work in various sectors by strengthening a wide skill set. These skills include developing and interpreting financial data, a strong work ethic to meet overlapping deadlines, attention to detail, ability to work under pressure, group work, and understanding the language of business.

“The most valuable skill Smeal has taught me is critical thinking. Through all of my accounting classes, we have been taught to not just blindly apply accounting principles but instead to understand why things should be done a certain way so that we can solve problems more efficiently,” said Sarah Stiffler, Penn State senior and MACC student.

Students can also further grow their skill set and experiences on campus by getting involved in the various accounting organizations such as Accounting Society, Alpha Kappa Psi, Beta Alpha Psi and Corporate Control and Analysis.




By Jake Knatz
Jake Knatz