An accounting major is typically designed to enable the student to eventually satisfy the prerequisites needed to take the exam to become a certified public accountant (CPA). Although there are many accounting-related jobs that do not require certification, classification as a CPA is the pinnacle of the career path. Most business schools structure an accounting curriculum with the certification process in mind. Consequently, the accounting required courses are uniform across most accredited business schools that offer a four-year bachelor's degree in accounting or a two-year Master's of Business Administration (MBA). The required courses include financial accounting at the introductory, intermediate and advanced levels, management accounting and income tax accounting.
At the bachelor's degree level, colleges and universities structure the accounting major so the student must take certain required courses. Students can then choose a number of electives from a list of classes that target specific topics. The accounting required courses focus on the three most important areas of accounting: financial, management and taxation.
Financial accounting is the type of accounting work that is done for public corporations and involves financial reporting and auditing of past activity. Management accounting deals with the type of general business accounting that enables executives to make decisions and plan for the future. Tax accounting involves everything that enables people and entities to comply with the jurisdiction's tax code.
Schools typically require accounting majors to take three classes of financial accounting at the introductory, intermediate and advanced levels. The other accounting required courses at the bachelor's level are a management accounting class and an income tax accounting class. These five classes are the core requirements, while the rest of the credits needed for the major can be filled with accounting electives.
The MBA in accounting required courses are typically selected from the options provided by the CPA licensing body that will qualify the student for the licensing exam. It is possible for a candidate for an MBA in accounting not to have an undergraduate accounting degree. Consequently, the required courses at this level will differ, depending on the school and whether some of the classes were taken by an individual student as part of a bachelor's degree program in accounting.
Generally, the MBA required courses include some variation of advanced auditing and accounting in a global environment. The required courses also typically includes advanced accounting theory and practice or financial statement analysis, and advanced contemporary accounting theory. If the student has not already taken these classes, he is usually required to satisfy intermediate and advanced financial accounting and income tax accounting for businesses.