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University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Accounting Major
Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

In order to answer as many inquiries as possible in a simple and consistent manner, here is a list of the most common questions asked along with specific answers.

Should I choose accountancy as my major?

Choosing a major is an extremely important decision because it is not only the center of what you will be studying for the next few years, but also because it is likely to lead you to a career you wish to pursue. Even though declaring a major isn’t set in stone and you can switch majors, making a switch may require additional time to complete your degree. Here are some things you can do to help you decide which major is right for you.

  • Assessing your skills is a good way to help you decide which major is best for you.
  • Make a list of your strongest skills. Ask yourself questions about the types of skills you have and if you could pursue careers that rely on those skills. Here are a few skills needed for Accountancy:
    • Well-practiced in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division (if mathematics fits the bill, you are on the right track for an accounting degree)
    • Analytical/problem solving abilities
    • Communication skills
    • Leadership
    • Teamwork
    • Computer (practice the various accounting software programs; often times, these programs can be downloaded as a "trial" for a specified time period.)
  • Note your interests; your major must be something that interests you.
  • Ask yourself what types of things you want to achieve once you’ve earn your degree.
  • Consider your personal values.
    • If your salary is most important to you, choose a major that is likely to qualify you for a top level or high paying position. In the field of accountancy, starting salaries range from $25,000 to $75,000+
    • If you wish to travel a lot, pick a major that seems to fit with occupations that require sales or frequent traveling – in accountancy consider auditing or forensic accounting.
    • If you’re unsure of working long hours and occasional over time, the most likely time of the year for longer hours in accountancy are from December to mid-April.
  • Accounting is a reliable major. A career in accounting is respectable and it helps to prepare you adequately for the business world if you later choose to become an entrepreneur. As an accounting major you’ll be trained to hone your organizational and interpretive skills and will be better at rationalizing financial decisions for a company.
  • As an accountant, the financial data that you provide will be used by the leaders of your company to determine what steps they should make next. Your accounting skills are vital to insuring that a company manages to stay afloat and profitable.
    • If you’re interested in majoring in accounting, be prepared for the course load. Accounting is not the kind of major where you can just skate along. Accounting firms typically hire the best and the brightest and with the state of the economy, you have to shine amongst the many other candidates out there.
      School of Accountancy Undergraduate Programs
    • If you’re interested in becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), be prepared stay in college an extra year. You’ll be prepared for the CPA exam straight out of college!
      School of Accountancy Masters and MPA - JD Joint Programs
  • Scholarship Opportunities
Where are the jobs in accountancy?
  • Some areas of employment include: government -– federal, state and local; public accounting firms; financial services; insurance companies; banking; academia; non-profit agencies.
  • The Big Four are the four largest international accountancy and professional services firms, which handle the vast majority of audits for publicly traded companies as well as many private companies, creating an oligopoly in auditing large companies. They are Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, and KPMG.
What types of accountancy jobs are available?

There are many different types of accountancy jobs on the market. Here are just a few with brief descriptions.

  • Auditor -- Auditing involves checking accounting ledgers and financial statements within businesses and government and may involve significant travel. Audits are performed to ascertain the validity and reliability of information; also to provide an assessment of a system's internal control. The goal of an audit is to express an opinion on the person / organization / system (etc.) in question, under evaluation based on work done on a test basis.
    Recent auditing has begun to include non-financial subject areas, such as safety, security, information systems performance, and environmental concerns. With nonprofit organizations and government agencies, there has been an increasing need for performance audits, examining their success in satisfying mission objectives. As a result, there are now audit professionals who specialize in security audits, information systems audits, and environmental audits.
  • Analyst -- An accounting analyst evaluates and interprets public company financial statements. The statements include the balance sheet, the income statement, the statement of cash flows and the notes to the financial statements. This individual has extensive training in understanding financial accounting principles for public companies based on generally accepted accounting principles as provided by the Financial Accounting Standards Board. He/she may have additional experience in applying international accounting standards based on the rules promulgated by the International Accounting Standards Board. The accounting analyst will most likely hold a Masters Degree in Accounting (MSAcc) and will have specialized in the financial accounting area. Alternatively, the analyst may have an MBA degree with an Accounting specialization.
  • Financial -- The financial accountant prepares financial statements and participates in important financial decisions about financial planning and long-term financial projections. The work can be varied. One day you may be running spreadsheets. The next day you may be visiting a customer or supplier to set up a new account and discuss business. This work requires a good understanding of both accounting and finance.
  • Forensic -- Forensic accountants are experienced auditors, accountants, and investigators of legal and financial documents that are hired to look into possible fraudulent activity within a company, or are hired by a company who may just want to prevent fraudulent activities from occurring. They also provide services in areas such as accounting, antitrust, damages, analysis, valuation, and general consulting. Forensic accountants have also been used in divorces, bankruptcy, insurance claims, personal injury claims, fraudulent claims, construction, royalty audits, and tracking terrorism by investigating financial records. Many forensic accountants work closely with law enforcement personnel and lawyers during investigations and often appear as expert witnesses during trials.
  • Fund -- Fund accounting is an accounting system emphasizing accountability rather than profitability, used by non-profit organizations and governments. In this system, a fund is a self-balancing set of accounts, segregated for specific purposes in accordance with laws and regulations or special restrictions and limitations. Fund accounting, has also been applied to investment accounting, portfolio accounting or securities accounting – all synonyms describing the process of accounting for a portfolio of investments such as securities, commodities and/or real estate held in an investment fund such as a mutual fund or hedge fund.
  • Management Accounting -- Management accounting or managerial accounting is concerned with the provisions and use of accounting information by managers within organizations, to provide them with the basis to make informed business decisions that will allow them to be better equipped in their management and control functions.
    In contrast to financial accounting information, management accounting information is:
    * forward-looking, instead of historical;
    * model based with a degree of abstraction to support decision- making generically, instead of case based;
    * designed and intended for use by managers within the organization, instead of being intended for use by shareholders, creditors, and public regulators;
    * usually confidential and used by management, instead of publicly reported;
    * computed by reference to the needs of managers, often using management information systems, instead of by reference to general financial accounting standards.
  • Tax -- Tax accountants prepare business and personal income tax statements, formulate tax strategies, support decisions involving mergers or acquisitions, account for deferral of taxes, and other tax decisions. This type of accounting needs a thorough understanding of economics and the tax codes and laws. A good background in law helps. U.S. tax accounting refers to accounting for taxes in the United States. The United States has a comprehensive set of accounting principles for tax purposes, prescribed by tax law, which are separate and distinct from Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.
What type of salaries might I find in accountancy?

Annual starting salary range, full-time: $25,000 to $75,000+
Career Opportunities Looking Up for Accountancy Students

Do I need to have a heavy math background (calculus, algebra, etc.) to do well in Accountancy?

Not really. Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication and Division are basically all you need, but you need to be well-practiced at these tasks.

Is there help available if I am struggling?
  • Through the fall and spring semesters, tutor labs are available.
  • Members of Beta Alpha Psi have mentors available through the fall and spring semesters.
    More information on Beta Alpha Psi
What is the difference between accounting and finance?
  • Accounting is the preparation of accounting records. This includes measuring, preparation, analyzing, and the interpretation of financial statements. Accounting is also often referred to as the voice of business, the language of business, and the heart of business. Mostly because the financial documents derived from the accounting preparation are widely used among managers, investors, tax authorities, executives, and many others to see how the company is performing.
  • Finance covers a huge array of subjects, but the three main terms when comparing to accounting would be:
    1. the study of money and capital markets which deals with many of the topics covered in macroeconomics
    2. management and control of assets and investments, which focuses on the decisions of individual, as well as financial institutions and other organizations as they choose securities for their investments portfolios, and
    3. managerial finance (business finance) which involves the actual management of the firm, as well as profiling and managing project risks.
Do accountants have to work over-time often?

The most likely time of the year for longer hours in accountancy is from December to mid-April. Otherwise, staff hours are usually the routine office hours each company has established.

What is a CPA and what is required to become a CPA?
  • Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is the statutory title of qualified accountants in the United States who have passed the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination and have met additional state education and experience requirements for certification as a CPA. Individuals who have passed the Exam but have not either accomplished the required on-the-job experience or have previously met it but in the meantime have not maintained their continuing professional education are, in many states, permitted the designation "CPA Inactive" or an equivalent phrase. In most U.S. states, only CPAs who are licensed are able to provide public attestation (including auditing) opinions on financial statements.
  • For more information about the CPA designation in Nebraska, go to the Nebraska Board of Public Accountancy web site at
  • Information about degree requirements that will qualify you for the CPA Exam