What is Accounting?
Are you considering enrollment in an accounting degree program in Colorado? If you enjoy or have an aptitude for summarizing and analyzing, and you want to make good money while reporting financial data, this may be a good career choice. Individuals who enjoy mathematics are particularly likely to find this type of work fulfilling.
Accounting as a field is quite diverse, offering a large variety of employment opportunities for professionals. There are actually many different specializations to choose from, each with their own benefits and drawbacks.
Job outlook for this profession is comparable to most other occupations in the United States. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for accountants and auditors is expected to increase by 4% from 2019 to 2029, which will help account for the opening of approximately 125,700 job opening in the field each year. Both individuals and businesses alike depend on professionals to maintain accurate financial records, making the knowledge and skills possessed by accountants extremely valuable. As a result, strong demand for people capable of this type of work is likely to persist. However, this sector is closely linked to the overall health of the economy and can change based on the strength of the economy. If economic development continues as expected, the United States will sustain the need for accounting professionals.
Accounting Education in Colorado
Colorado has a healthy balance of farmland and urban areas. While real estate, business services, education, and manufacturing are the top four industries in the state, the capital of Denver serves as an extremely important financial and regional bank hub. This makes finance and insurance the fifth largest industry in Colorado, which accounts for $21.2 billion in revenue each year. According to the BLS, Colorado employed 36,400+ accountants in May 2020. This is more than most states. In fact, California is the only state with higher employment rates for accountants on the western side of the United States. Additionally, the annual mean wage offered to accounting professionals in Colorado is well above average, coming in at $85,100. This is almost significantly higher than the national median.
The finance industry contributes heavily to Colorado’s economy, so it’s not surprising that the state has several notable academic programs available for individuals interested in pursuing a career in accounting. If you aspire to work as a professional accountant in Colorado, it may be worth enrolling at a local academic institution. This ensures you will possess the training, skills, and knowledge coveted most by employers in the area.
Accountants are generally responsible for handling financial information and transactions for individuals and/or businesses. Individuals and companies often depend on them to identify potential areas of opportunity and risk, as well as to offer possible solutions for monetary issues. These professionals also spend a lot of time reporting information to oversight agencies, as well as computing and reporting taxes for clients. Additionally, many ensure that funds are paid properly and on time to collection entities. They may also create financial statements that concisely summarize a person or company’s activities and monetary positions over a specific period of time.
The exact job tasks they perform vary depending on the type of services offered and whether or not a specialization has been obtained, but many accountants possess the knowledge and skills necessary to ensure financial statements are accurate and comply with all laws and regulations. Those involved with the tax process often calculate the amount owed, prepare forms, and ensure payments are made on time for their clients. Other common tasks include inspecting account books, organizing records, assessing financial operations, identifying risks and challenges, and suggesting ways to reduce costs.
Accountants may be employed by many different industries and company types, including insurance, government, non-profits, and others. The majority of professionals in this field, however, work for accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, or payroll service companies. Most accountants work full-time and spend the majority of their time in offices, although it is possible for some to work from home. A 40-hour work week is typical, except during quarterly audits or tax season when overtime is often necessary.
The skills most frequently utilized by accountants include:
- Attention to Detail
- Analytical Thinking
Depending on your area of interest and the training and education you receive, you may be qualified to perform the following tasks:
- Cost Estimation
- Human Resources
- Project Management
- Risk Management
- Mergers and Acquisitions
Earning a degree in accounting can prepare you for a wide variety of jobs. Every position, however, requires candidates to possess a different level of education. Very few employers will hire individuals without formal training in the field. Most jobs require, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree in a relevant major. Highly specialized financial service work will necessitate having an even more advanced degree or certificate.
As you consider the various accounting programs available, you are likely to find offerings at the associate, bachelor, master, and doctoral levels. Always ensure your selection will meet education requirements for your desired job.
Associate Degree in Accounting (AS)
Associate degrees in accounting are available for people interested in gaining entry-level employment or preparing for further education in a bachelor’s program later. This degree is generally adequate to qualify graduates for work at bookkeepers, account collectors, and financial clerks. While some job growth in this sector is anticipated, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) also projects a decline in lower-level financial clerical roles due to an increase in automation. This could make it more difficult for individuals with only associate degrees to find employment.
An associate degree in accounting can, however, be extremely beneficial to those who want to earn a bachelor’s degree. Many four-year colleges and universities will accept transfer credits from accredited institutions. This route often costs less and gives students the opportunity to explore the field before committing to it completely.
Most associate degree programs in accounting consist of 60 credit hours of coursework and take full-time students approximately two years to complete. They often provide an introduction to basic accounting methods and concepts, such as economics, finance, tax preparation, cost accounting, budgeting, and business management. Instruction on the use of various spreadsheet software programs is also common.
Bachelor's Degree in Accounting (BS)
Most accounting professionals earn bachelor’s degrees, as they provide instruction in all the major skills necessary to perform most standard accounting and financial services. Bachelor’s degree graduates will find employment more readily and are likely to promote faster. Some of the most common employment opportunities include accountant, budget analyst, cost estimator, auditor, and tax examiner.
Most bachelor degree programs in accounting consist of 120 credit hours of coursework and take full-time students approximately four years to complete. Program content varies, but most include a wide variety of fundamental financial concepts including fraud examination, accounting, ethics, and tax reporting. Instructors also help students develop the knowledge and skills necessary to perform the most common financial duties and adhere to legal and professional standards.
Earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting is also the first step toward achieving an advanced degree. Most colleges and universities require graduate candidates have a four-year degree before admittance.
Master's Degree in Accounting (MS or MC)
Master’s degrees in accounting are ideal for individuals who are eager to have more responsibilities in the workplace or who aspire to hold management accounting positions. Graduates will be qualified for advanced job placement, are likely to earn higher salaries, and often are promoted faster. Common employment opportunities include financial manager, personal finance advisor, accounting manager, and certified public accountant (CPA). They can also apply for various professional certifications.
Most master’s degree programs in accounting consist of about 30 credit hours of coursework and take full-time students approximately one to one-and-a-half years to complete. Students at this level dive deeper into the theory, practice, and principles of accounting. They are also often allowed to select a concentration as well such as public accounting, managerial accounting, or fraud examination.
PhD Degree in Accounting (PhD)
Few accounting jobs require a doctorate degree or PhD, but earning has many benefits. Not only are graduates considered experts in their field, but they are qualified to apply for some of the highest-level positions available in academia, research, management, and policy. Some of the most common career opportunities include chief financial officer, chief executive officer, or accounting professor.
Most doctorate-level programs consist of between 90 and 120 credit hours and take full-time students four to seven years to complete. Students are instructed in public accounting, audit accounting, forensic accounting, managerial accounting, and accounting information systems. Significant amounts of research and writing are also generally necessary to graduate.
CPA Exam Education Requirements in Colorado
Colorado has very specific academic requirements you'll need to fulfill in order to sit for the uniform CPA exam. First of all, you'll need to hold a bachelor’s degree in accounting with 150 semester hours at the undergraduate level. It's easiest to earn 120 semester hours in a bachelor's degree and the next 30 in a master's. Of those courses those 33 semester hours must cover accounting-specific subjects as well as 27 hours in business classes, and pass with a minimum 2.0 grade. None of these classes can be "Introductory" and all coursework must be from an accredited institution as recognized by the Colorado State Board of Regulatory Agency Board of Accountancy (BOA). The state of Colorado has authorized the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) division called CPA Examination Services (CPAES) to process all applications for exams and licensure. On your journey to become a CPA in Colorado, you might make your first goal getting an associate degree in accounting online or on-campus. This will get your foot in the door and help you start earning general work experience where you apply the generally accepted accounting standards (GAAS,) AICPA ethics, and become familiar with the legal and social environment.
Here's a look at each section of the education requirements:
Per the Colorado State Board of Accountancy, Accounting coursework must be designated under the accounting program code.
Of the 33 required credits, 27 semester hours must be in specific accounting courses in the following subjects:
- Accounting Information Systems
- Accounting Research and Analysis
- Accounting Ethics (minimum three hours)
- Accounting Theory
- Auditing and Attestation Services (minimum six hours including three hours of U.S. Generally Accepted Auditing Standards (GAAS))
- Financial Accounting and Reporting for Government and Not-for-Profit Entities
- Financial Accounting and Reporting of Business Organizations
- Financial Statement Analysis
- Internal Controls and Risk Assessment
- Fraud Examination
- Tax Research and Analysis
- Managerial or Cost Accounting
To take the cpa exam, the Colorado State Board of Accountancy requires that your business coursework total a minimum of 27 hours, 18 of which must be in the following business administration subjects:
- Business Communications
- Business Ethics
- Behavior of Organizations, Groups, and Persons
- Business Law
- Computer Information Systems
- Legal and Social Environment of Business
- Quantitative Applications in Business
- Other areas as approved by the Colorado Board of Accountancy
A minimum three of the 18 semester hours must be in accounting business, or technical, communications, no more than nine of the 27 hours may be in any single subject but hours in excess of nine may count towards the total requirement of 150 semester hours. For the remaining hours in general education, strive to take courses that are relevant to your accounting major but also courses that broaden your perspective.
Professional training is not accepted in lieu of coursework, even from an accounting firm; all course credits must be through an accredited college or university.
Taking the Colorado CPA Exam
Colorado has two options for the experience requirement. If you have a bachelor's degree with a minimum of 150 semester hours that includes 45 hours of accounting and 36 hours of business administration you may choose the Education in Lieu of Experience. Otherwise you must complete 1800 hours (one year) of supervised work in an area of the accounting field. Internships do qualify, and the work may be full- or part-time but must be completed within a five year span prior to your application for licensure. Your experience must be verified by a Colorado licensed CPA or a CPA licensed in another state. Your experience can be in public accounting service, private industry, government, or academia and should give you experience in dealing with taxation, data security, accounting technology, and more. This lets you get daily reviews on a number of skills you learn in your classes in an office or department environment. Furthermore, you will be steeped in the Generally Accepted Accounting Standards (GAAS,) which are key to success as a certified public accountant. Good firms provide opportunities to students and view it as a recruitment tool for future CPAs; it requires little hard work from them, only that they track your time and some other info.
Here are some examples of acceptable experience:
- Internal auditing
- External audit
- Issuing reports on financial statements
- Installing internal control systems
- Management advisory
- Preparing financial statements
- Preparing tax returns
- Providing tax advice
Teaching accounting at an accredited university or college (12 semester hours must equal one year of experience)
- Teaching at least two different upper-division accounting classes
Continuing Professional Education Requirements
Your CPA license expires on November 30 of odd-numbered years. Before you can renew your license you must show proof that you've completed continuing professional education (CPE) requirement, which is 80 hours for the two year period you were licensed; there is a maximum of 16 hours in Personal Development classes allowed for certified public accountants. Of these hours, four hours must cover Ethics, two hours must be in either Regulatory or Behavioral Ethics. The ultimate goal is to become a lifelong learner, a valued member of the social environment of business, who applies the generally accepted auditing standards, GAAS, and professional ethics. To find current CPE courses and requirements, certified public accountants should check the AICPA or NASBA websites or other professional organization as a resource to find current CPE available once you have your license. You can always take college or university courses but those semester hours must adhere to CPE regulations from the Colorado State Board of Accountancy. Again, your CPE hours must remain within certain topic areas.
Here are some examples of the types of accounging courses you and all certified public accountants need to take:
- Accounting practice
- Governmental accounting
- Governmental auditing
- Behavioral ethics
- Business management and organization
- Financial Accounting and Reporting
- Management advisory services
- Personal development
- Human resources/personnel
- Regulatory ethics
- Specialized applications and knowledge
- Social environment of business
Become an Accounting in Colorado
The first step in becoming an accounting professional in Colorado is assessing your personal career goals. Identifying your preferred job will help you determine what knowledge, skills, and training will be necessary to succeed, which, in turn, can assist you when selecting a good academic program. Your career goals will also dictate which degree level and concentration is most optimal.
Once you have completed the necessary educational requirements, you have the option of pursuing certifications and/or licensure.
Some popular options include:
- Chartered Certified Accountant (ACCA)
- Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
- Certified Management Accountant (CMA)
- Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
- Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA)
- Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
- Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC)
- Financial Risk Manager (FRM)
- Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM)
- Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA)
The most popular credential for accountants is Certified Public Accountant (CPA). While you do not have to be a CPA to perform many financial services for clients, only licensed CPAs can file reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). This is a vital component of most mid-to-high-level positions in the field. Additionally, obtaining CPA licensure demonstrates professional competence and instills client confidence.
CPA requirements vary slightly by state. In Colorado, the Colorado Board of Accountancy regulates CPAs. The board has authorized CPA Examination Services (CPAES), a division of the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA), to process application for examination and original licensure. After passing all four parts of the Uniform CPA Examination offered by the American Institute of the Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), candidates must file a complete application and fee with NASBA. In order to qualify to take the examination, a bachelor’s degree in accounting and an additional 30 semester hours is necessary. It is also worth noting that all four sections of the examination must be completed within an 18-month period, though some accountants looking for a boost but not looking to become a CPA will pass one or two sections of the test simply to add them to their resumes.
CPAs, as well as many other professionals with other accounting certifications, are also responsible for completing continuing education (CE) requirements. In order to maintain licensure, candidates must take additional courses on relevant accounting topics, including financial ethics. CE classes may be offered by state and national finance organizations and associations, as well as colleges and universities in Colorado.
Careers for Accounting Graduates
There are a wide variety of positions available to accounting graduates, especially those with high-level degrees and specialized credentials. Whether you are interested in entry-level employment or management, Colorado has a lot to offer accounting professionals.
Salaries and responsibilities will vary, but some of the most common career options include:
- Senior Accountant
- Staff Accountant
- Financial Controller
- Corporate Controller
- Tax Manager
- Business Manager
- Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
- Assistant Controller
- Business Intelligence Manager
- Claims Adjuster
- Finance Manager
- Financial Analyst
- Benefits Specialist
- Certified Professional Accountant (CPA)
- Accounts Payable / Accounts Receivable Specialist
- Budget Analyst
- Accounting Manager / Controller
- Accounting Professor
- Financial Analyst
Financial analysts are responsible for helping corporations and businesses make smart investments. They do this by studying marketplace trends and providing advice regarding bonds and stock splits. These professionals also alert employers to potential areas of financial concern. According to PayScale, financial analysts make an average base salary of $61,800 per year.
- Benefits Specialist
Benefits specialists are responsible for administering health plans to employees at the companies or organizations they work for. They also ensure employees are properly informed about the associated plan benefits. These professionals also help select administrators of employee retirement plans and identify the most stable 401(k)s available. According to PayScale, benefits specialists make an average base salary of $98,200 per year.
- Certified Professional Accountant (CPA)
Certified Professional Accountants (CPAs) are responsible for handling important financial processes for the individual clients, corporations, and governments they work for. They regularly assist with taxation, reporting, and auditing services. These professionals also review financial information, prepare documentation, and ensure government regulations are followed correctly. According to PayScale, CPAs make an average base salary of $51,700 per year.
- Accounts Payable / Accounts Receivable Specialist
Accounts payable and accounts receivable specialists are responsible for every facet of their company’s accounting system. They regularly validate, process, and file invoices, as well code and pay bills, manage vendor expectations, reconcile financial statements, maintain files, answer supplier questions, write checks, and record company transactions. According to PayScale, accounts payable specialists make an average base salary of $45,100 per year.
Accountants are responsible for performing financial calculations for the individuals, companies, or organizations they work for. They may need to perform a variety of duties depending on the setting, but the most common tasks include creating cash flow reports, administering payroll, maintaining balance sheets, performing various billing activities, keeping inventory, and managing budgets. According to PayScale, accountants make an average base salary of $51,800 per year.
- Budget Analyst
Budget analysts are responsible for providing assistance and analysis to businesses or organizations during their budget-development processes. They use past performance data to ensure current and future budgets are effectively and efficiently allocating financial resources. These professionals also present findings to company management, executives, and other important team members. According to PayScale, budget analysts make an average base salary of $62,500 per year.
Bookkeepers are responsible for ensuring that a company’s finances are kept under tight control. They utilize various accounting software in order to track and record financial transactions and verify that financial decisions are viable and safe. These professionals also calculate, record, and balance payroll reports. According to PayScale, bookkeepers make an average base salary of $43,900 per year.
- Accounting Manager / Controller
Accounting managers are responsible for developing and implementing systems that gather, analyze, verify, and report various types of financial information. They usually function as part of a larger team that ensures data is used efficiently. These professional often hire, train, and coach new employees, as well as enforce finance-related policies, rules, and procedures. According to PayScale, accounting managers make an average base salary of $73,300 per year.
- Accountants and Auditors. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Occupational Employment and Wages, Accountants and Auditors. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Applying for the Uniform CPA Examination – Colorado. National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA)
- Board of Accountancy: Applications and Forms. Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies: Division of Professions and Occupations