What is Accounting?
An accountant is a business professional who serves one of the primary functions of any business. Accountants help to balance a business' books and track transactions and other financial data. They track payments and income while also monitoring operations for any egregious losses. Accountants with a CPA license also sign and file taxation documents with the IRS.
Many Delaware students consider accounting for their bachelor’s degree program. Given Delaware's strength in business and finance, colleges and universities have plenty of professors that have invaluable professional experience in the state's banks and financial institutions. Furthermore, students will have no shortage of opportunities for internships and, later, entry-level jobs that will launch their careers on the right track.
There are many other sorts of credentials for accountants, however. Some focus on information technology and become forensic accountants, with certifications that attest to those skills. There are also accountancy professionals who work in risk management or other specialty areas.
Generally speaking, accountants work in an office either within an accountancy firm or in an accounting department within a larger business organization. Some even work for consulting firms and may spend a lot of their working time on the road. These consultants are known to travel the world to help all sorts of businesses with things such as mergers, stock offerings, bankruptcy, or audits. Governments also need accounting specialists, and these workers may stay in an office or travel in order to ensure accountants in businesses or other agencies are following the state’s best practices and the law.
Accounting Education in Delaware
Delaware was one of England's first colonies in the New World and, when it became the first to sign the Constitution, it became our first state. Delaware thus has a prominent place in our history. Since that time, it has made its mark as a center for banking and finance. Delaware's tax laws make it an ideal location for corporate headquarters and many wealthy estates hold their accounts in the keystone state.
Since Delaware is home to so many financial entities and transactions, the state has a large demand for accountants and other financial professionals. Thus, accounting students who desire a career in banking should take a look at what Delaware has to offer. However, Delaware has more to offer than banking and finance.
In fact, Delaware is home to a wide range of industries and businesses. Though the state is rather small when compared to others in its area, accountants can find work in manufacturing, real estate, business services, or even the arts and entertainment, among other of its top industrial sectors. To accommodate such a varied economy, Delaware's colleges and universities have made concerted efforts to create accounting degrees that help students enter the state's economy with ease.
Since Delaware is on the small side, it's also useful to consider the resources neighboring states have to offer. With that in mind, students might be intrigued with Washington, D.C. and the vast opportunities available in the federal government. Delaware's accountancy programs offer students the possibility of specializing in government and non-profit accounting. Students might also investigate opportunities in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York City. After all, a student in Wilmington, Delaware can easily access all of those major population centers, on top of the greater Washington, D.C. area.
Associate Degree in Accounting (AA)
An associate accounting degree is a thrifty and effective way to start a career in accountancy. Since many community college systems are now offering deeply discounted degrees, many undergraduate accountancy students are choosing to start their college career in these schools. Even in states that still charge full price, a community college degree is far more affordable than the equivalent courses from a private or other four-year institution. Further, community colleges often feature smaller class sizes and highly qualified instructors from top universities.
An associate degree also has terrific utility. Most obviously it's the perfect springboard toward a full undergraduate bachelor’s degree in accountancy. It's also a fantastic launchpad for a career. A two-year degree in accountancy can help students start work as bookkeepers or land other positions in business. Since accounting is so fundamental to business, savvy students might spend their two years learning how to use ledgers and find a strong management training program that will help them get their feet wet.
Bachelor's Degree in Accounting (B.Acy.)
An online bachelor’s degree in accounting is perhaps the best credential to have when entering the working world. Employers tend to value this level of academic achievement above associate degrees. Furthermore, this degree level qualifies holders to move on and achieve their CPA license or to earn other credentials.
Students who spend four years earning their bachelor’s degree in accounting also have the time to explore fields that complement accounting. They might explore other fields and earn minors such as marketing, management, finance, or information technology, for example. A four-year degree also offers students the opportunity to gain experience in the working world. Some may work part-time as bookkeepers or office managers while others might pursue full-time studies and then work on summer internships with large accounting firms.
Finally, a bachelor’s degree sets the stage for graduate degrees. Advanced degrees such as a master of accountancy or an MBA can help professionals rise into the upper levels of the business world.
Master's Degree in Accounting (M.Acc. or M.Acy.)
These days, we're seeing a tremendous inflation in how degrees are valued. This means that today's bachelor’s degree is on par with a high school diploma in years past. Thus, an increasing number of employers value a graduate degree in accountancy as much as they used to value a four-year bachelor’s degree.
Every student of accountancy should therefore start thinking about their strategy for graduate school as soon as possible. For accountants, the two major choices are to earn a master of accountancy or an MBA with a concentration in accounting or maybe finance. This choice can be colored by one's ability to earn CPA credentials, which can be a perfect stand-in for a graduate degree, or which may render an MBA concentration in accountancy redundant. A CPA might then pursue an MBA concentration such as information technology, computer science, finance, or a strictly business topic such as management in order to expand their skills and job opportunities.
PhD Degree in Accounting (D.Acy.)
The business world has yet to full embrace a doctorate degree in accountancy, but employers still value this level of academic achievement. When an accountant earns their PhD, they conduct deep research into specific topics related to business and accounting. This intense specialty might be of interest to certain businesses, such as consultancies. In fact, some banking concerns, such as Goldman Sachs, are known to conduct research of an academic nature, for which they need workers at the PhD level to assure the very best white papers.
One of the more obvious applications for a PhD is a career in academia. While it’s possible to land a teaching position with a college or university with a master of accountancy or an MBA, a PhD or doctorate degree in accountancy will help a professional land a full-time and even tenure track job with a great school. In fact, some top financial experts spend a year or so in academia after a long stint with a large accountancy firm before returning to business or even a government regulatory position. The SEC's Gary Gensler is a great example of this sort of varied career path.
CPA Exam Education Requirements in Delaware
The state's first requirement for a permit to practice forces people to complete a minimum of 150 semester hours that includes a Bachelor of Science in Accounting or higher before they can gain licensure as a Delaware CPA. Your studies should include a concentration or major in accounting or an equivalent field of study as determined by the Delaware State Board of Accountancy. Along the way, you'll want to take general business courses as well as a business ethics course. If you haven't yet enrolled, ask for info from colleges and universities in Delaware that offer degree programs in accounting.
If you are already attending college, you should verify that the program in which you are enrolled is one that is accredited by one of the accrediting bodies that are approved by the Delaware state Board. To become a Delaware CPA, you may want to start on the education requirements by getting a two year diploma with an associate in accounting emphasis. Students find that this can give you access to a job in accounting with a firm or office. You won't move into management, but it will give you work experience in accounting service and be a learning experience while giving you additional funds to continue to a bachelor's degree. Delaware requires accounting programs to be accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
However, if you are taking online classes from an out-of-state school, it should be accredited by one of the following:
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
- North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
If the program that you are currently attending is not accredited by one of these bodies, you should contact the Board to have your program evaluated so that you can determine your eligibility to sit for Delaware's Uniform CPA Examination. The state board may have a list of acceptable programs on their website.
You will next need to make certain that you sign up for the right courses. Your studies must include a minimum of 24 credit hours in accounting classes that includes content in auditing, financial accounting, reporting, and federal tax courses. Online classes that are taken through a college or university in the U.S. that is regionally accredited are accepted, but CLEP examinations, correspondence classes, and commercial CPA review courses are not. Note that your hours in accounting should be above the introductory level. Generally, boards of accountancy look for hours in accounting at the 200 level or above, though it will be helpful to consult your academic adviser if you wish to become a CPA in Delaware.
Taking the Delaware CPA Exam
Before you will be allowed to sit for the Delaware Uniform CPA Examination, you will first need to have completed your bachelor's degree with a minimum of 120 semester hours, including the 24 hours of required accounting coursework.
Once you have completed the required minimum education, you can apply to take the Uniform CPA exam through the CPA examination services division of the National Association of the State Boards of Accountancy. This is also a terrific time to enroll in CPA review courses and find a CPA exam study group.
After you have downloaded the application and registered with CPAES, you will need to make certain that you gather the required documents that must be submitted along with every candidate's application. Your undergraduate or graduate school must mail your transcripts to CPAES directly rather than giving them to you to submit. You will also need to submit an attestation form that is notarized and that you have signed. If you require accommodations because of a disability, you will need to submit an Americans with Disabilities Act accommodation form with your other documents. If you submit your application online, you will need to pay for each required fee with your credit card. If you instead choose to submit a paper application, you can pay for the fees with your credit card by filling out a form, or you can send a money order or check for the full amount with your application and other documents. If you still have questions, you can contact the state board by email.
Once your payment and application have been received, you will be sent a notice to schedule by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA.) Your notice to schedule your exam will provide you with a password that you will use to access the four exam sections and will tell you the dates on which you are able to take each part. You will then need to schedule to take the Uniform CPA Exam at a building registered as one of the participating testing centers in Delaware.
Make sure to be on site at the testing center when your scheduled testing date arrives. When you have completed your exam, it will be scored and CPAES will submit your scores to the Delaware Board of Accountancy. You will then receive your scores via mail from the Board to find out if you pass and what your score was.
Continuing Professional Education Requirements
All states and U.S. territories require that CPAs complete a certain number of continuing professional education units in order to maintain their licenses. In Delaware, you must complete a specified number of continuing education units biannually. The courses that you complete must be programs that have been approved by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) and must directly contribute to your competence as a CPA in Delaware.
In Delaware, you are required to complete at least 80 continuing professional education units every two years.
The hours that you complete must include the following types of continuing education classes:
- At least eight hours in auditing or accounting
- At least eight hours in taxation
- At least four hours in professional ethics that are specific to Delaware
- At least 20 more hours in audit, accounting or taxation
Every continuing professional education (CPE) class that you complete must be taught by a qualified instructor and must be a minimum of 50 minutes long. Internet seminars or webinars will only count if you are able to engage in live interaction and if they provide you with a certificate upon their completion. If you opt to take individual study or correspondence courses, the Delaware State Board of Accountancy will determine how much credit will be allocated for your completion of them. If you publish articles or books, you can count them for up to 50 minutes each for a maximum of 20 CPE hours of your biannual requirements. You might even receive CPE credit for teaching CPA review courses and even a professional ethics course.
You are required to keep proof of your required continuing professional education (CPE) hours for five years. Your documentation must include information about the location, time, date, name of the course, name of the instructor, number of hours and the manner of instruction. Adherence to these rules will ensure that you never need to re-take the Uniform CPA Examination.
Being a CPA can be a rewarding career choice. Once you are licensed as a Delaware CPA, you might want to join professional accounting associations. You are also able to specialize in a variety of areas of accounting. Specializing in a subdiscipline may help you to focus your practice on a specific clientele and practice type. In fact, certified public accountants are virtually pre-qualified to specialize in any area of accountancy they choose. Members of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) can find opportunities on the institute's website, as well as through networking with fellow members. Continuing professional education (CPE) hours can help CPAs discover new professional specialties.
Keep in mind that a Delaware CPA license isn't the only route to success. Many students pass the CPA examination so that they can hold a CPA certificate. A CPA certificate is a valid professional credential that many businesspeople use in conjunction with another degree, such as a JD or MBA, to gain status and top-level positions. It might be helpful to pass the AICPA ethics exam as a gesture of goodwill that many employers will appreciate.
Become an Accountant in Delaware
Given that Delaware is such a large state for banking and financial services, it may be one of the easier states in which to pursue accountancy as a career. However, it might also attract a lot of competition from out of state. Either way, those who wish to become an accounting professional in Delaware should start their pursuit of the career early in life. While accounting isn't considered to be a passion in the same way as teaching or the arts, a proclivity for the field often manifests early on.
Budding accounting genius is expressed in many ways. The most obvious way to identify accounting skill is when a young student excels in mathematics. Good grades in math plus a fascination with business may be an early sign of a future accounting or finance professional. Youngsters who start reading business news and asking questions about how businesses operate should be encouraged so that they can build an informal background that might include a basic knowledge of how supply and demand works.
Formal education in accounting can begin in high school. There may even be local charter schools that support students who have a desire to pursue business in their later careers. If not, seek out a school that emphasizes mathematics or other STEM subjects. Students who are adept at analytical thinking can easily dive into accounting when they reach college.
When it comes time to find a college level accounting program, students should seek out the very best program for them. One criteria you need to pay attention to is that a program's accreditation, which should be sound. For programs with regional accreditation, their credentials should come from a CHEA-approved accrediting agency. Another possibility is accreditation from a business specific accrediting agency such as AACSB, ACBSP, or IACBE.
By the time they graduate, accounting students usually have a good idea of what sort of career they desire. Some may wish to audit computing systems while others may be intrigued with a career in management accounting. There are other options, of course, and for each there is a graduate degree program. There are also opportunities to gain experience in entry-level jobs that can solidify and affirm those desires while setting the groundwork for a lifetime of achievement and success.
Careers for Accounting Graduates
- Staff Accountant:
This position may be the first job many accountants land after college. These accountants often do the grunt work of crunching numbers and they may have very long hours, especially if they are working for a tax accountancy. Staff accountants might be CPAs, or they may be working on passing their CPA examination.
- Chief Financial Officer (CFO):
This position may come after a long career in business and accounting. It may be helpful to earn an MBA and to hold a CPA license or at least a CPA certification. Those who desire this as a pinnacle of their career path might consider an MBA with a concentration in finance.
- Claims Adjuster:
This position can be a terrific first job for an accounting major coming out of an associate degree program, though students with a bachelor’s degree in accountancy may also want to start a life in insurance here. This job involves assessing claims against insurance policies. These claims may be for health, auto, or even professional liability matters.
This is considered by some to be the pinnacle credential for a business professional. The CPA exam is considered to be the hardest professional exam and garners successful candidate’s high esteem in the business community. Some may wish to pursue a state CPA license that enables them to sign tax returns though many others are satisfied to hold the certification as proof of expertise in accountancy.
- Business Manager:
Managers need to have strong accounting skills to ensure that they maintain their businesses or departments within budgetary restraints. Managers who have a bachelor’s degree in accounting can be very valuable to a company in that they will have knowledge of how to audit their operations and will have the sort of attention to detail that so many businesses need.
Bookkeepers are the front-line workers in most any business. They record transactions for their employer and likely report to an accountant with more experience or who is perhaps a CPA. Even so, bookkeeping skills are very valuable and can be earned with an associate degree in accounting.
- Benefits Specialist:
These business professionals work in a human resources department and are responsible for creating benefits packages for their firm's employees. They might also be outside consultants for smaller businesses. Since they are tasked with making the most of a fixed budget, an academic background in accountancy will be very useful.
These accountancy professionals often work for consultancies so that they can audit a company's books with objectivity. This job description can also be with the IRS in which case they audit a firm's tax filings to make sure that there is nothing amiss. They may also audit individuals who may be suspected of underpaying their taxes.
- Management Accountant:
These accountants work for firms and conduct audits but with a different intent than traditional auditors. That is, management accountants audit the revenues, expenses, and operations of their firm with the goal of maximizing efficiency. Their reports are thus held in-house and are not reported to the IRS or any other outside interest.