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What is Accounting?
Accounting is a diverse field with a wide variety of specializations to choose from. As a result, professionals are able to pursue many different employment opportunities. While your daily responsibilities will vary depending on your area of interest, training, and education.
Exact job tasks will vary depending on the type of services offered. Responsibilities also differ based on specialization. Generally, however, all accountants possess the knowledge and skills necessary to ensure financial statements are accurate and comply with all laws and regulations. Other common tasks include inspecting account books, organizing records, assessing financial operations, identifying risks and challenges, and suggesting ways to reduce costs.
Accountants can find employment within by many different industries and company types. Most professionals in this field work for accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, or payroll service companies. The majority of jobs are full-time and professionals spend a significant amount of time in offices. Some employers do allow accountants to work from home, however. While a 40-hour work week is the norm, plenty of employees work part-time as well.
Some of the most common areas of expertise include:
- Cost Estimation
- Human Resources / Payroll
- Project Management
- Risk Management
- Mergers and Acquisitions
Job outlook for the accounting profession is comparable to most other occupations in the United States. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for accountants and auditors is expected to increase by 4% from 2019 to 2029. This change is projected to add approximately 125,700 accounting jobs to the market. Growth and stability in this field are likely due to the fact that both individuals and businesses depend on accounting professionals to maintain accurate financial records. Demand for individuals with finance-related knowledge and skills is high. It is important to realize, however, that this particular job sector is closely linked to the overall health of the economy. If economic development continues as expected, the United States will sustain the need for accounting professionals. A downward economic trend, on the other hand, could lead to an oversaturation of experts in this field.
Many accounting degree graduates choose to pursue careers as accountants. These professionals can provide a wide variety of financial services, but are generally responsible for handling financial information and transactions for individuals and/or businesses. They may also identify areas of opportunity and potential risk, as well as offer possible solutions for monetary problems that arise. Additionally, accountants help ensure individuals and companies are adhering to financial regulations and often submit pertinent information to oversight agencies. It’s also common for these professionals to compute and report taxes for clients, as well as ensuring that funds are paid properly and on time to other collection entities. Yet another routine responsibility is creating financial statements that concisely summarize a person or company’s activities and monetary positions over a specific period of time, usually for reasons of taxation.
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Online Accounting Education in Florida
Are you considering enrollment in an accounting degree program in Florida? If you have an aptitude for or simply enjoy analyzing, summarizing, and discussing finances, this may be a good option for you. In particular, individuals who find mathematics easy to understand and interesting are likely to thrive in this field.
Florida is probably best-known for its tourism industry. The state is, however, successful in other areas as well. Finance and insurance is rated sixth among the state’s top industries and brings in $66.4 billion in revenue each year. Accountants and accounting services are also extremely important in real estate, business, education, healthcare, retail, and wholesale trade, which are Florida’s biggest industries.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Florida employed 21,880 financial and investment analysts, financial risk specialists, and financial specialists in May 2020. This is more than most states. In fact, New York is the only state with higher employment rates for financial professionals on the eastern side of the United States. The annual mean wage offered to individuals in these professions in Florida is $76,370, which is significantly higher than the national median.
With as important as finance professionals are, it makes sense that many colleges and universities in Florida offer degrees in accounting. If you plan to pursue a career in this state, it is generally recommended that you enroll in a program locally. These institutions are familiar with the knowledge and skills coveted most by employers in the area and can ensure you are prepared to meet state certification requirements in the state.
Deciding to earn a degree in accounting can prepare you for a wide variety of jobs in Florida. The level of education you complete will directly impact the types of employment you qualify for. Most employers require candidates to have, at minimum, bachelor’s degrees in relevant majors. Highly specialized financial service work, however, will necessitate having a more advanced degree.
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.
Online Associate Degree in Accounting (AA)
Those interested in attaining entry-level employment in the field or preparing for further education in a bachelor’s program later will benefit most from an associate accounting degree. While many finance employers expect candidates to have bachelor’s degree, an associate degree is generally adequate to qualify graduates for work at bookkeepers, account collectors, and financial clerks. However, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a decline in financial clerical roles due to an increase in automation. This could make it more difficult for individuals with associate degrees to find employment.
Most associate degree programs in accounting consist of 60 credit hours of coursework and take full-time students approximately two years to complete. They are designed to provide students with a basic introduction to accounting methods and concepts including, but not limited to, economics, finance, tax preparation, cost accounting, budgeting, and business management. It is also common to receive instruction on the use of various spreadsheet software programs.
Many four-year colleges and universities accept transfer credits from accredited community colleges and institutions. Opting to earn an associate degree in accounting now can make it easier and less expensive to earn a bachelor’s degree later. They also allow students to explore the field before committing to it completely.
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Online Bachelor's Degree in Accounting (B.Acy.)
Most prospective accounting professionals start by enrolling in bachelor’s degree programs. Education at this level helps students develop the major skills necessary to perform most standard financial services. Bachelor’s degree graduates typically find employment quicker, enjoy more job security, promote faster, and earn more money than those with less education. 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. Instruction varies but it tends to focus on several fundamental financial concepts such as fraud examination, accounting, ethics, and tax reporting. Students also often develop the knowledge and skills necessary to perform the most common financial duties and adhere to legal and professional standards within the field.
Those planning to pursue a master’s degree in accounting or a related field will need to earn a bachelor’s degree first. Most colleges and universities require graduate candidates have a four-year degree and minimum grade point average before admittance. Additionally, earning a bachelor’s degree is required for licensure.
Online Master's Degree in Accounting (M.Acy.)
Prospective and current professionals who want more responsibilities in the workplace, who aspire to hold management positions, or who want to become certified public accountants (CPAs) will need to complete master’s in accounting degree programs. Graduates will be qualified for advanced job placement, are likely to earn higher salaries, and often promote faster. While there are numerous employment opportunities available, some of the most common options include financial manager, personal finance advisor, and accounting manager. Earning a master’s degree also makes it easier to 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. College and university curriculums vary, but most provide in-depth coverage of accounting theory, practice, and principles. Many programs also allow students to select a concentration such as public accounting, managerial accounting, or fraud examination.
Online PhD Degree in Accounting (D.Acy.)
While earning an online doctorate degree or PhD in accounting is rarely a requirement, choosing to pursue one can be very rewarding. Graduates from programs at this level are often considered experts in the field and can apply positions in academia, research, management, and policy. Some of the most common career opportunities include chief financial officer, chief executive officer, and 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. The topics most commonly covered include public accounting, audit accounting, forensic accounting, managerial accounting, and accounting information systems. Those enrolled are often expected to complete extensive research and write a dissertation prior to graduation.
CPA Exam Education Requirements in Florida
Enroll in an accredited university
The Florida Board of Accountancy has a requirement that your higher education accounting degree come from a school that is accredited by one of a group of select organizations. To qualify for the CPA exam and become a certified public accountant, you must obtain a bachelor's degree in Accounting and complete 120 credit hours. There are a number of approved programs in the state. Don't miss out on the career you want; confirm the institute you’re attending, or plan to attend, is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
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If you are taking courses online from a program in another state, you'll need to be sure they are accredited by their regional association in one of the following:
Additional academic accounting programs approved by international educational bodies in Canada, Mexico, Ireland, and Australia are also acceptable. You can check for find policy info or get questions answered on specific programs on the Florida Board of Accountancy site.
If a student's educational institution is not accredited by one of the above specific organizations, they may still qualify to take the Uniform CPA Examination.
In order to validate a non-accredited degree, you must complete the following:
- Enroll in a graduate program at an accredited institution.
- To become a CPA, you must complete 15 semester hours of classes beyond a bachelor's degree, which must include nine hours of graduate-level accounting courses, three hours of tax study, and not be a duplicate or review of any previously courses taken.
- Have undergraduate foreign transcripts evaluated by a Board-approved service such as Foreign Academic Credential Evaluators, Inc. or Global Services Associates, Inc. They will process your transcripts to ensure they meet the level of education and knowledge required and have the requisite skills before you gain access to the CPA exam.
- Provide the completed evaluation of foreign transcripts to the Florida Board of Accountancy; it may be possible to ask the evaluators to email them directly to the board.
Complete course requirements
CPA applicants must earn a bachelor's degree with a concentration in accounting and business. The program must consist of at least 150 semester or 200 quarter hours, including upper level courses, and may take up to five years to complete in the U.S.
The courses you'll take should include the following:
- A minimum of 36 semester or 34 quarter hours of upper-division accounting courses
- Taxation Accounting
- Financial Accounting
- Cost and Managerial Accounting
- Accounting Systems and Technology
- Internship (maximum of three semester hours or four quarter hours, may lead to a part- or full-time job)
- At least 39 semester or 58 quarter hours of upper-division business education courses
- Business Law (minimum of six semester or eight quarter hours)
- Quantitative Application in Business
- Real Estate
- General Business Policies
- Computers in the Business Environment (maximum of nine semester hours or 13 quarter hours)
- Statistics (maximum of six semester hours or eight quarter hours)
- A minimum of 36 semester or 34 quarter hours of upper-division accounting courses
Taking the Florida CPA Exam
Complete Course Requirements
Applicants who intend to sit for the Uniform CPA Examination must have completed and passed at least 120 semester or 180 quarter hours.
The program must include the following:
- At least 24 semester or 34 quarter hours of upper-division accounting courses (taxation, auditing, cost/managerial, and financial)
- At least 24 semester or 34 quarter hours of upper-division business education courses, including three (3) semester or four (4) quarter hours of business law courses
Apply to Take the Exam
You can apply to take the Uniform CPA Examination online or by downloading the application from the website to send in the mail to the board's physical address.
Application requirements include:
- $50 check made payable to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation
- Official transcripts (you may need to have these sent directly for security reasons, which is often free)
- Supporting legal documents (if applicable for background check purposes)
Pay Your Examination Fee
You will need to wait for further instruction from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Once your application is approved, the Florida Board of Accountancy will notify the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) as to which sections of the Unified CPA Examination you are eligible to take. The NASBA will then send you a payment coupon with instructions on how to pay your exam fees. Generally, you can pay by mailing a check, by credit card on the computer, or by calling (866) MY-NASBA.
Schedule Your Exam Date
Once your payment has been processed, you will receive a Notice to Schedule (NTS). This should arrive within three to 10 days, depending on the method of contact you selected. Your NTS will list the next sections of the examination you’re approved to take and will instruct you to schedule your exam date via a FL Prometric testing center. Be advised that Prometric does charge exam service fees.
A few exam scheduling tips:
- Keep track of your NTS, as you’ll need it to enter testing centers.
- Check the accuracy of your name.
- Schedule early and have at least two backup dates per section.
- Remember to bring two forms of identification, once of which must contain a recent photo.
- If you require anything in terms of testing accommodations, schedule at least 10 days in advance.
Wait for Your Results
Once you’ve completed the Unified CPA Examination, your responses are sent to AICPA for scoring. They are then forwarded to NASBA and the Florida Board of Accountancy. You’ll receive access to your scores within about 20 days.
Continuing Professional Education Requirements
Complete CPE requirements
In order to maintain your CPA license in Florida, you need to meet the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulations CPE requirements.
Within each two-year renewal period, you must complete the following:
- 80 CPE credits, including 20 hours in accounting and auditing and four hours of Board-approved ethics courses by June 30th of the renewal year
- Pay a $105 license renewal fee
CPAs no longer need to submit proof of course completion, but should maintain documentation in case of a CPE audit. Failing to meet these requirements will put your license in delinquency.
Become an Accountant in Florida
The first step in becoming an accounting professional in Florida is identifying your ultimate career goals. This will help determine which knowledge, skills, and training will be necessary to attain your preferred job, as well as which good academic program will be best. Your objectives can also make it easier to identify which degree level and concentration is necessary.
After completing all educational requirements, you will have the opportunity to pursue a wide variety of certifications and/or licensure. While not necessary for all finance-related positions, opting to do so can lead to enhanced employment opportunities and more pay.
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Some of the most popular credentials for accountants and financial specialists 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)
Many accounting majors and, subsequently, accounting professionals aspire to become Certified Public Accountants (CPAs). While you do not have to be a CPA to perform many financial services for clients, licensed CPAs can take on more responsibilities. For example, only CPAs are permitted to file reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). As the ability to do this task is a vital component of most mid-to-high-level positions in the field, many professionals consider becoming a CPA necessary to advance. Obtaining CPA licensure also demonstrates professional competence and instills clients with more confidence.
CPA requirements vary slightly by state. In Florida, the Florida Board of Accountancy is responsible for licensing CPAs. Candidates must have a bachelor’s degree with a total of 150 semester hours of college credit, a year of experience, and passing scores on the Uniform CPA Examination. Once all of the necessary requirements are met, candidates must submit applications to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation within three years.
CPAs, along with many other accounting professionals with certifications, are also responsible for completing continuing education (CE) requirements each year. In order to maintain licensure, you will need to regularly take additional courses on relevant accounting topics, such as financial ethics. Qualifying CE classes can be offered by state and national finance organizations and associations, as well as colleges and universities in Florida.
Careers for Accounting Graduates
Accounting graduates at every level will have the qualifications necessary to apply for employment in the field. Those with high-level degrees and specialized credentials, in particular, will have a wide variety of jobs to choose from.
Some common options in Florida include:
- Senior Accountant
- Staff Accountant
- Financial Controller
- Comptroller Accountant
- Business Analyst
- Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
- Business Consultant
- Capital Accountant
- Finance Manager
- Financial Analyst
- Certified Professional Accountant (CPA)
- Accounts Payable / Accounts Receivable Specialist
- Budget Analyst
- Managerial Accountant
- IRS Agent
- Tax Accountant
Bookkeepers ensure finances are carefully monitored and tightly controlled for the companies they work for. They often verify that financial decisions are viable and safe, as well as tracking and recording transactions using various accounting software. These professionals also calculate, record, and balance payroll reports. According to PayScale, bookkeepers make an average base salary of $43,900 per year.
- Accounts Payable / Accounts Receivable Specialist
Accounts payable and accounts receivable specialists oversee accounting systems for the companies they work for. They regularly validate, process, and file invoices. These professionals also 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 perform a variety of financial calculations for the individuals, companies, or organizations they work for. Their specific duties often vary based on setting, but some 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.
- Certified Professional Accountant (CPA)
Certified Professional Accountants (CPAs) handle important financial processes for the individual clients, corporations, and governments they work for. They are qualified to help clients with taxation, reporting, and auditing services, as well as investments. 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.
- Financial Analyst
Financial analysts study marketplace trends in order to help corporations and businesses make smart investment decisions. They also provide advice regarding bonds and stock splits. Additionally, these professionals notify employers when potential areas of financial concern are detected. According to PayScale, financial analysts make an average base salary of $61,800 per year.
- Benefits Specialist
Benefits specialists administer health plans to company and organization employees, ensuring that they are properly informed about the associated benefits. These professionals also help employees identify the most stable 401ks available and select retirement plan administrators. According to PayScale, benefits specialists make an average base salary of $98,200 per year.
- Budget Analyst
Budget analysts provide businesses and organization with assistance and analysis during the budget-development process. Utilizing past performance data, they are able to ensure current and future budgets are effective and efficient, with financial resources allocated appropriately. 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.
- Accounting Manager / Controller
Accounting managers develop and implement systems that gather, analyze, verify, and report various types of financial information. They help other professionals to ensure that data is used efficiently. These professionals also 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.