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Career Paths in Public Accounting


The Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Accounting – Public online program from Northwest Missouri State University provides a strong career foundation in all areas of public accounting. Students learn to organize, maintain and evaluate the financial operations of an organization while gaining the expertise to provide sound financial advice and recommendations. The program prepares graduates to follow federal income tax compliance, manage small businesses and record and control assets and liabilities.

With such a versatile skill set, graduates of this program can succeed in diverse roles across industries, as the public accounting field has a 7% projected growth rate and 96,000 projected new jobs between 2020 and 2030, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Depending on state of residence, in many circumstances, students choose the program because it allows them to accumulate the required accounting credits to sit for the CPA exam while they develop their accounting proficiencies to the degree that employers demand. Northwest's student pass rate on the CPA exam has historically been about 15% higher than the state average. Students will want to note that additional courses may be required to reach the total credits needed to sit for the exam.

Upon graduation, students can pursue the required education requirements and certification exams for the following jobs, with current average annual salaries (as of October 2021):

  1. Certified Public Accountant: The average salary for a CPA is $73,560 a year, depending on the position that requires the certification. A CPA designation provides professionals with a license to provide accounting services to the public, including audits, taxation advising, fraud investigation and business valuations. CPAs may work in a variety of roles at large accounting firms or small accounting practices, including the positions described below.
  2. Transaction Advisory Services Professional: The average salary for this role is $83,791. Transaction advisory services professionals are responsible for providing a diverse array of consulting and management services, including evaluating client systems. Some advisory professionals help their organizations assess corporate transactions by using expertise in M&A, valuations and business modeling.
  3. Due Diligence Manager: This is the manager-level role on the due diligence team of a public accounting firm. Managers can expect to earn between $90,000 and $150,000 (base salary plus bonus). These professionals perform "financial due diligence" with regard to accounting, compliance, legal and operations, portfolio analysis and reporting. They provide services to banks and lending institutions on foreign and domestic transactions.
  4. Valuations Manager: This role earns between $90,000 and $150,000 (base salary plus bonus). This professional usually works for a public accounting firm to identify and determine the fair value of tangible and intangible assets of public and private firms, using financial modeling and analysis skills. They are involved with mergers and acquisitions, raising funds, buyouts and liquidations.
  5. Audit Staff Accountant: This entry-level role's average total compensation range is between $59,803 and $72,938. This role maintains compliance with firm wide local policies and procedures. The audit staff accountant delivers and monitors audit services and assists in financial statement preparation.
  6. Auditing Manager: The average salary range for this position is between $113,622 and $150,919. This supervisory role oversees the auditing of financial and accounting data within a business. The position is heavily involved in developing and administering audit policies and procedures and writing reports to improve related processes and systems.
  7. Accounting Manager: The average salary range for this role is $109,176. The accounting manager oversees many functions including accounts payable and receivable, analysis and reporting, revenue and asset accounting and ledger maintenance. They evaluate accounting processes and make improvements while assuring compliance with applicable laws and regulations. This role often requires a CPA certification.
  8. Government Financial Manager: The average salary for this role is $87,000. These managers work for governmental organizations at the local, state and federal levels. The position oversees financial affairs, reviews reporting systems and works with elected officials regarding financial matters. Salaries vary widely with government level, experience and education.
  9. Personal Financial Advisor: The median salary range for this role with a bachelor's degree is between $84,740 and $93,231. Advisors help private clients by educating them about their finances and investment strategies and options while providing investment guidance to help individuals meet their financial goals. Advisors help clients to plan for retirement, children's education and debt recovery.

These positions represent some of the many career paths available to graduates of a B.S. in public accounting online program. Graduates will have numerous job options and enjoy the stability, recession-resistance and strong compensation of a career in which they can work for accounting firms servicing businesses in all sectors of the economy.

Learn more about Northwest Missouri State University's online Bachelor of Science in Accounting – Public program.


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