Accounting is the creation, management, analysis, and reporting of financial information to stakeholders. Accounting can involve direct oversight of annual reports and quarterly financial statements, or the creation of recordkeeping controls within companies. The industry is heavily regulated by the federal and state governments and almost always requires specific education and technical knowledge. Many accountants are employed by the Big Four, which are defined as the four largest public accounting/professional services firms – Deloitte, EY, KPMG, and PwC. Accountants, however, don’t work just for the Big Four. They work for public accounting firms of all sizes. Many others work in corporate accounting (from Fortune 500 companies to “mom-and-pop” shops), in government accounting, and for nonprofit organizations.
A bachelor’s degree with a major in accountancy is required to enter into accounting. To do audit and tax work, a CPA certification is almost always required. States require students to have a specified number of college credits in order to be eligible for the CPA exam. If students do not reach this credit requirement by the end of their undergraduate education, many advance to graduate school to obtain their Master of Science in Accountancy (MSA).