What types of courses are included in accounting programs?

Here are a few of the academic areas in which you will be required to take courses to complete your undergraduate or graduate accounting degree:


This should be fairly obvious but it is still worth mentioning. You will be required to take an introductory financial accounting class and an intermediate-level financial accounting class. Upper-level courses such as auditing theory and practice, federal income taxation, corporate and partnership taxation, tax research, operations management, cost accounting, fund accounting, managerial accounting, for-credit internships and many others will be offered as well. Auditors must possess at least a passing knowledge of the nation’s federal, state and local systems of taxation, even if they never fill out a single tax return or create a tax plan for anyone. Likewise, tax accountants who will never perform any audit-related functions must at least be conversant in standard auditing procedures and financial statement interpretation.


Most accounting programs require students to complete courses in microeconomics and macroeconomics, the two major sub-fields of economics. Microeconomics is the part of economics that is concerned with single factors and the effects of individuals’ decisions. Macroeconomics, on the other hand, is concerned with large-scale and general economic factors including interest rates and national productivity. These courses must usually be completed during your freshman or sophomore year, and serve to provide you with a broad theoretical understanding of the economic climate in which accountants and their clients operate. Economic factors directly or indirectly influence every decision businesspeople make, making economics classes an important part of every accountant’s education.

Business Law

Familiarity with the legal environment of business is key for accountants. They must know and understand any laws that apply to them directly—for example, the federal government’s Sarbanes-Oxley legislation that was passed in the wake of 2001’s Enron scandal—as well as to their clients. These courses typically cover topics such as principal-agent relationships, personal and business bankruptcy, tort law, secured transactions, business organizations, commercial paper and negotiable instruments, among others. Basic knowledge of the areas of law that apply to businesses and individuals entering into commercial or consumer transactions is essential for accountants.

Financial Management

As an accountant, many of your clients will likely be large businesses with complex capital structures, numerous parent-subsidiary relationships, hundreds or even thousands of shareholders, different classes of stock and dozens of other complicating factors to consider. As such, you will need to be able to synthesize all this information to make sure the client’s transactions have been recorded correctly, minimize it and its subsidiaries’ level of taxation or deduce where—or if—it can afford to cut its expenditures now or in the future. Financial management courses will play no small part in enabling you to perform each of these tasks proficiently.


Unsurprisingly, an accounting program will be constructed around various accounting classes. However, supplementary classes in the subject areas listed above will also be required to complete your degree. Each one plays an important role in helping you build a foundation for further professional knowledge and growth.