15 Best Bachelor's Degrees in Accounting in California 2021

Ranked the fourth-best U.S. state for higher education, California hosts several of the nation's most prestigious universities and colleges, including some of the best undergrad accounting programs. According to the U.S. Census, California is home to more than 900,000 businesses, creating diverse career opportunities for graduates of California accounting schools.

Earning an accounting degree in California opens doors to the nation's fastest-growing businesses, including Silicon Valley tech giants Apple, Hewlett Packard, and Alphabet. Accounting graduates also face promising employment outlooks. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 4% growth in the accounting field from 2019-2029, keeping pace with the national projected growth rate for all occupations.

Recommended Online Accounting Programs

Our ranked list of the top accounting programs in California provides information about why students may want to get an accounting degree in the state, factors to consider when researching programs, and available careers for those with accounting bachelor's degrees.

California's 10 Best Accounting Schools 2021

Rank School Location
1 Claremont McKenna College Claremont, CA
2 Pepperdine University Malibu, CA
3 California State University-Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA
4 Santa Clara University Santa Clara, CA
5 California State University-Long Beach Long Beach, CA
6 Biola University La Mirada, CA
7 San Jose State University San Jose, CA
8 San Diego State University San Diego, CA
9 California State Polytechnic University-Pomona Pomona, CA
10 Loyola Marymount University Los Angeles, CA
See Detailed Rankings

Why Get an Accounting Degree in California?

An accounting degree in California can provide a stepping stone to the prestigious certified public accountant (CPA) license and a profitable career in a thriving business sector. Accounting bachelor's programs cultivate in-demand finance acumen, applicable across virtually any industry.

Key benefits of earning a bachelor's in accounting include:

  • CPA Certification: A bachelor's in accounting provides 120 out of the 150 credits required to sit for the CPA exam in California. An aspiring CPA can obtain the remaining 30 credits by earning a graduate certificate or a master's degree.
  • Versatility: A bachelor's in accounting delivers sought-after skills that transfer across occupations and industries, allowing for potential career changes down the line. The degree's versatility makes it an attractive credential in economic downturns.
  • Earning Potential: With an accounting degree from a reputable school, graduates increase their chances of landing lucrative jobs. The degree also qualifies professionals for entry into MBAs and other master's programs, which can further boost salaries.

Earning a California accounting degree comes with its own unique benefits. As home to some of the nation's top business schools, earning an accounting degree in California provides each graduate with a competitive advantage in today's cutthroat job market.

With the largest economy in the U.S., California also provides accounting graduates with opportunities to intern or work for some of the world's most successful and prominent business enterprises.

The Top Accounting Programs in California

This list of the top accounting programs in California can put you on track for jobs with firms and companies around Silicon Valley. We refreshed these rankings for 2021. To learn more about how we ranked each school, visit the link below.

Our Ranking Methodology

What California's Best Accounting Programs Have in Common

Most accounting programs form their curricula around CPA exams. To truly distinguish a program's quality, look for these four attributes:

  • They are accredited. A school earns accreditation from external organizations that vet its educational programs for quality. Those organizations fall into regional, national, and field-specific categories. Regional accrediting bodies enforce stricter standards and hold more value compared to national accreditation. All of the schools on this list maintain regional accreditation from WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

    Schools can earn field-specific accreditations from bodies that focus on specific industries. Keep an eye out for schools featuring these accounting-related accreditations:

    • ⚬ Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
    • ⚬ Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)

  • They offer academic excellence. Academic excellence counts for a weighted 20% in the rankings. Retention rates, graduation rates, and faculty statistics influence this section. These sets of data help determine how well an accounting program delivers course materials and whether students receive the resources they need. The market for accounting careers proves lucrative and competitive; learning at a decent school versus a cutting-edge institution can make a huge difference when looking for future promotions.

  • They are reputable. Credibility counts for 15% of the weighted score and covers factors such as admission yields and return on investment (ROI). For a career based on balancing finances and calculating ROI, this section can account for a lot. Graduating from a reputable program looks good on a resume, and a school's prestige can help distinguish the best programs from average ones.

  • They are affordable. An accounting career involves balancing your own finances along with company checkbooks. Affordability encompasses 40% of a school's weighted score, since it impacts other factors like ROI. We look for value in accounting programs, which includes weighing a school's cost against a program's prestige. Expensive does not always equal better, so we consider factors like estimated net prices and the average number of financial aid packages.

Claremont McKenna College

Private college in Claremont, CA, accredited by WSCUC

CMC markets itself as a selective liberal arts school with the resources of a large university. CMC offers small, personalized classes. The college features 11 research centers placed throughout its 69-acre campus.

BA in Economics-Accounting

The Robert Day School of Economics and Finance, a department dedicated purely to economics and accounting, houses the baccalaureate. Students can opt for the BA/MA combined degree track, which applies course credits to both degrees for faster graduation. Sponsored internships let accounting majors explore learning opportunities in fields such as politics, nonprofit, and global citizenship.

Throughout the curriculum, participants learn to test economic theories against current market developments using new technology. CMC encourages students to study abroad during their junior year for a global perspective of their major. To graduate, seniors must develop a working thesis under the guidance of faculty.

Applying to CMC

CMC accepts three types of applications: the Common App, Coalition Application, and Questbridge Application. Applying costs $70. Potential students must submit their school report, official transcripts, a counselor recommendation, and two additional recommendations from teachers.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $29,055/semester
  • Required Credits: 32 course units
  • Program Length: 4 years full time
  • Delivery Format: On campus

Pepperdine University

Private university in Malibu, CA, accredited by WSCUC

Pepperdine emphasizes personal development beyond the classroom due to historic ties with the Churches of Christ. The school's mascot, Willie the Wave, supports its students and athletic teams. Seaver College, a liberal arts school within the university, acts as its own community.

BS in Accounting

First-time learners must apply to Seaver's Business Administration Division after taking 48 units of pre-accounting courses. The program's core outcomes include developing students' awareness of ethics and diversity. The curriculum encourages participants to study abroad during their sophomore year.

Students can access a vast array of internship opportunities based in the Los Angeles area. Upper-level courses cover topics such as cost analysis, auditing, and organizational behavior. The service leadership capstone project places seniors into consulting roles where they work with local nonprofits to develop business strategies. Previous students gained entry to graduate programs in schools such as Harvard and Vanderbilt.

Applying to Pepperdine

Students must maintain a minimum 2.5 GPA in the pre-accounting track to enter the accounting major program. For general admission, potential enrollees should fill out the Common App and submit their official transcripts and a teacher recommendation.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $28,875/semester
  • Required Credits: 128 credits
  • Program Length: 4 years full time
  • Delivery Format: On campus

California State University-Los Angeles

Public college in Los Angeles, CA, accredited by WSCUC and AACSB

Part of the statewide school system, the Los Angeles campus enjoys access to plentiful resources from its thriving urban environment and its associate colleges. Cal State LA enjoys its status as a designated Minority-Serving Institution and values diversity.

Business Administration, BS: Option in Accounting

Cal State LA's program emphasizes strong foundations in business operations and management. Before declaring the major, enrollees must complete 45 units in core courses and 27 units in the accounting option. The curriculum prepares students for positions in public accounting or managerial accounting for business firms or the government.

The major includes electives such as computer forensics and security risk. The capstone strategic management course explores complex decision-making models in business. By the end of the program, students can approach finances from interdisciplinary and global perspectives. The college provides experiential learning opportunities through 263 partner companies and over 400 positions and internships.

Applying to Cal State LA

California high school graduates must maintain a minimum 2.5 GPA in the college preparatory classes. Non-California graduates need a 3.0 GPA or higher. Those who do not meet the above requirements can apply through the multi-factor review process.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $2,871/semester
  • Required Credits: 120 credits
  • Program Length: 2-4 years full time
  • Delivery Format: On campus

Santa Clara University

Private university in Santa Clara, CA, accredited by WSCUC and AACSB

Fusing Jesuit pedagogy with modern technology, SCU teaches over 5,000 undergraduates in the center of Silicon Valley. The school boasts a high first-year retention rate over 90%, and it uses a quarter system instead of semesters.

Bachelor of Science in Commerce with a Major in Accounting

The Leavey School of Business runs the program and prepares students for positions in dynamic business markets like Silicon Valley. Accounting majors can pursue a track to earn the required 225 units and take the California CPA exam in four years. The department faculty hold several distinctions, among them receiving "Best Paper" awards at international conferences.

The curriculum includes four contemporary business seminars spread throughout the last two years in the program. Participants learn how to analyze data and portray it visually using software like Tableau. In the accounting case research class, students examine financial issues and present possible solutions to a panel of judges.

Applying to SCU

First-time learners should apply to the Leavey School of Business using the Common Application. Along with a $60 fee, students must supply official transcripts, a teacher evaluation, secondary school reports, and a mid-year report for their senior year of high school.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $17,666/quarter
  • Required Credits: 175 quarter-units
  • Program Length: 4 years full time
  • Delivery Format: On campus

California State University-Long Beach

Public university in Long Beach, CA, accredited by WSCUC and AACSB

Just south of Los Angeles, CSULB features a 322-acre campus that sits three miles off the coast. Last year, the school unveiled its new mascot, Elbee the shark, whose name phonetically references "L" and "B" for Long Beach.

Business Administration, Accountancy Option, BS

CSULB's accounting program develops analytical and communication skills along with the foundations of business administration. In order to graduate, degree-seekers must pass a graduation writing assessment.The curriculum prepares students to take the CPA exam, certified management accountant (CMA) exam, and the certified internal auditor (CIA) exam.

Upper-level seminars explore topics such as auditing, federal tax law, and corporate partnerships. Accounting majors can gain real-world experience through the Voluntary Income Tax Assistance program. The Student Center for Professional Development hosts mentorship programs where industry professionals help students prepare to enter the workforce.

Applying to CSULB

The school requires a copy of official transcripts and SAT or ACT scores. The application costs $70. California residents must maintain a minimum GPA of 2.5 in subject requirement college prep courses and a 3,200 CSULB Index score. Nonresidents need a 3.0 GPA and 3,500 CSULB Index score.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $2,871/semester (full time)
  • Required Credits: 120 units
  • Delivery Format: Hybrid

Biola University

Private university in La Mirada, CA, accredited by WSCUC and ACBSP

Biola maintains a strong Christian focus on pedagogy as a biblically-centered school. The university features a 98,000 square-foot library in the center of a 95-acre campus located near Los Angeles. The university prides itself on its proximity to popular outdoor attractions.

BS in Accounting

Students can declare the accounting major upon successful admission to the Crowell School of Business. The Biola Accounting Society provides several networking opportunities such as weekly meetings with local professionals. An annual "Meet the Firms" event connects students with representatives from the Big Four and other organizations.

The writing in disciplines course lets students engage with texts from their major and learn the standards of communication within the field. Participants study income tax and estate taxes with a historical perspective for context. Along with domestic practices, the curriculum explores international trade, finance, and partnerships. Accounting majors can earn a related master's degree with an additional year of study at Biola's graduate program.

Applying to Biola

Biola students must believe in Christianity and fill out a statement of faith before enrolling. First-time learners should submit official transcripts and ACT or SAT scores. The school requires a minimum 3.0 GPA for admission.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $22,191/semester
  • Required Credits: 120 credits
  • Program Length: 4 years full time
  • Delivery Format: On campus

San Jose State University

Public university in San Jose, CA, accredited by WSCUC and AACSB

SJSU boasts more than 160 years of history and acted as the founding campus for the California State University system. Now the school offers 250 fields of study to nearly 36,000 students in Silicon Valley and beyond.

Business Administration, Accounting Concentration, BS

The Lucas College and Graduate School of Business at SJSU has remained AACSB accredited for over 50 years. The program promotes international awareness through courses like global dimensions of business. Students can join faculty-led programs and travel overseas for 2-4 week courses during intersessions.

The Department of Accounting and Finance offers four separate concentrations: accounting, accounting information systems, corporate accounting and finance, and finance.

The curriculum includes electives like accounting for nonprofits to cater to specific career paths. Accounting majors can select writing workshops that focus on presenting a thesis or business communications. Students also take one other global perspectives class that covers non-business topics. The Generation of Aspirational Leaders program hosts community-building events and networks with companies like Google, Visa, and Cisco.

Applying to SJSU

Interested applicants must earn a C- or better in "A-G" courses and submit ACT or SAT scores. A minimum GPA of 2.5 (3.0 for out-of-state residents) is required for admission. Only "A-G" courses in the 10-12th years of high school count toward the GPA.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $3,926/semester
  • Required Credits:120 credits
  • Program Length: 4 years full time
  • Delivery Format: On campus

San Diego State University

Public university in San Diego, CA, accredited by WSCUC

SDSU has provided higher education to the San Diego area for over 121 years and values reflection, diversity, and growth. The oldest institution of higher education in San Diego keeps a long list of notable alumni such as Jim Sinegal, the co-founder of Costco.

BS degree in Business Administration, Accounting

Degree-seekers must complete requisite courses before declaring a major in accounting. The Charles W. Lamden School of Accountancy includes a 4+1 program that simultaneously awards a bachelor's and master's in accounting in as little as five years. SDSU gives students the tools to pursue lifelong learning to stay on top of the industry.

The curriculum's business core introduces students to subjects like operations and supply chain and marketing. A reporting techniques course takes an in-depth look at the professional standards for written and oral reports in accountancy. Through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, learners can gain hands-on experience processing taxes under the direction of the IRS.

Applying to SDSU

SDSU requires a C- or better on "A-G" courses throughout high school. The school normally requires SAT or ACT scores, and students must submit their official transcripts. There is a $70 application fee.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $2,871/semester
  • Required Credits: 120 credits
  • Program Length: 4 years full time
  • Delivery Format: On campus

California State Polytechnic University-Pomona

Public university in Pomona, CA, accredited by WSCUC and AACSB

Cal Poly Pomona sits on the former winter ranch home of W.K. Kellogg, the cereal company founder. The school's community enjoys a blend of rural and urban appeal; students can ride Arabian horses in pastures and experience the Los Angeles scene on the same day.

Business Administration, BS - Accounting

The College of Business Administration provides a business-oriented first-year seminar that introduces students to the resources and tools offered through their major. Enrollees can apply to the upper-division accounting program after completing a list of 12 lower-division courses with a grade of C or better. Graduates can seek jobs such as forensic accountants, auditors, and government or nonprofit accountants.

The curriculum provides 9 elective hours for students to pursue courses relating to their desired career track. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Clarence H. Jackman Accounting Internship Program provide hands-on learning opportunities for accounting majors. Students can finish their studies with a year-long senior project split between two classes.

Applying to Cal Poly Pomona

Applicants must complete the "A-G" college prep classes and provide their official transcripts. California residents need a minimum GPA of 2.5 (3.0 non-residents) for admission. Normally, students must submit ACT or SAT scores. The application costs $55.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $2,871/semester
  • Required Credits: 120 units
  • Program Length: 4 years full time
  • Delivery Format: On campus

Loyola Marymount University

Private university in Los Angeles, CA, accredited by WSCUC and AACSB

LMU combines the Jesuit traditions of reflection, meditation, and a holistic approach to education. The school received an R2 rating as a National University/High Research Activity institution for its involvement in research.

BS in Accounting

LMU's accounting program boasts a placement rate of over 90% for alumni entering graduate school or finding entry-level positions in the field. The school hosts seminars and lectures featuring distinguished professionals in the industry such as Lynn Turner, a senior advisor in financial forensic consultancy and the former chief accountant at the SEC.

Accounting majors build an e-portfolio through the College of Business Administration (CBA) Advantage initiative. Students can track experience and learning opportunities through the CBA Advantage app, receive points, and compete with fellow learners on leaderboards. Accounting majors can join the Accounting Society club for additional networking, luncheons with professionals, and career services. LMU also hosts several study abroad opportunities.

Applying to LMU

Interested applicants can apply through LMU's website, the Common App, or the Coalition App. The school requires an LMU Supplemental Essay, which can heavily influence admission along with any community service, activities, and other accomplishments.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $25,910/semester
  • Required Credits: 126 -131 units
  • Program Length: 4 years full time
  • Delivery Format: On campus

University of La Verne

Private university in La Verne, CA, accredited by WSCUC

La Verne features strong adult and continuing education initiatives along with 80 degree and certificate programs. In 2006, La Verne founded Enactus, an international nonprofit that harnesses entrepreneurship for the greater good of a community.

BS in Accounting

Degree-seekers must complete 30 credit hours of required courses before they can enroll in upper-division courses. The curriculum focuses on understanding the information systems inherent in accountancy. The school encourages accounting majors to take part in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program and intern at a local accounting firm for experiential learning.

Students can pursue concentrations like business finance, human resource management, information technology, or marketing. In the senior accounting seminar, students apply learned techniques and theories to emerging trends in the market. Other advanced classes introduce subjects like principles of management, business law, and ethics in the profession.

Applying to La Verne

Interested parties must supply official transcripts, a personal essay, and a letter of recommendation. Test scores are optional, and it costs $50 to apply. The school encourages enrollees to apply by February 1 for the fall semester and Dec. 1 for the spring.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $22,350/semester
  • Required Credits: 128 credits
  • Program Length: 4 years full time
  • Delivery Format: On campus

University of California-Riverside

Public university in Riverside, CA, accredited by WSCUC and AACSB

Nestled on a campus of 1,200 acres, UC Riverside provides higher education to a diverse student body of over 26,000 people. The university has produced two Nobel Prize winners, 26 national academy members, and 20 NSF awards.

BS in Business Administration, Accounting

Students must maintain a GPA of 2.5 or higher in seven prerequisite courses and complete all general education requirements before they can declare the major. The School of Business offers the R'LEAD program, which allows students to connect with industry professionals through events like workshops and field trips to organizations.

The management writing class develops communication skills within a business context. Program participants can pair an upper-level auditing seminar with a quality assurance class to cater their degree to an auditing career path. Other electives include fields such as forensics and fraud or industrial organization. A competitive and strategic analysis capstone tops off the curriculum.

Applying to UC Riverside

For admission, California residents need a GPA of 3.0 or higher in "A-G" classes (3.4 for non-residents) based on the 10-11th years of high school. The school usually requires ACT or SAT scores. The application includes a "personal insight questions" section where students describe themselves using small essays.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $3,814/semester (full time, in state); $13,732/semester (full time, out of state)
  • Required Credits: 180 quarter-units
  • Program Length: 4 years full time
  • Delivery Format: On campus

Chapman University

Private university in Orange, CA, accredited by WSCUC

Chapman offers liberal arts education to Southern California and boasts a network of over 50,000 alumni worldwide. The school advertises a middle-of-the-road approach with a medium-sized campus and a 12-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.

BS in Accounting

The school offers internship opportunities at major firms like the Big Four, and students can partake in recruitment events as early as freshman year. The Accounting Society club provides career preparation outside of the classroom through services like mock interviews. Along with study abroad opportunities, accounting majors can take the Walk Down Wall Street travel course where they tour stock exchanges with professionals in NYC.

The curriculum balances the required 67 credits for the major with up to 19 credits in liberal arts courses. The capstone course takes a comprehensive look at the way that policies intersect with operations, business strategy, ethics, and international partnerships. Students can choose to dual-major in accounting and business administration.

Applying to Chapman

Potential enrollees can submit a Common Application with answers to Chapman's admission questions. Test scores remain optional, but students must supply official transcripts, a school report form, teacher evaluations, and $70 for the fee.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $28,415/semester
  • Required Credits: 120 credits
  • Program Length: 4 years full time
  • Delivery Format: On campus

California State University-Fullerton

Public university in Fullerton, CA, accredited by WSCUC and AACSB

CSUF features a student population of over 41,100 and houses the Woods Center for Economic Analysis and Forecasting. The main campus includes 110 buildings, and the Titan Student Union center received a 27,000-square-foot expansion.

Business Administration, Accounting Concentration, BA

The Mihaylo College of Business and Economics also offers a joint emphasis track in accounting and information systems. Pre-business students must earn a grade of "C" or better in seven lower-division courses before they can apply for the accounting program. The capstone explores the impact of business decisions, organization theory, and policies from a management perspective.

Students can take upper-level electives such as valuation concepts and accounting for governmental and nonprofit entities. To fulfill the global business requirement, accounting majors can choose from seminars that focus on international markets like the Middle East or Asia-Pacific.

Applying to CSUF

Applicants must meet a minimum GPA of 2.5 for "A-G" courses (3.0 for non-California residents) for admission consideration. The school normally requires SAT or ACT scores, and local students receive first preference for program entry. The application includes a $70 fee, and applicants must provide official transcripts.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $2,871/semester ; $500/unit (online)
  • Required Credits: 120 units
  • Program Length: 4 years full time
  • Delivery Format: On campus and online

Point Loma Nazarene University

Private university in San Diego, CA, accredited by WSCUC and ACBSP

As a Christian liberal arts school, PLNU wants to cultivate learners' spiritual lives alongside their academics. The institution's small size and a student body of only 3,200 students give it the feeling of a tight-knit community.

Accounting, B.S. Business Administration

PLNU's accounting program ranks in the top three schools for the California CPA exam preparation, based on the passing rate or average score in the past several years. The curriculum develops problem-solving and decision-making skills so students can adapt to the field. Accounting majors can take advantage of several networking opportunities through business and financial clubs.

An administrative communication course helps students prepare for interviews while learning to deliver reports and presentations. By the end of the program, participants can evaluate a company's performance and value from a managerial role. Seniors of the Fermanian School of Business need to pass a strategic management exam and participate in an internship to graduate.

Applying to PLNU

Potential enrollees need to supply official transcripts, ACT or SAT scores, and two letters of recommendation: one academic, the other spiritual. The school accepts applications through its website or the Common App. Applying costs $55.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $18,800/semester
  • Required Credits: 128 units
  • Delivery Format: On campus

What To Expect From California's Undergrad Accounting Programs

College accounting programs provide students with the prowess to continue learning in graduate programs or compete for coveted accounting jobs.

Credit load varies among programs. An accounting degree in California typically comprises 120-128 credits, depending on whether students opt for an internship. Most programs allow learners with prior associate degrees in accounting to apply 60 credits toward their college accounting degree, thus reducing the total credit load.

Degree length varies depending on degree format and students' prior qualifications. Learners with high school diplomas or GED certificates can complete an undergraduate accounting degree in four years of full-time study. With an associate degree in accounting, students can often graduate from California accounting programs in two years.

A typical accounting curriculum combines foundational accounting classes, such as federal taxation and financial analysis, with elective/concentration courses such as information technology and forensic accounting. Some California accounting programs culminate in capstone projects.

Admission Requirements

For admission into an accounting program, each applicant must submit a resume, transcripts, essays, SAT/ACT scores, and a nonrefundable application fee. To streamline the process, students can use Common App to submit materials to multiple postsecondary institutions at once.

Requirements for SAT/ACT scores and GPAs vary among institutions, but aspiring accountant professionals with weaker scores may want to consider starting with associate accounting degrees. This two-year degree may increase the chance of acceptance into a four-year accounting program.

Different Degree Types and Specializations

Business schools offer different types of accounting bachelor's degrees. Prospective accounting professionals most commonly pursue a bachelor of arts in accountancy (BAcc), bachelor of science (BS) in accounting, or bachelor of business administration (BBA) degrees with a concentration in accounting. These degrees differ in the following respects:

Course Requirements A BS requires more STEM courses than the BAcc. The BBA with a concentration in accounting delivers general business savvy and provides a comprehensive exploration of accounting and finance. The BBA offers a stellar basis for an MBA with a concentration in accounting.
Career Paths The BAcc and the BS in accountancy both foster an excellent background for CPA certification and a career as a public accountant. Earning a BBA with a concentration in accounting yields a strong career path to top-paying positions like financial manager and CFO.
Concentrations BAcc and BS programs offer many of the same specializations. But BS programs tend to offer more STEM concentrations than BA programs, such as information technology or cybersecurity. BA programs, by contrast, typically provide concentrations in more traditional accounting areas, such as taxation, auditing, and financial accounting.

Learners who aspire to land an accounting job immediately after graduating should keep in mind that a specialized accounting degree could limit their career options. A concentration can, however, also provide a helping hand to stand out in a crowded job market.

Popular Accounting Program Courses

While each California accounting program features a distinct curriculum, all programs require enrollees to complete general education, core accounting, and elective/concentration courses. Some programs also expect learners to take capstone seminars. Below, we describe some of the courses students may encounter in a typical undergrad accounting program.

  • Assurance Services

    Many companies use email to control their information, which is unsafe, unproductive, and bound to generate errors. Workflow systems provide a safer, more efficient, and more reliable way to control a company's information. In a course in assurance services, students gain a deeper understanding of the importance of implementing reliable controls of an organization's information and how to test control systems for accuracy.

  • Federal Taxation

    Learners become acquainted with key concepts in federal taxation, such as capital losses, stakeholder tax, and abusive tax shelters. The class also provides practical training in how to prepare personal and corporate federal tax returns and identify legal strategies for reducing federal tax liabilities.

  • Financial Report Analysis

    A course in financial report analysis teaches students to probe organizations' financial reports. Enrollees learn to use analytic methods — such as cash flow analysis, trend analysis, and risk-benefit analysis — to gauge risk, assess operating efficiency, and project quarterly earnings.

  • Forensic Accounting

    Degree-seekers explore advanced auditing techniques to discover fraud, money laundering, insider dealing, and other financial crimes. Students learn to identify and present evidence that can withstand scrutiny in a court of law.

  • Capstone Seminar

    California accounting programs increasingly require learners to complete capstone classes. In this course, enrollees apply the knowledge acquired during the program to solve practical business problems. For example, a final capstone might address how public retail companies retain shareholders during a recession or how the entertainment industry best survives a state-wide lockdown.

How Much Do Bachelor's Degrees in Accounting Cost in California?

The cost of tuition for an accounting degree in California varies by school type (public vs. private), tuition rate (in-state vs. out-of-state), and program format (online vs. on campus).

The University of California public university system charges approximately $14,000 per year for in-state tuition and around $44,000 a year for out-of-state tuition. By comparison, the cost of tuition at Stanford University — California's most prestigious private school — comes to $53,529 per year, regardless of residency. These steep prices do not include costs related to health insurance, technology, books, or room and board.

However, many California business schools provide a discount on their online degrees. The total cost of tuition and fees for an online bachelor's degree in accounting starts at around $40,000.

To mitigate costs, aspiring accounting professionals can complete the first two years of their accounting degrees in California at in-state community colleges before finishing the last two years at four-year schools of their choice. Prospective students can also consider scholarships, financial aid, student loans, fellowships, and grants to finance their California accounting degrees.

What Jobs Can an Accounting Bachelor's Get You?

A bachelor's in accounting can lead to a profitable and stimulating career as an accounting professional. BLS data indicates a median annual wage for accountants and auditors of $71,550 as of 2019, nearly double the national median for all employers. Additional education or qualifications, such as a graduate accounting degree or CPA licensure, can further increase potential earnings.

Popular careers for college graduates with California accounting degrees include:

Budget Analyst

These analysts review budgets, budget proposals, and funding requisitions, along with identifying potential shortcomings. Typical responsibilities include monitoring corporate spending, informing decision-makers of the status and availability of funds, and reviewing budget proposals and funding requests for accuracy, completeness, and compliance.

  • Required Education: Bachelor's degree
  • Job Outlook (2019-29): +3%
  • Median Annual Salary: $76,540
Financial Examiner

Financial examiners oversee financial institutions' compliance with tax codes and regulations. Typical job duties include monitoring the financial condition of financial institutions, reviewing new regulations to determine their impact on the institution's financial health, and establishing policies for complying with the new regulations.

  • Required Education: Bachelor's degree
  • Job Outlook (2019-29): +7%
  • Median Annual Salary: $81,090
Financial Analyst

These professionals analyze financial transactions and advise decision-makers on how to make informed investment decisions. Financial analysts ascertain current and historical financial data and markets, recommending individual investments or portfolios, and examining a company's financial documents to determine its worth.

  • Required Education: Bachelor's degree
  • Job Outlook (2019-29): +5%
  • Median Annual Salary: $81,590

Actuaries apply quantitative tools to determine the profitability, risk, and volatility of selling securities or shares. Typical job duties include estimating the likelihood and projected cost of financial risks; designing insurance policies, loan contracts, or IPO underwriter deals; and explaining a proposal's probable risk and profitability to decision-makers.

  • Required Education: Bachelor's degree and certification in actuary science
  • Job Outlook (2019-29): +18%
  • Median Annual Salary: $108,350
Personal Financial Advisor

These advisors help clients manage their finances and budget for the future. Responsibilities include meeting with clients to discuss financial goals, explaining investment options and potential risks, and recommending investment opportunities.

  • Required Education: A bachelor's degree
  • Job Outlook (2019-29): +4%
  • Median Annual Salary: $87,850

California's Top Employers for Accounting Degrees

With its $3.1 trillion economy, California provides ample opportunities for college graduates to pursue rewarding accounting careers in the state. California employs the most accounting professionals of all U.S. states. Accounting graduates can consider roles in California's major sectors of agriculture, manufacturing, entertainment, and technology.

Financial managers, consultants, forensic accountants, and controllers all work within California's largest accounting firms, banks, and public companies. The "Big Four" accounting firms — Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG, and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) — employ the most accountants in the U.S., and all four companies maintain offices in California.

Top Employers in California for Accounting Graduates

  • Deloitte

    Deloitte is an industry leader for audit, tax, consulting, and advisory services. Headquartered in the UK, Deloitte employs more individuals in the U.S. than any other accounting firm. The company maintains 13 offices in California alone.

  • PwC

    PwC is a network of professional services firms — the second-largest of its kind in the world. California is home to eight PwC offices, with three in the San Francisco Bay Area and five in the Los Angeles metropolitan area.

  • Ernst & Young

    Ernst & Young, or EY, is a professional services network headquartered in London, United Kingdom. EY provides tax, transaction, assurance, and consulting services. The company has 14 offices in California.

Selecting Your California Accounting Degree Program

While this page's ranked list of California accounting schools provides a good starting point for narrowing down prospective programs, other considerations can affect the caliber of a college degree. Prospective students should also consider the following factors when applying to California accounting programs:

Regional Accreditation

Aspiring accounting professionals should give preference to postsecondary institutions that hold official regional accreditation. The regional accrediting body WASC Senior College and University Commission oversees California schools. Obtaining a degree from a regionally accredited program ensures credit transferability, eligibility for federal financial aid, and qualification for certain jobs and certifications.

Business School Accreditation

Program-specific accreditation ensures that specific schools and programs meet national standards for the field. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) International sets the industry standard for business schools worldwide. Applicants should thus prioritize business schools that carry the AACSB stamp of approval.

Available Program Formats

Prospective students with family or job commitments may want to consider part-time or distance learning programs. Online degrees allow self-reliant learners to continue working full time or caring for family while simultaneously obtaining accounting degrees in California.
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Should You Get an Online Accounting Degree in California?

Online degrees once lagged behind their brick-and-mortar counterparts, but technological advances have created parity between remote and on-campus education. While California is home to many excellent business schools, there are top-ranked schools all over the world. So, why should distance learners — who can study anywhere — pursue schools in the Golden State?

Distance learners who plan to seek employment in California after graduating may benefit from attending California business schools, where they can take advantage of alumni networks. Similarly, online students who plan to specialize in one of California's thriving industries, such as technology or entertainment, may benefit from faculty and alumni's local industry knowledge.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you get a bachelor's in accounting online?
Yes. Online accounting degrees also typically provide greater flexibility than on-campus alternatives.
How much does an accounting degree cost in California?
Tuition costs vary widely among institutions. University of California public schools, for example, charge approximately $14,000 per year for in-state tuition and $44,000 per year for out-of-state tuition. Stanford University — a private school — charges $53,529 per year. Total tuition for an online accounting bachelor's degree in California starts at around $30,000.
What can I do with a bachelor's degree in accounting?
A bachelor's in accounting can offer a stepping stone to a lucrative and rewarding career in accounting fields, such as financial examiner, financial analyst, or personal financial advisor.
How much do CPAs make in California?
According to PayScale, CPAs in California make an average salary of $72,090.
How do I become an accountant in California?
To become an accountant in California, you need a college degree in accounting. However, to become a CPA, you also need to pass a certification exam.

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