If you’re looking into majoring in a business-related field, you might find yourself looking into accounting programs. And accounting is a great choice: not only are accounting degrees in demand, but accounting is a field that tends to remain stable even during economic recessions. After all, businesses still need to make sure they’re running payroll, auditing their finances, and paying their taxes on time.
If you’re thinking about majoring in accounting, there are a lot of benefits to attending one of the top accounting programs in the nation. Not only will you get a top-rate education, you’ll also have access to top-level faculty, networking events, and internships (among other perks).
In this article, we’ll give you the inside scoop on the 12 best accounting colleges in the United States. We’ll also share our top tips for getting into competitive accounting programs.
The Benefits of Attending the Best Accounting Colleges
A top-ranking accounting program doesn’t get to the top of the list by accident. It takes great leadership, a lot of foresight, rigorous academics, and a stellar reputation. On top of all of that, the best accounting schools to have a clear map for students from start to finish, giving them plenty of advising, internship and networking opportunities so that by the time they graduate, they are firmly on a path to success.
Another element that sets the best accounting schools apart is that they have prominent, well-rounded, and experienced faculty. Not only should faculty members have real-world experience, but they should also be top-flight researchers and academics, too. The best accounting programs expect the same from their students. That’s why the best accounting programs make sure their students take part in studying the humanities and arts as well as business. They’ll also offer plenty of electives and extracurricular activities so that their students have a wonderful collegiate experience, too.
How We Determined the Best Colleges for Accounting
How do you decide what counts as a best college for accounting? We put a lot of time and thought into compiling our list. Here’s how we made our decisions.
We decided to take a holistic approach when making this list. While national rankings are very important, we paid particular attention to selectivity, tuition cost, class sizes, the number of tenured faculty, and the robustness of course and program offerings. You’ll probably notice that many of the colleges on our list offer unique opportunities for their students that you can’t find anywhere else.
We also gave post-graduation job placement rates and salaries a lot of consideration. After all, the goal of earning a degree is to help you land the career of your dreams. (Also: what good is a degree if you’re still stuck eating ramen?)
One last note: not every school on this list offers a bonafide bachelors of accounting degree. But every school has an accounting concentration or emphasis which will prepare you for your dream career!
Now, without further ado: let’s take a look at our list of the best accounting schools.
#1: The University of Pennsylvania
Founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1741, The University of Pennsylvania is one of the oldest colleges in the United States and one of the best colleges for accounting. And of course, the university itself is one of the eight Ivy League colleges. In line with their stellar reputation, UPenn has very rigorous acceptance standards: they only accept about 8.4% of applications.
UPenn’s bachelor’s degree in accounting program is part of its legendary Wharton School of Business, which is ranked number one by Forbes and has produced the highest number of billionaires in the United States (like Warren Buffet and Elon Musk). So if you’re aspiring to greatness in the business field, you’ll be in good company here.
While larger introductory accounting classes may have over 100 students, none of the classes at UPenn are taught by teaching assistants, and upper level and seminar courses are restricted to 20 or fewer students. The program also allows students to engage in rigorous research opportunities in both accounting and actuarial science, which is particularly useful if you plan on pursuing an MBA or PhD after graduation. Speaking of graduation...those who graduate from Wharton School of Business with a bachelor of accounting can expect a full-time job placement rate of 90.9% and a median salary of $80,354.
#2: University of Texas at Austin
University of Texas at Austin was founded in 1833 and is located in Austin, Texas, which has been named the #1 place to live according to US News & World Report.
UT Austin is considered a “public Ivy,” and the undergrad accounting program at McCombs School of Business is considered one of the best in the nation. The overall acceptance rate to UT Austin is not as competitive as some of the other universities on this list, the McCombs School is highly selective and has an acceptance rate of only 12.8%.
One of the biggest perks of attending the McCombs School is the financial assistance: 45% of applicants receive financial aid which is available through Pell Grants, student loans, and scholarships. So not only is the McCombs School one of the best in the nation for accounting, it can also be one of the most affordable, too.
Class sizes at McComb’s tend to be small with lectures containing around 30 students, which is great for getting one-on-one instruction from some of the best accounting professors in the United States. One of the most unique features of the bachelor of accounting degree at this school is that it’s customizable: students can earn certificates in seven different specialties. These certificates help students better prepare for their future careers and make them ideal job candidates post-graduation.
#3: University of Virginia
Located in Charlottesville, the University of Virginia is ranked #25 overall in National Universities by US News & World Report. The McIntire School of Commerce, which is the university’s business school, is ranked in the top five in the nation, too. Students who major in accounting at the University of Virginia participate in an integrated curriculum, which is designed to expose students to real-world business problems across numerous industries.
In keeping with this objective, the McIntire School offers many different study abroad opportunities for accounting students in countries like Spain, China, Denmark, and New Zealand. You can participate in more than one study abroad experience, too—which is great if you’re interested in working for a multinational organization.
The global perspective of the University of Virginia’s accounting program makes its graduates some of the most sought-after in the United States. In fact, the school has a 98% post-graduation placement rate!
#4: Washington University, St. Louis
The Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri is one of the best accounting schools in the nation, and it’s often considered the best accounting school in the midwest. So it’s no surprise that the accounting program is also one of the most competitive: the business school only accepts about 10% of applicants, making it more competitive than Harvard’s MBA program!
Accounting students at Washington University have the opportunity to take a number of different accounting courses, like actuarial accounting and cost analysis & control, that will prepare them for tons of different accounting careers after graduation. In fact, accounting graduates have a 90-day post-graduation job placement rate of 97%, which means most graduates have a job lined up before they ever walk across the stage to get their diploma.
#5: University of Michigan
The University of Michigan’s accounting program ranked in the top 5 by US News and World Report and offers an incredibly unique approach to earning a bachelor of accounting degree. Undergraduates can earn an accounting degree in two ways: either through the College of Literature, Science and Arts as an actuarial mathematics sub-major, or as a bachelors in business administration with a concentration in accounting from the Ross School of Business. Both of these programs have different core and course requirements, which gives students the ability to choose the program that’s right for them!
But the flexibility of the University of Michigan’s degree programs doesn't stop there. If you’re getting a bachelors in business administration, you have the ability to earn a dual degree in dozens of different subjects offered across the University of Michigan campus. Students also have access to a number of institutes and initiatives that focus on everything from diversity to globalization. As a part of the College of Literature, Science and Arts, actuarial mathematics majors have the chance to engage in research opportunities, publish in the Michigan Mathematical Journal, and participate in outreach programs.
#6: University of Notre Dame
The University of Notre Dame is one of the top private universities in the United States, and both Forbes and Bloomberg Businessweek list its Mendoza College of Business among the top undergraduate business schools in the United States. Its accounting program is top-notch, and it focuses on teaching students critical thinking and decision-making skills that will help them land their dream job after graduation.
The accountancy program at Notre Dame is one of the top four in the nation. It’s also a perfect fit for students with a service-oriented mindset. For example, accounting majors can participate in the Tax Assistance Program, which lets students get hands-on experience by helping low-income families prepare their taxes. And like the other schools on our list, graduates from the Department of Accountancy have an excellent placement rate of 93% within three months of graduation.
(Benjamin Kraft / Flickr)
#7: New York University
The Leonard N. Stern School of Business at New York University is ranked as the 9th best undergrad business school in the nation by Bloomberg Businessweek and has one of the top accounting programs according to U.S. News and World Report. With credentials like that, no wonder it’s #7 on this list of top 12 best accounting schools. And at only 8%, Stern has the lowest acceptance rate on this list (even lower than Wharton at 8.4%).
When you attend New York University, the Big Apple is your campus! Students enjoy the benefit of a rigorous academic experience with the perks of living in The City That Never Sleeps. It also means that accounting students have access to some of the biggest businesses in the nation and, of course, Wall Street. And even more importantly, the Stern School boasts some of the best faculty in the world—in fact, four of its faculty members are Nobel Laureates!
#8: University of Southern California
The University of Southern California is located in sunny and beautiful Los Angeles, California...which is just one of the perks of participating in the Leventhal School of Accounting! Accounting students in this program get an immersive education due to the school’s close ties with the four biggest accounting firms in the nation: Ernst & Young, Deloitte, KPMG and PriceWaterhouseCoopers.
Students getting a bachelor's degree in accounting also have access to all the perks of USC’s Marshall School of Business, too, which includes robust hands-on experiences. In fact, more than 90% of business school students have at least one internship before they graduate, and 85% of students participate in an international program. If this sounds like the perfect program for you, make sure you start preparing early since USC has an 11% acceptance rate!
#9: Georgetown University
Georgetown is a mid-size Catholic university located in our nation’s bustling capital city. Its business school, the McDonough School of Business, is consistently ranked as one of the best in the nation by publications like Bloomberg and U.S. News and World Report. And because Georgetown is located in the heart of the nation’s capital, it’s a perfect fit for accounting students interested in working for the U.S. government!
The McDonough School of Business also boasts global programs designed to prepare students for the global economy. Students getting a bachelor's degree in accounting can participate in study abroad programs in Barcelona, Oxford, and Hong Kong. The school also offers international internships as well, which are perfect for students who want to work abroad!
#10: Brigham Young University
Brigham Young University is located in Provo, UT, which is a hotbed of technology and research. Along with being one of the best undergraduate business schools in the United States, the accounting program offers a unique experience for students through the Junior Core program.
During their junior year of college, accounting majors are broken up into five groups. Each group goes through the same curriculum, but each group’s classes are taught by different professors. The professors collaborate with each other to build intensive, comprehensive, forward-thinking classes, and students form close relationships with their professors. That relationship is invaluable for students looking to continue their studies after graduation in a post-secondary program.
#11: Fordham University
Fordham University is located in New York, and accounting students participate in the Gabelli School of Business. When you major in accounting at Fordham, you get to choose from one of four fields of emphasis: Public Accounting, Public Accountancy, Applied Accounting and Finance, and Accounting Information Systems. Both the public accounting and public accountancy program end with graduates obtaining their CPA licensure. That’s definitely a good thing since more than one-fifth of Fordham graduates go on to work at the top four accounting agencies in the world!
One of the unique features of Fordham University is that it consists of several campuses located throughout southern New York State (Rose Hill in the Bronx, Lincoln Center in Upper West Side Manhattan, Westchester in West Harrison, New York), a study abroad center in London, and field offices in Spain and South Africa. This gives accounting students access to everything New York City has to offer as well as chances to study abroad.
#12 University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
Located in Fayetteville, AR, the University of Arkansas may seem like an unlikely inclusion to our list, but the Sam M. Walton College of Business is one of the best public business schools in the nation. That’s due in large part to its close ties with three Fortune 500 corporations—Walmart, Tyson Foods, and JB Hunt—which are headquartered less than 20 minutes from campus.
The Walton School of Business offers accounting as both an in-person and online degree, which gives students the flexibility to study in the way that works best for them. Additionally, students can opt into a 5-Year Integrated MACC program. In this track, students will graduate with both their Bachelor’s in Business Administration and a Masters in Accounting. Despite having an incredibly high job placement rate (87%), the Sam Walton College of Business is also the cheapest school on this list...which makes it a great program and an even better value.
Tips for Getting Into a Competitive Accounting Program
Now that you know what the best colleges for accounting are, you are probably wondering what steps you can take to make sure you qualify for a super competitive program like Wharton School of Business or the Stern School of Business.
Here are our top tips for getting into the accounting program of your dreams.
Take Accounting in High School
Before you begin your bachelor's degree in accounting, make sure you are taking all the accounting classes your high school offers. If your school offers any college or AP level accounting classes, you will definitely need to take those. If you’re not sure what classes are offered at the AP level, be sure to check out this list.
Also, it’s not enough to just take these classes: you need to do well in them, too. Make sure you’re asking your teachers for help as soon as you don’t understand a concept. It also helps to develop strong study skills as soon as possible, too. Those will help you ace all of your classes, both in high school and in college!
Become a Well-Rounded Applicant
Second: Most of these schools are taking a holistic approach to admissions, meaning that they are looking at everything, not just your grades. The best colleges for accounting want the best students. They want to see that you have extracurricular activities on your application, especially if these activities showcase your leadership skills or are related to your area of study. Key Club or Student Council are great for showcasing your leadership skills, but check and see if your school has an accounting club, too. If it does, you definitely need to participate!
Get Great Standardized Test Scores
No matter what degree program you are applying to, it’s important that you get the best test score possible. All the programs on this list accept either the ACT or the SAT, though it’s important to check with each school to see which they prefer.
In order to make a great test grade, you need to start studying early and often. (FYI: we have guides to making a perfect score on the SAT and ACT...so you should definitely read through those, too.) If you’re struggling, be sure to get extra help sooner rather than later. Also, if you have a learning disability or suspect you might have one, it’s important to get tested and have your accommodations set up so you can get the test score you deserve.
Write a Stellar Admissions Essay
Even though you are trying to get into a bachelor of accounting program, admissions officers are still going to take a close look at your admission essay. Make sure you research more than just how to write an admissions essay—you also need to do a deep dive into the university and accounting program you’re applying for. Mentioning specific clubs, professors, classes, and opportunities will help your essay stand out from the crowd!
Also, we have guides to tackling admissions essays for many of the universities of this list. Be sure to go to the PrepScholar Blog to see if your school is covered. (Here are the guides for the Notre Dame and University of Southern California essays to get you started.)
Accounting is just one type of business major: there are many more to choose from, and they’re offered by business schools across the country. If you’re looking for more information, our article on the best business schools with high acceptance rates is a good place to start.
If you’re already enrolled in a business school and want to learn more about MBA programs, we have you covered, too. Start with this article that explains MBA programs and learn more about GPA requirements for the top schools in the nation. Once you’ve finished with those, dive into our top tips for acing your MBA application! (We also offer a GMAT prep course, so check that out, too.)
Maybe you’ve gotten to this point and decided you don’t want to major in accounting, but you’re not sure what to change your major to. That’s okay—lots of students struggle with picking a major! Here’s a guide to help you choose the best major for you.
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Ashley Sufflé Robinson has a Ph.D. in 19th Century English Literature. As a content writer for PrepScholar, Ashley is passionate about giving college-bound students the in-depth information they need to get into the school of their dreams.