Nearly four out of every 1,000 jobs in Arkansas are held by accountants and auditors, professionals who play an important role in the business infrastructure of organizations in the private, public and government sectors. For prospective students aspiring to join the field, the first step is securing a post-secondary education that offers a comprehensive of theoretical and practical, industry-specific training.
This type of training is available from a range of educational institutions throughout the state in a variety of degree formats, from diplomas to associate degree programs, bachelor's to graduate programs. Post-secondary universities and accounting schools offer an array of learning options for students, including online, on-campus and hybrid programs (a combination of online and on-campus instruction).
Accounting Education in Arkansas
On the surface it may seem accounting degree options in the state are limited, but -- in fact -- 35 local universities, colleges and community colleges offer accounting-related programs across a selection of specializations, including accounting and finance, accounting technology and bookkeeping, accounting management, auditing and more.
Depending on their professional goals, students may select from four main educational paths: diploma, associate, bachelor's and graduate degree programs. At the graduate level, students may choose from master's and doctorate degree programs.
Diplomas and doctoral degree programs exist at opposite ends of the educational spectrum. Diploma programs are for individuals pursuing a basic, foundational education in accounting to prepare for entry-level positions in bookkeeping or accountant assisting. On the other hand, doctoral degree programs are designed for individuals desiring an advanced education that could lead to research-focused positions or employment in academic settings as researchers or professors.
Below is a description of the three most commonly pursued degree avenues in accounting: associate, bachelor's and master's degrees.
Associate: Typically designed to be completed through two years of full-time study, accounting associate degree programs focus on industry-specific, foundational curriculum that could lead to a variety of career paths including payroll professional or bookkeeper. These types of programs are available in the state at institutions such as College of the Quachitas in Malvern, Arkansas and National Park Community College in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Bachelor's Degrees: The bachelor's degree is the common educational requirement to become an accountant, as well as pursue a license to practice as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). In these programs, students typically focus their studies in one of four areas: government accounting, public accounting, management accounting or internal auditing. In Arkansas, accounting bachelor's programs can be found at universities like Arkansas Tech University (Russellville), Lyon College (Batesville) and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (Little Rock).
Master's: The master's degree in accounting is an advanced program of study, focusing on enhancing the business acumen and accounting skills of industry professionals. The curriculums in these programs are specialized, allowing students to concentrate in career-building areas like taxation, forensic accounting or auditing. Graduate accounting programs in Arkansas can be found at universities including the University of Central Arkansas (Conway), Arkansas State University (Jonesboro) and the University of Arkansas (Fayetteville).
Career Outlook for Accounting Graduates
The accounting industry in Arkansas is diverse, home to both nationally recognized, "Big Four" accounting firms, as well as smaller, independent accountants and tax firms. Of the big four, three maintain a presence in the state: Ernst & Young, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Deloitte. At the local level, Arkansas is well-represented by trained, qualified firms such as the following:
- Ervin & Company (Fayetteville)
- Hudson, Cisne & Company (Little Rock)
- Able Bookkeeping (Rogers)
- Jones & Co. (Paragould)
- Richard L. Maxwell & Associates (Crossett)
It's also important to note individuals seeking to become CPAs in Arkansas traditionally must meet additional educational and professional requirements like earning a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution, meeting coursework requirements, passing the Uniform CPA Examination and a host of other work-related requirements (e.g. one year of work experience). For more information about becoming an Arkansas CPA, prospective students should contact the Arkansas State Board of Public Accountancy.
Although accounting is a main occupational path for graduates of Arkansas accounting schools, graduates may also look into careers* in related positions, including IT auditor, managerial accountant, payroll clerk, tax examiner, bookkeeper, accounting assistance, financial analyst and more. Below is a list of the projected employment growth for accounting-related careers in Arkansas, as well as the average annual salaries for those positions in the state in 2013:
|Occupation||Mean Annual Wage, Arkansas (2013)||Projected State Employment Growth (2012-2022)|
|Accountants and Auditors||$62,560||11.8%|
|Bookkeeping, Accounting & Auditing Clerks||$32,500||9.8%|
* Salaries and employment opportunities may vary based on experience, education, location and other factors.
"May 2013 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates -- Arkansas," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ar.htm
Projections Central, Arkansas, January 2015, Projectioncentral.com
"Rules and Regulations, Effective August 17, 2013," Arkansas State Board of Public Accountancy, August 17, 2013, http://www.arkansas.gov/asbpa/rules_2013/Complete_Rules_Set.pdf
"College Navigator," National Center for Education Statistics, 2013, http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/