When choosing between attending a technical school or a traditional college or university there are many factors that should be considered. For example, the location of either type of school can make it attractive. If a student has limited resources and needs to live at home while attending school a location within a short commuting distance can be very important. Perhaps the most important consideration is the type of career a student wishes to have after completing his or her studies.
A technical school most often provides a more limited curriculum, and as the name implies, a more technical education. This type of education is valuable because it can lead to good employment. Often technical schools have developed strong relationships with employers and have a good track record of getting students into jobs shortly after they complete their studies. In most cases a technical school offers a two-year or associate’s degree. The classes that are taught are specific to the field of study and are intended to be applied. For this reason people who graduate from these schools often become technicians or might perform clerical work in accounting.
A technical school can be a good choice for students who are already working and need to continue to work to support a family as well as pay for their education. These schools often offer evening courses and online classes at times that work well for this type of student. A degree from a technical school might enhance employment opportunities for students. Also, the class size in a technical school is usually smaller, which provides students with a more personalized education and more interaction with the teachers.
Technical schools also have some disadvantages. For example, an accounting course from a technical school will cover more of the mechanics and less of the theory behind the material covered. Also, for those who wish to obtain a professional certification such as being a Certified Public Accountant, the technical school degree is not sufficient. Candidates for the CPA Exam must have a bachelor’s degree with a minimum number of hours in accounting that is determined by each state. Additionally, hours earned at a technical school might not be likely to transfer to another school or university. Students who start at a technical school and decide to transfer to a college might find that they must take most classes over again, a waste of time and money.
A traditional college or university provides a good education for some students who wish to work in the accounting field. For those desiring certification a minimum of a bachelor’s degree is required, with at least 30 hours in accounting. As in Texas, some states might require that a minimum of 15 accounting hours be taken on campus. Those students seeking high-prestige employment, perhaps in a public accounting firm, should also carefully evaluate the reputation of the college or university. It is usually easier to get a job from some prestigious firms if you also attend a college that is highly ranked.
One primary difference between a technical school and a college is that a college education is intended to develop a student’s ability to think and resolve problems. A technical school focuses more on specific detailed studies of subjects directly related to the field. At first glance it might seem that some classes are superfluous and that students of accounting shouldn’t have to take them. For example, history, English literature, and speech classes could seem unnecessary. However, professional accountants working in public accounting or private companies must be able to communicate clearly, in proper business English, and report on problems, proposed solutions, and business activities. Classes like English and speech help students to communicate more clearly.
There are some possible disadvantages to attending a college or university. Often class sizes (especially at larger universities) in the beginning accounting course can be quite large, with 100 or more students. This can make it more difficult for some students to get help with difficult topics, ask questions during class, and get personalized instruction. Usually the classes after basic accounting are smaller, and students have more opportunities to interact with professors. Some colleges and universities are also quite expensive; however, financial aid might also be available.
Each student must choose the type of education and school that best suits his or her needs. It is wise to research all options. This can be done by searching the Internet, asking friends who have attended a school, speaking with a guidance counselor, and visiting the schools you are interested in.
Depending on a student’s needs, there is a variety of stand-alone accounting courses available. These range from a management accounting course intended to help business managers understand and manage business processes to very detailed courses on debits and credits. A course on debits and credits explains the double-entry bookkeeping method and how to record transactions using debits and credits. An accounting course such as one in accounts receivable teaches students about recording transactions related to sales that result in customers owing a company money.
Accounting principles courses teach the basics of accounting, from recording the original transaction to balancing ledgers and generating basic financial reports or statements. This type of course is usually the first one required for students who seek an accounting degree. Bookkeeping is an accounting course that focuses in detail on recording transactions. Twenty or thirty years ago, most smaller businesses recorded transactions by hand on paper specially printed with columns and bound into ledgers. Now it is more common for even small businesses to use computer-based software, and the desktop-computer software is affordable.
College Accounting Course Types
One accounting course that is especially valuable for business managers is the cash flow statement course. Understanding the difference between income and cash flow is critical for business managers, as cash flow can strongly impact business operations.
College accounting courses are designed for several different types of students. Principles of Accounting I & II are often required for all students who wish to graduate with a degree in business fields, including marketing, finance, and business administration. Several years of classes in accounting are required for those who want to earn a degree in accounting. Graduate students who do not have an undergraduate business degree might also have to take one or more college-level accounting courses.
An accounting course at the college level differs from one taught at a technical or business college in several ways. College-level courses often include more information about the theory that underlies accounting principles and practices. College-level classes can also require more individual study and problem-solving. Also, classes in universities can be quite large, with more than 100 students. Individual instruction and help are more difficult to obtain when students are in this type of large class. Especially at large universities, frequently college-level classes in accounting use lectures taught by professors on video and have discussion periods led by graduate teaching assistants. These graduate students are working toward a master’s or doctorate and are paid a small stipend to help with their educational expenses.