When it comes to choosing a college major, there are endless options to consider. For many students, the decision comes down to two popular majors: accounting vs computer science. Both majors offer solid job prospects and salaries, but which is the better choice? Let’s take a closer look at both accounting and computer science to see which one is the better fit for you.
What do accountants do?
Accountants keep track of financial records and transactions for businesses and individuals. They compile data, prepare invoices and reports, and may also be involved in tax preparation. In some cases, they may be tasked with forensic accounting, which involves investigating financial crimes. Besides this, they also offer financial advice to clients.
What do computer scientists and software engineers do?
Computer scientists and software engineers design and develop software and computer systems. They may also work on projects that involve the development of games, web applications, or mobile apps. In addition to this, they may also be involved in research and development of new technologies.
Computer science vs accounting: comparison of the two careers
Let’s compare accounting and computer science on several fronts, including the similarities of the two disciplines, their differences, required education, and future career opportunities.
Similarities between accounting and computer science
Both accounting and computer science are detail-oriented disciplines that require strong math and analytical skills. Accountants and computer scientists must be able to understand complex systems and solve problems using logical reasoning. In addition, both majors emphasize precision and accuracy in their work. Accounting and computer science are both in-demand fields with many job opportunities available.
Differences between accounting and computer science
While both majors share some similarities, there are also significant differences between accounting and computer science.
Accounting focuses on financial information and reporting, while computer science deals with programming and software development. Accounting is also a more traditional field, while computer science is a more cutting-edge field.
Accounting is more suited for people who want to work in a corporate setting, while computer science is more suited for people who want to work in a startup or tech culture.
Another key difference is the career paths that each major leads to. Accountants typically work in corporate finance or public accounting, while computer scientists may work in software development, systems engineering, or web development.
Both accounting and computer science require a four-year degree for entry-level positions in each of their respective fields. In that aspect, both careers are quite similar to each other. Both majors may, of course, choose to continue their education in graduate school.
Accounting majors, for example, can pursue graduate degrees in accounting, taxation, or business administration, while computer science majors can pursue graduate degrees in software engineering, data science, artificial intelligence, and other subspecialties.
Future job opportunities
Accounting and computer science majors differ in the jobs they can pursue after graduation. For accounting majors, the following careers are available:
- Certified public accountant (CPA)
- Financial analyst
- Budget analyst
- Tax accountant
On the other hand, computer science majors often pursue a career as:
- Software developers
- Systems analysts
- Network architects
- Database administrators
- Web developers
As you can see, both accounting and computer science offer a variety of career paths. It’s important to carefully consider your interests and skills when deciding which major is right for you.
Is accounting easier than computer science?
That is a difficult question to answer as it depends on each person. Both accounting and computer science require strong math skills, so if you are good at math, then either one would be a fair choice in terms of difficulty. However, accounting might be slightly easier for someone who is not as strong in math, because there is more focus on financial information and reporting. Computer science might be a better choice for someone who enjoys problem-solving and coding.
Traditionally, computer science is considered one of the most difficult majors to study in college. As such, you may expect your CS school to be tough as a computer science student.
On the other hand, there are challenging certification exams that accounting graduates have to prepare for and pass in order to be able to work as certified industry specialists. These certifications include the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination (CPA Exam) and the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) Exam, which usually take several months of diligent work to prepare for.
In general, both accounting and computer science are difficult majors that require dedication and hard work. However, the rewards for both majors can be great, so it is up to you to decide which one is the right fit for you.
Accounting or computer science: which career should you choose?
So which career is right for you when considering accounting vs. computer science? It all comes down to several factors, which include your personality traits, interests, innate abilities, and work environment preferences. Let’s dive a little into each one of these.
Do you enjoy working with people or working with machines?
If you are the type of person who enjoys working with people (a.k.a. extrovert), then accounting might be a better fit for you. Accounting is a people-oriented profession, which means that you will be working closely with clients and colleagues on a daily basis.
On the other hand, if you are an introvert, you may rather prefer working with machines. Then, a career in computer science might be a better match for you. Computer science is a very technical field, so you will often be working alone or in small teams on complex projects.
Do you enjoy working with numbers or working with code?
If you are interested in working with numbers and financial information, then accounting is the major for you. As an accountant, you will be responsible for tracking, analyzing, and reporting on financial data.
Conversely, if you are more interested in working with code and computer systems, then you should consider a career in computer science. As a computer scientist, you will be responsible for designing, developing, and maintaining software applications and systems.
Do you have strong math skills or strong problem-solving skills?
Both accounting and computer science require strong math skills. However, accounting may be a better fit for you if you have slightly weaker math skills, as the focus is more on financial information and reporting.
Computer science, on the other hand, may be a better match if you have stronger math skills and enjoy problem-solving, as the focus is more on code and computer systems.
Work environment preferences
Do you prefer a structured work environment or a more flexible work environment?
If you prefer a structured work environment, then accounting is probably a better match for you. Accounting is a very detail-oriented profession, and most accounting firms have very set schedules and expectations for their employees.
Computer science, on the other hand, may favor a more flexible work environment. Many computer science jobs allow remote work, and there is often more flexibility in terms of scheduling and working hours.
Accounting vs Computer Science: Job Prospects
When it comes to job prospects, both accounting and computer science are in high demand, although growth rates for software developers have been skyrocketing in the past few years. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of accountants and auditors is projected to grow 7 percent from 2020 to 2030, while employment of software developers is projected to grow 22 percent during that same time period. Nevertheless, no matter which major you choose, you can rest assured that there will be plenty of job opportunities available after graduation.
Accounting vs Computer Science: Salaries
One of the main factors that students consider when choosing a major is the potential salary. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean salary for accountants and auditors is $83,980 per year, while the mean salary for computer developers is $120,990 per year. So, if salary is your main concern, computer science may be a favorable choice for you.
Switching from accounting to computer science
If you already have a degree in accounting, but no background in computer science, and are thinking about switching careers to computer science, you have the following options:
1. Study on your own and get a job as a junior developer. There are many resources for online learning of programming, like Udemy and Coursera. With accounting firms now looking for employees with coding skills, this might be a good way to get your foot in the door of the field of computer science.
2. Go back to school and get a degree in computer science. This will give you the technical skills you need to be successful in the field. The options for getting a degree in computer science as an accountant include attending online programs, part-time programs, or full-time programs as a second Bachelor’s, post-baccalaureate, bridge, or Master’s student.
3. Get certified in computer science. There are many online courses and certification programs such as those offered by Coursera and edX. With certification, you can demonstrate to employers that you have the skills they are looking for.
4. Find a mentor. If you know someone who works in computer science and preferably has a previous background in accounting, reach out to them and ask for advice on making the transition. They will likely have valuable personal experiences to share with you.
No matter which route you choose, switching from accounting to computer science can be a great career move, if that is the path you desire to follow. With the ever-growing demand for software developers, there are many opportunities available for those with the right skill set.
Accounting and computer science: combining the two careers
It is possible to study both accounting and computer science. In fact, many businesses are looking for employees who have both an accounting and computer science background, since this combination of skills can be quite valuable in today’s business world, especially for such jobs as financial analysts and data scientists.
Some colleges offer joint programs that allow students to earn a bachelor’s degree in both majors in four years. Alternatively, you could major in one field and minor in the other, or study one field and take courses in the other as an elective. Pursuing a double major or minor can be challenging, but it may also give you a competitive edge in the job market.
Some jobs that you may pursue after completing a degree in both accounting and computer science include:
- Financial analyst
- Data scientist
- Business intelligence analyst
- Management consultant
- Business solutions engineer
- Systems analyst
Both accounting and computer science are excellent choices for students. Picking the right career is a big decision. If you’re interested in both accounting and computer science, don’t be afraid to combine both fields and pursue a career that intersects the two disciplines.
Ultimately, the decision between accounting and computer science comes down to what you’re interested in and what you’re good at. If you’re interested in numbers and have strong analytical skills, then accounting may be the right choice for you. If you’re interested in computers and have strong problem-solving skills, then computer science may be the better choice for you.
And if you can’t decide between the two or want to keep your options open, there’s always the possibility of combining both majors into one double major or earning a joint degree in both accounting and computer science.
You may also pursue an advanced degree in the field you lack a background in and wish to gain expertise or get a joint MS/MBA degree. Whichever route you choose, as long as you’re passionate about what you’re doing, you’ll be sure to find success.
Are you combining accounting and computer science or transitioning from one field to another? Let us know about your biggest challenge in the comments below!
Elmar Mammadov is a software developer, tech startup founder, and computer science career specialist. He is the founder of CS Careerline and a true career changer who has previously pursued careers in medicine and neuroscience.
Due to his interest in programming and years of past personal experience in coding, he decided to break into the tech industry by attending a Master’s in Computer Science for career changers at University of Pennsylvania. Elmar passionately writes and coaches about breaking into the tech industry and computer science in general.