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Business Administration vs. Accounting: Which Degree Is Right For You?

By Charlene Lattea, WVU Online | Wednesday, July 05, 2023

Trying to choose between a business administration or an accounting degree? We’ll break down the key differences to consider when deciding.

As you begin to look at careers in business, you may be thinking about business administration and accounting. Business administration and accounting are among the most popular degrees for business majors, and both are critical to the operation of a business.

In this article, we will explain the differences and similarities between these two fields and the advantages each one can give you in the business world. You will learn more about both majors, and be able to compare them, before deciding which one is right for you.

Business Administration Degrees: A Brief Overview

Business administration emphasizes management and gives you a variety of different skills that you need for the operation of a business. This popular major prepares you to lead others and helps you develop financial and strategic planning skills.

You will have a good foundation in general business, with courses in accounting, finance, project management, marketing, human resources, and more.

With the skills you learn with a degree in business administration, you will be prepared to direct a multitude of organizational processes or teams in businesses large or small, non-profits, or even in your own business.

Accounting Degrees: A Brief Overview

An accounting degree focuses almost entirely on "number-crunching," and gives you specific knowledge of financial recordkeeping for businesses, government agencies, and other entities.

You will gain knowledge about accounting practices, principles, and theories, including corporate accounting, public accounting, taxation, etc.

With an accounting degree, you will be prepared to manage and consult with others, as well as to advise organizations and individuals on their financial matters.

Business Administration vs. Accounting: What Are the Key Differences?

Business administration and accounting are very similar fields, and overlap in many ways. Most of the similarities are in the coursework required.

Accounting focuses on accounting topics, but also includes business and administration courses. It can be seen as a more specialized niche within the broader business administration field.

Business administration, on the other hand, has a broader scope and focuses on the management and operation of a business, with a heavy emphasis on the financial side, including accounting practices, but more on financial business strategies.

Although these two degrees are similar, they have a several key differences:

The Main Focus:

Accounting – Deals directly with financial matters, rather than focusing on management. Prepares you to manage financial matters for an organization or for an individual, and to consult with others on financial matters.

Business Administration – Also deals with financial matters, but mainly as part of the company’s strategic financial planning, rather than bookkeeping, tax work, and accounting. The main focus is on business management and the daily operations.

Types of Degrees You Can Get:

Business Administration – Degrees include the associate degree, or a bachelor’s master’s or doctorate in business administration. Perhaps the most prized degree is the Master of Business Administration (MBA), a specialized degree that builds professional skills that are needed for top business administration jobs, such as chief operating officer, financial manager, or general and operations manager.

Accounting – In this field, you can also get an associate degree, or a bachelor’s master’s or doctorate in accounting. Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is the highest title in general accounting, with CPAs authorized to prepare tax documents and to legally represent taxpayers to the IRS. To obtain this title, you must take extra college credits and pass an exam.

Specific Coursework:

Business Administration – There are some accounting classes, but most of the coursework is in management and business strategies. The degree provides a solid foundation in economics, financial management, entrepreneurship, marketing, strategic planning, operational management, statistics, sales, ethics and law, and human resources management.

Accounting – The degree includes business and administration courses, but most of the coursework focuses on accounting topics. You’ll study statistics, calculus, algebra, finance, accounting principles, spreadsheets and databases, accounting theory, budgeting, payroll accounting, computerized finance, taxation, business analytics, auditing, corporate accounting, public accounting, and financial and managerial accounting.

Areas of Specialization:

Business Administration – You will have the opportunity to specialize in a specific area or field, such as human resources, marketing, hospitality and tourism, data analytics, and more.

Accounting – Specializations in accounting include areas such as real estate, management accounting, or forensic accounting.

Additional Things to Consider:

Business Administration – A business administration degree is better suited for those who enjoy working with other people, or as part of a team, and who have the ability to plan, organize and delegate. In business administration, there is a strong emphasis on interpersonal communication and leadership.

Accounting – Accounting attracts people who love to crunch numbers and who are able to concentrate for long periods of time, do detailed work, and who are self-starters. In this profession, you may work more independently, rather than as part of a team. Accountants generally perform their work autonomously, but also meet with coworkers or clients when necessary.

Important to Know:

Business Administration – This degree offers diverse training in areas needed to manage a department or an organization, work with a team, and to be a good leader.

Accounting – You will be dealing with numbers and math, solving problems, and consulting with clients in a fast-paced environment.

Career Paths

Career path options for business administration and accounting are different, especially for entry-level positions, but job options also sometimes overlap.

Accounting focuses more on the financial aspects of a business, while business administration deals more with the company as a whole.

Business administration degree jobs include business consultant, insurance underwriter, market research analyst, purchasing agent, sales, operations research analyst, or real estate appraiser.

With an accounting degree, you may go to work as a bookkeeper, accountant, auditor, compliance specialist, claims adjuster, appraiser, or cost estimator.

The job titles vary, depending on location, and area of expertise, but here are other careers you will be qualified for with these degrees:

Business Administration Career Paths

  • Business Analyst
  • Human Resource Specialist
  • Marketing Manager
  • Operations Manager
  • Financial Analyst
  • Logistician
  • Sales Manager

Accounting Career Paths

  • Loan Officer
  • Auditor
  • Payroll Specialist
  • Claims Adjuster
  • Tax Accountant
  • Cost Estimator
  • Financial Advisor

Job Outlook

Business administration and accounting both have distinct characteristics that make them unique and both are associated with excellent job growth.

Business administration careers can be found in a variety of industries. Career options include the education sector, corporate settings, and manufacturing, as well as nonprofits, federal and state government, etc.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates business administrators make approximately $100,000 a year with a bachelor’s degree.

Careers for accountants, on the other hand, include tax preparation, managing assets and investments, or administering spending for city, state or federal government agencies.

Entry-level public accountants may advance to senior positions as they gain experience and take on more responsibility. Those who excel may become supervisors, managers, or partners; open their own public accounting firm; or transfer to executive positions in management accounting or internal auditing in private firms.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for business and financial professionals is $76,570. This is more than $30,000 higher than the median annual wage for all occupations of $45,760.

Overall, employment in the business and financial sector is projected to grow 7% from 2021 to 2031, resulting in about 715,100 new jobs over the decade.


In both business administration and accounting, students learn a variety of skills.

The biggest area overlap is in dealing with financial matters. Accounting deals directly with financial matters, such as financial analysis, bookkeeping, payroll, and taxes, while business administration deals more with long-term financial strategy.

In accounting, students develop skills in mathematical reasoning, account reconciliation, budgeting, financial recording, maintaining a ledger, ability to conduct an audit, and technical accounting skills using specialized software.

They also learn some skills related to management and dealing with clients and team members, but not to the extent that a student in business administration learns these skills.

Business administrators must have strong leadership skills. This is one of the things that sets them apart from accountants. In addition to leading a team, they oversee the day-to-day processes of the business, while keeping the company in line with its goals.

Business administration skill sets, in addition to leadership, include customer service, presentation skills, communication skills, project management, data analysis, the use of business administration software, and skills in strategic planning.

Business Administration vs. Accounting: Which is Best?

That largely depends on what you are looking for – your individual interests, goals, and skillsets.

Since these degrees are so similar, it is even possible to switch careers from one to the other and you would still have the professional skills to find a position such as logistician, management analyst, or insurance underwriter.

Both fields are very popular with business students and show good career growth.

How To Know If Business Administration or Accounting Is Right For You

To determine if business administration is right for you, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I want to be the person in charge of managing a business?
  • Can I be a leader? Have strong leadership skills? Aptitude for it?
  • Do I work well with teams?
  • Do I enjoy fast-paced environments?
  • Would I like to learn a wide variety of skills?
  • Do I enjoy developing long-term strategies?
  • Do I have good communication skills?

To determine if accounting is the right degree for you, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I enjoy number crunching?
  • Am I good at math?
  • Do I enjoy working alone?
  • Can I also consult with others, such as clients or team members?
  • Do I enjoy fast-paced environments?
  • Do I have reasoning skills?
  • Do I enjoy paperwork and concentrating for long periods of time?

No matter which degree you choose, business administration or accounting, you can’t go wrong! Both lead to high-paying jobs, have great career growth, and are in great demand.

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