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Best Accounting Schools in Minnesota in 2021

October 4, 2021 | Staff Writers

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Benefits of studying accounting in Minnesota

Studying an accounting degree program in Minnesota can set you up for a long, rewarding career in the field of finance. Technological advancements over the past few decades have led to a major overhaul of the economy, causing a boom in small business formation and providing new avenues for large and existing corporations to diversify and make money. And where there’s money to be made — there will always be demand for accountants and finance professionals.

Minnesota is a financial and economic hub in the American Midwest, and an excellent place for accountancy majors to study, work, and live. Read on to find out the top reasons why people are drawn to the Land of 10,000 Lakes, take a look at the available degree options and corresponding career paths, and discover the best schools for aspiring accounting professionals in Minnesota.  

Top reasons to study accountancy in Minnesota

One of the best things about the modern world is how much variety there is, with places, schools, and a way of life to suit everyone. While some people prefer the crowded streets of New York, others are drawn to a more laid back lifestyle. It’s the same with weather, for every beach bum, there’s someone who loves nothing more than snuggling up in the snow beside a crackling fireplace.

If you’re all about minimizing stress, enjoying nature, and don’t mind chilly winters, Minnesota is the perfect place for you. With a reputation for excellent health care, impressive public transport links, and relaxed but efficient inhabitants, it’s a great location to study and work. 

Plenty of schools to choose from: In addition to the University of Minnesota Twin Cities business school, Carson College making it into the Forbes’ Top 50 business schools in the U.S., there are more than 200 public and private colleges for accounting students to choose from. When it comes to accountancy, the amount of work you put into your studies is often more important than whether you go to one of the highest ranked schools. If you don’t have the grades to get into Harvard or Stanford, there’s no need to feel down — there are plenty of opportunities in Minnesota schools to get a top education.  

Quality of life: One of the things Minnesota is known for across the nation is the excellent quality of life its residents enjoy. Living in the third happiest state in the U.S. could be exactly what hard-working accounting students need to balance the level of focus required to get qualified with good quality of life. Enough sleep, exercise, and enjoying a healthy diet are all essential ingredients for optimal productivity as a student.  

Azure waters: Perhaps one the reasons why Minnesotans are so happy is their proximity to water. Scientists have uncovered a genuine reason for the feeling of peace and tranquillity many people report when they’re near an ocean, lake, or other body of water. Feel-good neurochemicals are released when we see or hear water, and in Minnesota, you’re pretty much always in the right spot to reap the benefits of a blue mind

Booming economy: There are a host of big companies that have chosen to have their headquarters in Minnesota, including Target, Radisson Hotels, and Cargill. For accountants, all of the big four accounting firms have offices in Minneapolis, in addition to tons of other attractive prospects. Unemployment in Minnesota is significantly below the national average of 6%, at 4.2%. 

Walkways: If you’re a little worried about the cold winters, you might be pleased to know that it’s possible to navigate many shopping centers in Minneapolis without facing the outdoors. There’s a skyway that lets shoppers move between the shopping and entertainment districts without stepping outside the climate-controlled indoor bridges and paths.

Cost of living: While it’s one of the costlier places to live in the U.S., Minnesota is still in the top half of most affordable states in the country. 

Options for accounting majors in Minnesota

If you’re embarking on an undergraduate or graduate accounting program, there are plenty of options. Let’s take a look at the different degree types and the job roles you could land once qualified. 

Associate degree

This two-year course is an excellent option for individuals who are interested in an entry level finance career, as well as those who want to get a solid foundation for further studies.

Firstly, you’ll get an introduction to the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, which teach you how to prepare financial statements and oversee accounting records. You’ll also learn about essential record-keeping skills and the importance of accuracy, and get an introduction to business and ethical practices. 

Core concepts learners will have a basic understanding of upon graduation include: Mathematics, taxation, business law, principles of accounting, and financial operations. Some of the jobs available to people with an accounting associate’s degree include:

  • Payroll clerk
  • Bookkeeper
  • Accounting assistant
  • Tax preparation
  • Administrator
  • Auditing clerk
  • Accounting technician  

Bachelor’s degree

Many Minnesota students who follow the traditional route of getting a high school diploma and becoming a certified public accountant start their college education by getting a four-year bachelor’s degree. While it’s possible to enter a lucrative, relatively top-level career armed with nothing more than a bachelor’s program under you belt — the 120 semester hour credits isn’t quite enough for the 150 required to sit the generic CPA exam or become a certified management accountant.

Students often elect to take additional credits while studying at undergraduate level, but it’s also possible to pursue a master’s degree to gain the additional 30 credits, as well as specialized expertise and enhanced employability. 

In a bachelor’s program, you’ll gain an in-depth understanding of the GAAP framework, learn how to apply accountancy knowledge to business settings, and be able to practice confidently with a clear understanding of industry ethics and organizational behavior. Coursework topics might include the fundamentals of tax, financial statement analysis, financial accounting, cost accounting, auditing, information systems, and managerial accounting. Popular job roles in the accounting profession at bachelor level include:

  • Tax accountant
  • Management accountant
  • Cost accountant
  • Auditor
  • Budget analysis
  • Credit manager
  • Financial manager 

Certified public accounting certification

Despite the fact becoming a CPA is one of the most popular avenues for an accounting student; there isn’t actually a specific degree you can get to become one. In Minnesota, the requirements for sitting the CPA examination are 150 semester hours, including courses in management accounting, financial accounting, auditing, and taxation. Bachelor’s degrees are usually worth 120 credits, and students pursue a master’s program or take on additional undergraduate work to make up the rest.

Some schools offer the option for an integrated fifth year upon completing a bachelor’s, but you can opt to pursue a graduate degree, such as an MBA program with accounting, master of science in accounting, master of professional accountancy, or master of accounting. 

Acquiring a CPA is an excellent route into some of the most attractive accounting careers in Minnesota. Employers and finance professionals view this qualification as the pinnacle of the industry due to the stringent training requirements and expertise the exam demands from applicants. Private and corporate accountants don’t usually need CPA certifications, but all public accountants do. Some of the fields you could get into include:

  • Financial analysis
  • Internal auditing
  • Information systems auditing
  • Tax accounting
  • Management accounting

Master of Science degree

If you’re looking to get the required amount of semester credits to take a CPA, CPE, or other accounting certification that requires prior education, earning a master of science in management in accounting could be the perfect next step. It builds on the knowledge you’ve gained from your undergraduate degree, while introducing you to business and management techniques. Governance and ethics are key concepts of high-level accounting work, and a master of science provides all the background information and practical skills necessary. 

In addition to demonstrating advanced knowledge, prospective Minnesota employers can see that students who achieve this level of qualification are dedicated to the field of finance. This means that you’ll have additional bargaining power when it comes to salary, and be able to climb up the career ladder faster.

MBA with accounting

A master’s in business administration is the most popular degree course for those who are interested in a career in business leadership. Opting to focus on an accounting specialization prepares you for some of the best-paying and most sought-after accounting jobs on the market. Unless you’re aiming to become a professor of accounting, an MBA with an accountancy focus is the most highly-regarded qualification for finance professionals. 

Many of the people who study an MBA are interested in starting their own business or landing top positions like finance director or chief financial officer.

Minnesota accounting and education organizations

As with many top careers, joining professional accounting organizations gives you a head start compared to individuals who go it alone. Not only do professional organizations give you access to resources and increase the number of job opportunities open to you, but they also give you the chance to network with fellow accounting students.

Whether you go into business yourself or work as an employee, you can never have too many contacts. Some of them might cost money to join, but the head start they can give you in your career usually make it worthwhile.  

The Minnesota Society of Certified Public Accountants

With more than 8,500 members, the MNCPA is the top nonprofit professional organization in Minnesota. It’s been around since 1904, helping CPAs and other accounting professionals boost their careers, and ensuring the best interests of the public are held into account at all times. The four main initiatives of this body are: Serve the public, offer resources, encourage leadership, and provide education. 

American Association of Finance and Accounting

The American Association of Finance and Accounting is a high-flying collection of executive accountants that aim to headhunt the best talent from around the world. If you’ve ever heard that this type of organization promises more than it delivers when it comes to job opportunities, rest assured that the AAFA’s primary aim is to help finance experts and accountants get into jobs that pay well and offer excellent security. 

Institute of Management Accountants

The Institute of Management Accountants is a body that was set up to help finance and accounting professionals who work within companies as management accountants. Although it’s headquartered in New Jersey, it has offices dotted around the globe and a huge network of managerial accountants. Its primary aim is to strengthen the professional skills of members by giving them access to the latest certification and training opportunities, as well as helping them find careers.

This 70,000 strong organization administers the CMA exam, which is respected by corporations and institutions around the world.

Institute of Internal Auditors

The IIA is specifically focused on the important work carried out by auditors, and it has an impressive roster of over 180,000 global members. This organization aims to help members reach the highest level of qualification available to them and offers resources to help members progress through their careers. It aims for its members to become thought-leaders by continuing to develop their education and offering awards and certification.

Demand for accounting careers in Minnesota

When it comes to opportunity, U.S. News and World Report places Minnesota second, behind only Iowa. Even more impressively, the state comes in at second place for the best states to live in the U.S., with only Washington scoring higher across the board. Factors the list takes into account include economy, fiscal stability, crime, infrastructure, health care, natural environment, and education. 

Read on for an in-depth look at job prospects for accountants in Minnesota, as well as information about the most popular careers for accounting graduates. 

What’s the job outlook like for accounting graduates in Minnesota?

According to the Bureau for Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for accountants in the United States is $73,560, which is lower than the Minnesota average of $76,130.

Accounting graduates can also expect to earn more than any of the surrounding states. In North Dakota, the average wage is $66,060; in South Dakota, it’s $69,170; in Iowa, it’s $71,920; and in Wisconsin, it’s $74,480 — making Minnesota the most lucrative location for accounting graduates in the Midwest. Minneapolis is considered as one of the best cities in the U.S. for qualified accountants, not just because of the thriving economy, but also because of the relative lack of competition for job roles. 

Accounting and auditing jobs are set to grow by 4% between 2019 and 2029, which is about the same as average. 

Top jobs for qualified accountants in MN

Getting an accountancy qualification opens up the door to a wide array of employment opportunities, including a career in a range of settings. From small start-ups to major corporate players, as an accountant, you can make a huge impact on a company and contribute to a healthy, thriving economy. If you’ve got a passion for accuracy, a fastidious nature, and an eye for detail, one of the following careers could be perfect for you.

Chief financial officer

The role of a CFO can vary massively between job roles, depending on a variety of factors like the size of the organization, the function of the company, and how many territories it operates in. However, some of the fundamental expectations are fairly universal. Risk management, business strategy, financial performance, and financial management are four of the key areas you’ll hold ultimate responsibility for.

In an economy that’s driven by profit, the buck usually stops with CFOs to ensure maximum profitability and minimal spending, while still ensuring operations run smoothly. Most of the CFOs in the best jobs hold multiple qualifications, including a bachelor’s, CPA, MSA and MBA. 

Finance director

If you’re someone who’s attracted to the idea of working your way up the corporate ladder with a great company, the final goal might be to reach the position of finance director. An MBA can be particularly useful if this is where you see yourself in the future. This is because an MBA course places a ton of weight on leadership skills and business acumen, which is crucial if you want to direct an entire department, including managers.

While it often takes years to reach this position, the salary and job security are exceptional, with the highest wages reserved for the private sector, and public employees earning slightly less.

Internal auditor

The need for accuracy in financial matters is extraordinary, and auditors perform the vital task of inspecting financial records and documentation to ensure reliability and accuracy. There are many different types of auditors in Minnesota, including forensic, government, external, and internal. Job duties include: Making recommendations to management; ensuring documents comply with company, local, and federal laws; and ensuring taxes are filed correctly.  

Information systems accountant

Accounting and technology are going together hand in hand more often, as accounting software becomes more advanced and widely used. Most companies now use an electronic system to file, organize, and report financial data. The job can command a high salary, and applications have often chosen electives in software development, IT, and accounting. 

Forensic accountant

The demand for forensic accountants in Minnesota is increasing as the spotlight is shone brighter on white collar crime. Police departments need finance experts to conduct investigations and create reports for law enforcement to use in court. Juries, judges, and legal experts will oversee this type of work, so the utmost attention to detail and respect for the letter of the law is a requirement.

Investment banker

Investment bankers work for a range of organizations and perform many different roles. You might help governments raise the capital necessary to make key investments, help companies secure funding for expansion, manage mergers and acquisitions, or help businesses launch stock publicly. In many cases, investment bankers start as financial analysts and work their way up the ladder, obtain an MBA, and apply for work at a top banking firm like Morgan Stanley or Goldman Sachs.  

Financial analyst

Financial analysts help companies and wealthy individuals make astute investment decisions by keeping track of all finance-related data. You need a well-rounded skill set to get into this role, which involves forecasting, presenting to executives and investors, developing investment thesis, spreadsheet maintenance, and financial modeling.

Corporate controller

Corporate controllers are high-level strategic managers who often oversee entire accounting departments, although they might be the entire finance department in a smaller company. Some of the duties you’d carry out in this role are: Tax compliance, budget preparation, payroll, and maintenance of financial statements.

Top cities for Accountants

If you’re thinking about becoming an accountant in MN, there’s a strong chance you’re considering working in one of the Twin Cities. However, there’s work for an accounting professional wherever there’s industry, so you’re not limited to the biggest cities — although that’s probably where you’ll make the most money and have the most choice!

Minneapolis

Of course the top spot goes to the state capital, Minneapolis, which accounts for 65% of the entire Minnesota population, along with St. Paul. There are more high school graduates here than anywhere else in the U.S., and an abundance of college graduates, too. You won’t struggle to find a job performing accounting duties in this thriving city, and it’s a great spot to start your own business.

St. Paul

As one of the Twin Cities, Minnesota is the slightly cheaper and less well-known sisters. However, it’s no less attractive to finance students, with an array of job opportunities, affordable rent and stunning scenery.  

Eden Prairie

Eden Prairie is has a small city feel, but offers a diverse and vibrant culture to anyone living there or visiting. From cooking schools to art centers and trampoline parks, you can escape and find the perfect respite from your challenging accountancy studies.

Edina

Edina is great if you’re a fan of suburban living and want to live somewhere quiet and beautiful that’s located close to Minneapolis. With 70% of the population here calling themselves college graduates, it’s the perfect place for ambitious accounting degree holders to call home.

Schools in Minnesota with accounting programs 

To be eligible for the CPA exam, you’ll need to obtain 150 semester credits in relevant topics from an AACSB accredited school. While none of the colleges on our list make it into QS Top Universities top 10 universities for accounting and finance, there are hundreds of great schools in the state with accredited programs that qualify students for certification.

Let’s take a look at some of the most highly-regarded schools for accounting in Minnesota. 

University of Minnesota Twin Cities

The business college at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, Carlson College, makes it to number 32 on the Forbes’ list of best business schools. You can study the master of accountancy degree here without any prior background in finance — just a generic bachelor’s degree in required. The course is designed to help students not only experts, but also leaders in the field, with as much focus on the necessary interpersonal skills as there is on technical skills. 

Relevant degree programs are: Bachelor’s in business administration, doctorate in business administration, master’s in business administration, master’s in business taxation, and master’s in general accounting. The school is cheap to attend, at just $28,819 per year for tuition — but it has an excellent graduation rate of 78%. The acceptance rate is 57%, so it’s also moderately easy to get into. 

University of Northwestern St. Paul

At the University of Northwestern St. Paul, tuition is $44,430 and the acceptance rate is exceptionally high, at 92%. As such, the corresponding graduation rate of 63% is highly commendable. Accounting students can choose from the following degree courses: Bachelor’s in business administration, bachelor’s in business management, bachelor’s in finance, and bachelor’s in general accounting. 

Gustavus Adolphus College

Gustavus Adolphus College is a Christian liberal arts college with an excellent graduation rate of 81%, and an acceptance rate of 69%. While it’s one of the more expensive school options in Minnesota, it offers a specific public accounting major, which takes students through the full eight semester’s necessary to apply for the CPA exam. Course options include: Bachelor’s in business management, bachelor’s in economics, and bachelor’s in general accounting. 

St. Cloud State University

St. Cloud State University is an engineering and computing college that’s easy to get into, with an acceptance rate of 90%. Students can choose from a bachelor’s in finance, general accounting, business management, and business administration — or a master’s in business administration. The cost of an undergraduate degree before financial aid is $21,356, and the graduation rate is 46%. 

University of Minnesota Crookston

Accountancy students who attend the University of Minnesota Crookston can expect to pay just $24,242 for a year of undergraduate tuition, and they have the following course options: Bachelor’s in business management, Bachelor’s in general accounting, and an online program in business management. The acceptance rate is 68% and the graduation rate is 53%, and you can obtain a bachelor’s degree online from this college.

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BestValueSchools.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
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