Accounting FAQs

Frequently Asked Accounting Department Questions


Should I Choose Accounting as a Major? Choosing a major is an extremely important decision because it is not only the center of what you will be studying for the next few years, but also because it is likely to lead you to a career you wish to pursue. Due to the versatile nature of accounting, persons with an interest in accounting need to develop the following skills, as explained below.

Knowledge: ability to remember previously learned material such as specifics, criteria, techniques, principles and procedures (e.g., identify, define, list).

Comprehension: ability to grasp and interpret the meaning of material (e.g., classify, explain, distinguish between).

Application: ability to use learned material in new and concrete situations (e.g., demonstrate, predict, solve).

Analysis: ability to break down material into its component parts so that its organizational structure can be understood; ability to recognize causal relationships, discriminate between behavior mechanisms and identify elements that are relevant to the validation of a judgment (e.g., differentiate, estimate, order).

Synthesis: ability to put parts together to form a new whole or proposed set of operations; ability to relate ideas and formulate hypotheses (e.g., combine, formulate, revise).

Evaluation: ability to judge the value of material for a given purpose on the basis of consistency, logical accuracy, and comparison to standards; ability to appraise judgments involved in the selection of a course of action (e.g., criticize, justify, conclude).

Among the wide range of the traditional accounting career paths are the:

  • Auditor (independent or public) - obtains and evaluates evidence about an entity's financial statements and issues a written communication expressing a conclusion regarding these statements. Auditors are responsible for inspecting physical assets and documents that support accounting records and for making independent tests of business transactions. Auditors also perform verification work in areas not involving financial statements, e.g., verifying and reporting on the capabilities of specific software and the compliance with contractual agreements.
  • Budget and Forecast Accountant - is concerned with planning and control; prepares budget plans, plans for cash requirements, prepares market forecasts and assists management in using the information to make effective management decisions.
  • Certified Public Accountant - may perform one or all of the above financial services for an employer or client. A growing service area for CPAs is in non-financial services, such as compliance auditing (e.g., compliance with government laws/regulations and provisions of contracts), forensic accounting or litigation services, and general business consulting.
  • Controller - directs the total accounting information system of a company and participates in strategic and operational planning.
  • Cost Accountant - is primarily involved in determining the cost of a business' products and services and assists management in utilizing that information to make effective management decisions.
  • General Accountant - performs some or all of the functions in this list (auditing, tax, systems and procedures, cost, budgeting and forecasting) including the day-to-day work of keeping records, developing and supervising accounting practices and preparing special reports.
  • Governmental Accountant - at the federal, state or local levels, there are many accounting positions available. Positions are filled and promotions obtained often through competitive civil service examinations.
  • Management Accountant - is member of the decision-making team of the organization. Work involves many of the activities of the "General Accountant."
  • Operational Auditor (Internal Auditor) - performs various investigatory tasks for managements of an organization to ensure that the policies of the organization are effective and efficient and have been properly implemented. The operational auditor also may perform various financial statement audit functions as well, including assisting the independent auditor in the conduct of an audit. The operational auditor is an employee of the organization for which he or she performs audit tasks.
  • Systems Consultant - designs and installs accounting information systems for organizations.
  • Tax Accountant - researches tax problems for maximum tax advantage, assists clients in tax planning, confers with taxing authorities on behalf of employer or client, and prepares tax returns.

The range of career opportunities for accountants has broadened substantially during the past decade. Some of the new growth areas are:

  • Business Advisory Services: engaged to evaluate the policies and procedures of organizations and to provide information to those organizations and their managements as to the ways in which the firms may more effectively and efficiently attain organizational goals and objectives.
  • Forensic Accountants: engaged by and work with attorneys to determine the asset base of plaintiffs and defendants for purposes of prosecuting/defending in legal cases which range from personal litigation to corporate litigation. Forensic accountants frequently are used as "expert witnesses."
  • Risk Management: consult with management to assess the risks of business interruption, risks of economic changes, security risks within the organization and other types of risk assessment, including providing programs for business recovery in the event a problem should arise. The objective is to manage risks rather than reducing risks to zero.

Students must have a Cal Poly GPA of 2.5 and have completed the following courses with a grade of C or better: COM 1100 or COM 2204, ENG 1103 and ENG 2105, MAT 1250 and STA 1200 and attend a Change of Major meeting. Undergraduate students declaring a major for the first time or students changing from other degree programs must submit a Petition to Change Major Curriculum online through e-forms at the Registrar's Office home page. For more information, please visit the Change of Major page.

Yes. The Accounting Department provides non-accounting, undergraduate students with the opportunity to acquire accounting knowledge and skills. It is possible for students in most non-accounting fields to complete the minor within the normal requirements of their degrees through careful planning and scheduling of their required and elective courses. For more information or to enroll in the minor, refer to the Accounting Minor page.

Our Master of Science in Accountancy (MSA) program is designed to meet the needs of the ever-changing accounting profession, whether in public accounting, corporate accounting, government and not-for-profit accounting or some other areas of practice. The program provides an integrated curriculum comprised of 31 -33 semester units, featuring the sound theoretical, applied, analytical, and interdisciplinary courses that prepare students for a successful career in the profession. Please visit the Singelyn Graduate School of Business - MSA page for more information. Also, contact the program Director at to see how you can prepare for the program.

Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is the statutory title of qualified accountants in the United States who have passed the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination and have met additional state education and experience requirements for certification as a CPA. In most U.S. states, only CPAs who are licensed are able to provide public attestation (including auditing) opinions on financial statements. For more information about the CPA requirements in California, go to the CPA information website: CPA Professional Boards and Association Links page.

There are a number of awards and scholarships available to accounting students that are offered by the Department of Accounting, local accounting firms, and CPA review companies. Each year, the student organizations sponsor a spring banquet to announce the names of the recipients of the awards.

The Accounting Department provides the Clarence H. Jackman Accounting Internship Program, which is designed to provide practical, on-the-job training for the accounting major. Internship positions are paid on a competitive basis for the service provided. For program information and requirementsm please check the Internships page. Complete all  the items in the “Requirements to Obtain Internship Credit” packet and submit them them to the internship director: Dr. Hassan Hefzi,

More questions? Please contact 

Dr. Magdy Farag

Administrative Support Coordinator:
Ellie Foo