Deciding to pursue a career in accounting is a wise move; after all, there is a lot of scope for career growth and development, a strong sense of job security, and the potential to earn some of the highest salaries on the planet.
While you may have numerous questions about life as a CPA, one thing is for sure – a degree from the right university can put you in pole position to make good connections and fast track your success.
So, if you’re wondering which undergraduate programme is for you, then you’re in the right place. We’ve compiled the latest data from QS World University Rankings to find the best accounting schools in the world.
10. New York University (NYU)
Location: New York City, New York, USA
Located in Greenwich Village (but with additional campuses in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai), NYU is a truly metropolitan college. Accounting undergrads study at the Stern School of Business, a renowned and highly selective institution with ties to some of the wealthiest business people in the world.
Students can graduate with a BSc in Business, of which accounting is one of 13 study streams. As well as learning the necessary accounting principles to progress towards CPA status, the school also encourages undergraduates to co-major in a related discipline, such as investment banking, corporate financial management or securities markets.
9. University of Chicago
Location: Illinois, Chicago, USA
Located in Hyde Park, University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business is a culturally rich and diverse research institution renowned for its rigorous pursuit of knowledge and distinctive style of education.
Students who plan on pursuing a career in finance and accounting will be exposed to a legendary finance curriculum. Here they will learn how to evaluate economic events and performance at a deeper level to effectively interpret and make decisions that lead to outstanding outcomes.
Students are pushed beyond their comfort zones to analyse openly and rigorously, debate and solve problems. The university is also home to unparalleled resources, research centres and institutes.
Students who graduate with an MBA are thoroughly prepared for an accounting career in both the private and public sectors. To date, nine members of the BOOTH faculty have earned Nobel prizes for their work.
8. University of California, Berkeley (UCB)
Location: California, Los Angeles, USA
UCB is considered a top public university in the USA and has one of the most forward-thinking economics departments in the world. At UCB’s Haas School of Business, students are equipped with in-depth accounting knowledge and technical skills, while there is also excellent potential for career advancement.
With the demand for accountants and auditors expected to grow in the upcoming years, many international accounting firms recognise UCB alumni’s talents and skills. Students gain early access to recruiters, accounting professionals and exclusive networking events, along with visits to top national accounting firms.
7. University of Pennsylvania
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Taught at the world-famous Wharton School, UPenn offers its accounting undergraduates a genuinely world-class education.
This includes access to the school’s highly innovative study facilities, a flexible study schedule with opportunities to spend time abroad, and integrated leadership modules that are designed to create ready-made leaders in the professional services industry.
The course also combines traditional accounting with modules that reflect the profession’s evolution, such as in predictive analytics and basic programming.
6. University of Cambridge
Location: Cambridge, UK
As one of the top universities in the world, Cambridge is esteemed for its world-class education, academic rigour and research. Students are selected for their academic ability, work ethic, intelligence and motivation.
Finance students are introduced to the fundamentals of accounting and financial terminology, as well as financial analysis techniques. Of course, Cambridge graduates are highly employable and widely sought after, thanks to the vital transferrable skills they develop at the university. Indeed, Cambridge regularly features in the top three globally for employer reputation.
5. University of Oxford
Location: Oxford, UK
When you think of leading universities, Oxford inevitably comes to mind. As one of the oldest universities in the world (with evidence of teaching as early as 1096), Oxford embodies tradition, excellence and superior standards of education.
Their unique tutorial methodology is designed to draw out the best in aspiring accountants and finance specialists, with a personalised approach to learning amongst some of the world’s leading professors.
There are many great libraries and contemporary research facilities, while students are offered opportunities to engage with an array of businesses, from local specialist firms to international corporations. Students are well-prepared for the world of work, and an Oxford degree inevitably gives graduates the tools they need for a promising career in accounting.
4. London School of Economics
Location: London, UK
As one of the most renowned universities in the world – and as a school dedicated entirely to subjects revolving around finance and economics – it isn’t surprising that LSE is high on this list. Located a stone’s throw from the Houses of Parliament, many important political, financial and cultural figures have studied accounting here, including AirAsia’s founder, Tony Fernandes, BBC’s CFO, Zarin Patel and GRI’s CEO, Richard Nesbitt.
The school’s BSc in Accounting and Finance approaches teaching through a diverse social science lens, with the faculty continually seeking to be a pioneer and innovator in this field. Due to LSE’s prime location, you’ll also enjoy academic perks such as attending guest lectures from senior industry figures.
3. Stanford University
Location: Stanford, California, USA
Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, Stanford University is regarded as one of the best colleges in the world. It features 18 research institutes and seven schools, including the Graduate School of Business.
There are plenty of finance and accounting courses to choose from as an undergraduate, with many unique offerings, including its executive education programmes covering many finance, accounting and business-centric subjects.
At Stanford, there are also numerous student-led extracurriculars, including Standard Finance, which is a group that encourages financial education among the Stanford student body.
Alumni include 18 Turing Award recipients (an annual prize given by the Association for Computing Machinery). To date, companies founded by Stanford affiliates and alumni generate more than $2.7 trillion in annual revenues, including Google, Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems, and Charles Schwab.
2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
MIT ranks highly on nearly every university ranking lists, and it is clear why. With its stellar academics, incredible research opportunities and the best faculty team in the world, you will gain first-hand experience at MIT’s Sloan School of Management.
All students are fully encouraged to pursue their academic and personal interests, and the pace of learning can be intense. Their MBA programme is considered one of the most competitive and high-profile programmes in the world, and Sloan MBA students can also cross-register at the Harvard Business School – the only partnership of its kind at this level.
There is a brilliant, talented and diverse body of students allowing you to work on cutting-edge research, whether you join different research projects or pursue your own ideas. That said, getting into MIT is not an easy task, as students are assessed based on their initiative, intellectual curiosity and ability to collaborate with others.
1. Harvard University
Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
This Ivy League university is the oldest higher education institution in America. Founded in 1636, it has produced countless notable alumni, including eight US presidents (such as John F Kennedy and Franklin D Roosevelt), as well as important figures in finance, including Bill Gates and Mike Bloomberg, to name a few.
Made up of 13 schools and institutes, including its renowned Business School, Harvard is home to extensive library systems, state-of-the-art resources and highly accomplished professors.
This is an intellectual hub that nurtures and inspires people to make an impact on the world. There are countless different finance and accounting courses to choose from, while there are also plenty of opportunities to network with industry leaders.
Harvard is also well-known for its career opportunities, with many companies actively recruiting directly and hand-picking talent from the school.
Of course, getting an accounting degree is only half the battle; to become a certified or chartered accountant, you still need to take additional exams and secure a set minimum amount of working hours, regardless of where you are hoping to qualify.
But in terms of student experience, access to resources and the potential for making meaningful connections, it doesn’t get any better than these 10 schools.
Are you hoping to study accounting? Which school have you chosen? Let us know in the comments section below!
This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 17 May 2019 and was written in collaboration with Siôn Phillpott.