There are many types of electives available in undergraduate accounting degree programs. Most of these classes will focus on advanced financial concepts, business practices, professional techniques and information technology. Degree programs that focus on specializations like taxation or government auditing will offer very specific classes in these topics.
Auditing and Forensics
An elective in control systems and techniques will study the methods used by management for monitoring and validating financial data and transactions. Internal controls and financial data accuracy is extremely important because it impacts budgeting, staffing and purchasing decisions. Managers rely on accurate financial information systems to control costs, increase ROI and increase firm competitiveness. Classes in forensic accountancy teach students how to identify and investigate intentional and unintentional financial errors. Courses teach students how to execute auditing methods, interview staff, present testimony and even cross-examine witnesses during legal proceedings. Forensic valuation classes teach students about business laws related to damages and valuations of assets. SEC auditing and reporting classes cover the legal, economic and institutional implications of being a public company. Students examine the interrelationships between financial functions and government regulations.
A taxation elective is a popular choice because knowledge of this field increases career stability and flexibility. A class on individual taxation introduces students to federal income tax concepts related to sole proprietorships. This class teaches about the application of basic tax laws and concepts. These may include tax shelters, investment planning and compensation planning. A class on corporate taxation will cover the concepts and principles governing the taxation of corporations and their shareholders. Class topics may include corporate formation and dissolution as well as capital structure, distributions and liquidations. An elective in taxation procedures for trusts, estates and partnerships teaches students about the taxation of decedents’ estates and lifetime gifts; valuation of property subject to estate and gift taxes. Corporate structures covered include flow-through entities, business partnerships and limited liability partnerships. These classes should help students prepare for taking a uniform state CPA exam.
Business and Management
Business classes are popular because many graduates want to advance their careers or achieve leadership positions. Classes on mergers and acquisitions cover the appropriate GAAP and IFRS regulations. Students learn about change management, consolidated financial statements and common reorganization issues. Classes in investments cover public disclosures, financial instruments, standard forms, securities interests and retirement regulations. Classes in commercial transactions cover the legal concepts associated with the sale of goods, commercial transactions, financial malpractice, negotiable instruments and declaring bankruptcy. Students are introduced to the basic uses of the Uniform Commercial Code. All of these classes assist in the preparation for the CPA examination. A business valuation elective will provide a framework for using financial accounting information to establish value. This may include the fundamental analysis tools that uses financial reports and other relevant financial information to estimate a value for the business. Topics include cash flows, earnings quality, trading strategies and performance measurement.
Other undergraduate accounting electives may include research and analysis, which is conducted by auditing professionals and taxation specialists, as well as international financial reporting, which covers multinational business practices outside the U.S.