Financial accounting has its focus on the financial statements which are distributed to stockholders, lenders, financial analysts, and others outside of the company. Courses in financial accounting cover the generally accepted accounting principles which must be followed when reporting the results of a corporation's past transactions on its balance sheet, income statement, statement of cash flows, and statement of changes in stockholders' equity.

Managerial accounting has its focus on providing information within the company so that its management can operate the company more effectively.  Managerial accounting and cost accounting also provide instructions on computing the cost of products at a manufacturing enterprise. These costs will then be used in the external financial statements. In addition to cost systems for manufacturers, courses in managerial accounting will include topics such as cost behavior, break-even point, profit planning, operational budgeting, capital budgeting, relevant costs for decision making, activity based costing, and standard costing.

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