When considering whether a career in accounting is good for you, think of the skills necessary to succeed as a student and ultimately in the profession. For most people entering school, it is the first time they are on their own and making independent decisions. This independence leads to developing a responsible lifestyle in order to make good grades at school and eventually graduate.
The accounting major must be self-disciplined and self-motivated. A student who can effectively deal with the challenges of attending class, maintaining satisfactory grades, and completing homework and assignments, perhaps while working a job and maintaining a social life, is a good example of someone who can problem-solve and do well in the accounting profession. Besides successfully managing the required courses of an accounting degree, a good student should act responsibly in managing his or her own personal life and finances.
The student should exhibit an interest in investigating information that could best be demonstrated in the course load the student takes, the clubs he or she joins, and the extracurricular activities the student participates in. The successful student should be a good problem-solver, because the profession of accounting involves analyzing budgets, managing taxes, auditing corporate finances, computing costs, and tracking income and assets. In addition, an inquisitive nature to uncover details is almost mandatory.
Strong analytical reasoning skills are a key trait for all accounting jobs.
Colleges prepare students who want to work in this line of business by offering algebra, statistics, and quantitative methods courses to develop the strong math skills needed in the profession. Of course, core classes for the major consist of spreadsheets and general ledger applications, cost accounting, federal income tax, auditing, intermediate and advanced accounting, information systems, fraud prevention, and forensic accounting. If you do not find these subject titles interesting, then chances are this profession is not for you!
Because the profession is very detail-oriented and requires working with numbers, students should feel very comfortable calculating and analyzing data. When considering a career in accounting, take the time to think about whether you would enjoy spending hours scrutinizing information. Most accountants spend 50-70 hours a week analyzing financial statements, accounting ledgers, taxes, and financial plans. During college, the student will get a chance to experience what the work is like before entering the job market.
Accountants need good verbal and written communication skills, and most colleges provide courses in these areas. Although the profession requires a lot of behind-the-scenes type of work, it is a team-oriented type of job. By the nature of the work, there will be a certain level of interaction with people. The best accountants will be people who are able to develop strong networks in addition to their analytical skills. Whether it is reporting details to a manager, CFO, colleague, or client, the accountant needs to be able to convey messages concisely and present material in an engaging way. Especially for the ambitious student who has advancement career goals, senior-level positions such as chief financial officer, partners, and executives in private firms, require a significant level of interpersonal skills and diplomacy.
Accounting professionals have an ethical and moral responsibility to provide accurate data.
Colleges require classes in law to teach and reinforce this high standard of honesty and integrity in the profession. Good students understand that major decisions are based on their advice and that accountants are responsible for providing the facts.
As the field of accounting relies on computerized data, good technical skills are needed. Students should take as many computer courses as they can in order to have a competitive edge in the market.