If you are considering a degree in accounting, you have to read this guide. This guide gives you insider information from professional accountants and everything you need to succeed as an accountant.
As a pre-university student, taking the time out to research a possible career could save the stress of having to switch after securing admission or, even worse, not enjoying what you do.
You must have heard a story or two of people who graduate but never use their University degree (I am one of them 😁). While it’s not all doom and gloom if you change your mind a few years after, it’s nice to have a good understanding of what your options are and make the best decision before getting started.
- What is Accounting?
- How to prepare for an Accounting degree while in high school
- Studying Accounting at the University
- Additional skills every Accountant needs
- Major software used in Accounting
- How to get a job as an Accountant
- How much do Accountants earn?
- How to stay relevant as an Accountant
- How hard is Accounting according professionals?
- How hard is Accounting compared to other business degrees?
- Key takeaway
What is Accounting?
When you think of accounting, numbers come to mind. Lots and lots of numbers, calculators and endless excel sheets come to my mind! Two hours and a couple of interviews with 2 accountants later, I can give you a better definition of accounting.
Accounting is simply a process of storing financial records, identifying and measuring financial information used to make business decisions.
Accounting consists of two parts. The first part is bookkeeping, and the second part is analysis. Bookkeeping involves recording all business transactions, while analysis involves analyzing financial data to ensure efficiency and profitability.
Every organization or business has lots of financial information. Information from balance sheets, income statements and cash flow. In accounting, this information is not just processed and stored. It is also compared with potential income opportunities. The comparison is used to make business decisions like purchasing new equipment, expansion, estimating future sales, and much more.
Famous tax evaders like Floyd Mayweather Jnr. have had some accounting troubles. In 2017 he owed 22 million dollars in tax and was able to pay after a fight that earned him 100 million dollars. There’s only one Floyd Mayweather Jnr, but millions of businesses rely on accounting to make sense of their financial data and stay compliant with financial regulations, so they don’t have to pay fines.
How to prepare for an Accounting degree while in high school
Some high school students have a good idea of what they want to major in, which helps them prepare ahead of time. If you aren’t 100% sure, though, and consider accounting, I will walk you through everything you need to know and do before sending your university application.
- Test the waters with high school classes: The first thing you need to do is enrol for accounting and business classes in your high school. These classes should be available to you in your senior year and are a great way to get an idea of what accounting is and if it is indeed a career path you want to pursue.
Put your thinking cap on too! Accounting and business classes in high school will help you develop the critical thinking and analytical skills you need to excel in the financial world.
- Look for mentors: If you are wondering what life as an accountant feels like then network. There is so much more to a career path than studying. Look for accountants who can inspire you and advise you when you need help. You can ask friends and family to connect you with professional accountants or sign up for LinkedIn and connect with them.
There might be many alumni from your high school who are accountants and would be willing to assist you, so don’t be afraid to reach out. Networking is a great way to advance your career. Ask as many questions as you need to. The only stupid question is the one you don’t ask.
Studying Accounting at the University
Here’s a little personal story. In my first year in university, I had a chemistry lecturer Dr Ayodele who was very invested in the success of the entire class. She commanded a lot of respect, and I admired her.
One day after class, She told us that the easiest way to succeed in university was to study immediately after class. I had mixed feelings about this immediately. Studying immediately after class seemed too difficult. After a few weeks, I gave it a shot and failed and gave it a shot again and failed again (#UndergradLife 😁).
One semester and 50 attempts later, that little habit put me at the top of my class. Needless to say, it was way easier than trying to cram when tests and exams got near.
This is the most important thing you need to succeed in any career, including accounting. Once you build this habit, you won’t have to worry about
- Missing an assignment: If you review your notes after each class, you’ll know what assignments need to be submitted and when.
- Failing impromptu tests: In the university, there are lots of impromptu tests and passing them could mean an extra 5 or 10 marks.
- Missing out on the little details: If you want a deeper understanding of your courses, revising after classes will help you go over course material till you understand the material.
- Having conversations: Remember when I dropped the tip on networking? In order to network better, you’ll need to have conversations with professionals in your field.
- Exam anxiety: You don’t need to study for hours every day for a test. Invest 15 minutes a day after a lecture and you’ll be good to go!
Additional skills every Accountant needs
There are some skills you need to excel as an accountant. I have divided them into soft skills and specialized skills. There’s an article that says it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. That’s about 9 years and sounds pretty intimidating.
Generally, it takes 3–6 months to be good at some skills. But it takes determination, passion and dedication. So please don’t focus on how long it will take, focus on developing the skills themselves. Time will pass anyway!
Soft skills every accountant needs
- Proficiency in Microsoft office
- Time management
- Analytical skills
- Critical thinking
- Problem-solving skills
- Honesty and Integrity
Specialized skills every accountant needs
- Intermediate use of spreadsheet software (Ms excel and Google sheets)
- Proficiency in database reporting software (Zoho Analytics, Microsoft Power BI, Xplenty)
- Financial reporting and analysis
- Enterprise resource planning (ERP) experience (e.g., SAP, Oracle)
- Project management skills
- Account reconciliation (Intuit QuickBooks, Sage 50 Accounting)
Major software used in Accounting
Accounting software allows you to monitor and manage the financial health of your business. When you are getting started, it’s important to not overwhelm yourself by learning how to use every software available. According to professional accountants, here are the most commonly used software in 5 different categories.
Core accounting: Xero, FreshBooks, QuickBooks Desktop
Small business accounting software: QuickBooks Online, Xero, Wave
Enterprise resource planning: SAGE X3, SAP, Microsoft dynamics
Billing and invoicing: Zoho Books, BillQuick, BigTime
Payroll: Netsuite ERP, Quickbooks, Dayforce
How to get a job as an Accountant
Getting your first job fresh out of the university can be a bit intimidating. Here are some pointers to help you from Accounting professionals
- Work for free: Joseph who is an accountant at a top oil and gas company shared with us how early exposure in form of internship helped him build the necessary experience to secure a job as an accountant immediately after his bachelors degree. Working in a professional setting can be daunting at first, but internships are so important because you get hands on experience, and develop your personal character.
- Stay positive: The first job offer might not always be the best for you. Victoria who is now an accountant at a clearing and forwarding company in Nigeria talks about how you need a lot of optimism when searching for a job as an accountant. Her advice is to always show up at interviews with positive energy, recruiters hire who they connect with and not the most qualified.
- Build interpersonal skills: Interpersonal skills will help you build healthy relationships with co-workers and thrive in your workplace and the best time to start building them is before you get a job. Thankfully, you have been building interpersonal skills since the day you were born. Now is the time to pay attention to them and cultivate them even further.
How much do Accountants earn?
|Austria||$ 34, 399|
|Brazil||$ 47, 312|
|Germany||$ 34, 955|
|Nigeria||$ 6, 000|
|South Korea||$ 45,000|
|United States||$ 42,900|
How to stay relevant as an Accountant
After getting a degree in accounting and a job, it’s up to you to stay relevant as an accountant. Employers have higher expectations of their employees than they did a few years ago.
The future of accounting involves a lot more technology than is currently being used. Artificial intelligence, blockchain technology and others are currently disrupting the accounting ecosystem.
Firstly, don’t fight the change! It is a good idea to get hands-on experience on how technologies like blockchain work so you can advise clients appropriately. Nobody wants to take advice on whether or not to invest in cryptocurrency from an accountant who gets their information from the internet just like everyone else. Keep up with industry news and trends, and don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty by experimenting a bit.
Secondly, consider offering a new range of services. There are tons of accounting software’s out there that almost anybody can use, but not everybody can make sense of the data or use it appropriately. Offering consulting services will help you stay relevant. Don’t just take my word for it. This study shows that the top reason businesses changed their accountant is that “former CPA didn’t give proactive advice, only reactive service.”
Lastly, become a lifelong learner. If there’s anything the Pandemic of 2020 has taught us, it’s that anything and everything can change. Upskilling, being open to new opportunities, and setting yourself apart makes it easier to adapt to unexpected changes. By continuing to learn, you’ll more easily step out of your comfort zone, become invaluable to your organization or even take on new job opportunities.
How hard is Accounting according professionals?
I asked two accountants how difficult accounting is, and here’s their response.
Accounting involves following laid down rules and regulations. According to Joseph, once you understand and follow the standard like the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), the rest is easy.
Victoria agrees with Joseph. Accounting is not particularly difficult, especially when you have the right foundation and the basics of accounting principles are well understood. However, to soar high in the accounting profession, be prepared to always add more certifications to your profile and relevant work experience.
How hard is Accounting compared to other business degrees?
A business degree covers a lot more than accounting. When studying for a business degree, you’ll typically do courses in
- Business management
- Project management
- Human resource management
On the other hand, accounting is commonly called the language of business and is more narrow in scope than a business degree.
How hard is accounting compared to other business degrees? Well, that depends on you. For some people getting a degree that covers different individual career paths is easier since it’s more flexible, and they can test out other career paths within the same field. For others, specializing in one career path like accounting might favour their learning style and background knowledge.
“When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.”Peter Marshall
If you have decided that you want to pursue a career in accounting, don’t let fear of the unknown hold you back. Accounting isn’t a difficult career path and offers many opportunities. Contrary to popular belief, accounting doesn’t involve advanced math and statistics skills. Rather accounting requires a good understanding of business, following laid down standards and attention to detail.
Are you interested in accounting? Let me know in the comments
Ready to pursue a degree in accounting? Speak to a consultant