During my sophomore year of high school, my friend’s dad posed a question to me that would end up having a lifelong impact on my chosen vocation. He asked me if I had ever considered accounting as a career. Not only had I never considered it, the truth was that I really did not even know what accounting really involved. To me, it was just some type of math that went along with balancing one’s checkbook. After a few more discussions with my friend’s dad, who just happened to be a senior partner at an accounting firm, I found myself sitting in a high school accounting class. The rest is, as they say, history!
Accounting College Courses
Many of the students that I encounter for the first time in an introductory accounting course in college have the same impression that I did about the subject. They believe that it is basically just another math class with some type of business application. What they don’t realize is that accounting, at its core, is in fact an information system.
The formal definition of accounting that I like to use is: Accounting is an information system designed to provide transparency and a comparable basis from which a business communicates key data and outcomes to users and stakeholders about the economic activities and overall financial condition of the enterprise. As I present it on the first day of class, accounting is the “language of business”. This information system does use a basic math process to reflect that all of the data collected is constantly in balance. We call it the “accounting equation” which is Assets equal Liabilities plus Capital. That is pretty much as hard as the math part of accounting gets, the rest is mastering the concepts of the language of accounting (which I will see you in class if you’re so inclined for that journey!)
Accounting Career Options in 2021
So, back to my discussion with my high school friend’s dad. What does a career in the accounting field actually look like? What I learned is that it can take on a myriad of different forms from traditional to very niche and everything in between. In fact, with today’s advances in technology, the role of the accountant has expanded with the growth of data analytics, blockchain, and other recent innovations related to the world of business information.
Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Role and Requirements
The more traditional roles in accounting are centered around the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation. This national certification exam coupled with individual state licensure helps to ensure to the general public that the accountant is competent in the general tenants of the practice of accounting. CPAs in public practice provide tax services, perform audits of a company’s financial information, and offer a variety of consulting services such as strategic planning, risk management, budgeting, and financial planning. CPA’s and non-CPA accountants also work in the private and governmental sectors in a variety of roles such as Chief Financial Officers, Controllers, Budget Officers, Internal Auditors, Analysts, and staff accountants.
Nontraditional Accounting Jobs
Outside of the traditional roles of accountants, some of the more specialized roles today have been advancing with new technology and the use of artificial intelligence (AI). For example, forensic accounting combines auditing with investigative skills and the use of sophisticated AI software to examine financial information and records for situations of possible fraud, embezzlement, and other suspicious financial activity. Another example of a more specialized role of an accountant today is the focus on certain industries such as real estate, healthcare, etc., or an emphasis in entrepreneurial areas such as mergers and acquisitions. Regardless of the area of specialization, new innovations in technology have increased the ability and the demand for these niche areas of accounting practice.
The Future of Accounting
Although the future of accounting job growth is somewhat tied to the overall economic health of the country, most of the job data show a steady growth rate of up to 6% in accounting related jobs. According to a recent U.S. News and World Report, accountants also rank number 13 in the best business jobs. Accounting offers a flexible work environment with the ability to work remotely. It also can be a seasonal job which may be appealing to different individuals who want to have extended time off, say during the summer months. Accounting offers a professional work environment and the added credentials afforded by the CPA designation.
So, if you are a detailed-oriented individual, with analytical skills, and good written communication abilities, an accounting career may be an option for you to explore. That question posed to me long ago definitely proved to be a pivotal moment in my academic career choice!
To learn more about the various business degrees offered at the West Texas A & M University Paul and Virginia Engler College of Business, click here.