Accounting as a career field has been around since the beginning of time. Ever since the powers that be needed to have inventories of what was harvested, what resources were available, and what they could use to march armies around, accounting in some form or manner existed. Scribes were the ancient form of the accountant, as evidenced by the recovery of clay records from ancient Egypt. Today, the field is a bit more comfortable to work in, focused more on accounting work, math, and reporting than it was on finding a proper clay-etching tool. That said, there are key aspects one can focus on to improve their chances of getting into the industry with a good start. Here are valuable tips on how to be an accountant.
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Are You the Personality Type?
There is no requirement for a specific personality type for accounting, but some types work far better than others. Accounting as a practice is a very regimented system. Rules make up the framework for accounting and every task is checked against the same. There is also a clear need for attention to detail. Many times, users have to wait for others to complete their tasks to begin work as accounting processes work sequentially versus at the same time. So, being patient, accurate, persistent, and comfortable with rules are all advantages for this career choice.
At the high school level, math and statistics are both good topics to become very comfortable in for accounting. At the college level, taking actual accounting classes helps with understanding the rules mentioned above as well as how to perform general accounting tasks within the framework of the practice. Everything from ledgers to transactions to specific reports is learned and practiced. This prepares a person to produce generic accounting work on a consistent basis. However, much of today’s accounting work uses computers and databases, so probably the most important class to take involves using a specific accounting software. Otherwise, many small businesses use a form of spreadsheets, which are also a bread-and-butter office tool every accounting type person should be comfortable with.
Accounting as a Gateway to Other Finance
Fundamentally, accounting provides a standard method of tracking how an organization or business spends its money. Understanding how to prepare, update, and report on the same is how accounting is performed every day. With this foundation, a candidate could then expand their career path into being a finance analyst, a stock analyst, a budget analyst, a tax preparer, and a finance manager over all of these fields as well as traditional accounting.
Focus on Going Beyond Transactions
One of the pitfalls of accounting involves getting stuck at the ground level, processing transactions. While the career path has multiple levels of accounting technician work, starting from a bookkeeper up to an accounting officer, they are all at the end of the day just processors. To be able to grow in accounting, as well as consider starting your own business, a candidate needs to be willing to do work beyond just handling accounting data. That includes learning how to audit, how to run custom reports, how to manage people and lead teams, and how to design databases. All of these skills work extremely well with accounting and provide opportunities for promotion. Ultimately, a person will end up needing to choose between being a manager or pursuing a certified public accountant license to start a business or gain specialized work. Either way, people only get to this level by being willing to continue to learn and improve their accounting knowledge base.
There is a tremendous amount of accounting help needed even once a person is done with their primary career or has moved on to other paths. Personal income tax, for example, continues to be an area where many people need help filing their reports to the IRS and similar. Volunteers with an accounting background can be an essential resource for these audiences, especially those who can’t read well or process math competently but still need to file their taxes. These programs are also good for current college students and recent graduates looking for work and who need relevant experience versus being school-trained only. Both the federal government and state governments regularly operate volunteer programs to meet this need. So, there is always room for accounting skills, especially where you can help your community part-time.