One of the most universally necessary careers out there is that of an accountant. Why? Every business needs one. Be it a large business which will have a fleet of accountants in-house managing their accounts or answering to their CEO, or be it a small business who just needs someone handling the books year-round and managing the taxes come tax season, every business will need the advice and guidance of an accountant at some point. Here are five simple steps to gaining success on your way to becoming an accountant.
1. Choose a focus
Not all accountants do taxes. You can get jobs working as a junior accountant with minimal schooling, doing simple taxes, light accounts receivable or accounts payable, and getting a feel for what interests you. But there are other options out there, such as forensic accounting or social accounting. Try them out.
2. Be detail oriented
Remember, “close” only counts in horseshoes and hand-grenades. As an accountant, you won’t just get to decide that the figures are “close enough”. If there is a penny missing somewhere, chances are good that you’ll have to find where it is and account for its loss.
3. Love numbers, calculators and spreadsheets
You’re going to be seeing a lot of them. Granted, the spreadsheets and calculators can do a lot of the maths for you, but you’re going to still have to have an idea of how to create formulas, and you’re going to be double- or triple-checking all of your work. If numbers bore you, or if you are not comfortable using spreadsheets, then this is not the career for you.
4. Become intimately comfortable with GAAP
“GAAP” stands for Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, and it refers to the accounting standards for any given geographical area of practice, generally differing by nation. Learn the GAAP for your chosen accounting field of interest for your region of residence and practice, and become somewhat knowledgeable of the GAAP for other fields of study as well, because you will need to.
5. Be prepared
Once your friends and family know that you’re an accountant, they will want you to do their taxes, give them financial advice, or do the finances for their small business. And of course, they will want all of this pro bono, since you are closely associated. You need to make the choice whether or not to help them, but you also need to realise that your time is still valuable, and it ought not be given away for free. However, some judicial gifting of work to friends and family might bring in additional business by word of mouth, so be wise.
The most convenient schooling is that which is done online. For the best place to find online or campus schools anywhere world wide, PETAP.org is the place to go. Starting there will help you narrow down your choices more so than a simple web search, as you’ll be able to search for schools that offer your particular major and level of degree. You’ll be sure to find a school that meets your specific needs for studying accounting.
Will this article help you achieve career success in accounting? Let us know in the comments below.
Photo: 401(K) 2012 / Flickr
Karleia is a freelance blogger and mother to two young daughters.