8 answers

What should I prepare myself for if I intend on going into accounting as a career?

Asked Moss Point, Mississippi

8 answers

Matthew’s Answer

Hi Madison,

This is an excellent question.

For accounting, I would be prepared for a career that challenging and unlike anything that you are learning currently in high school. Accounting is very different from most of the subjects that you will study in high school. Math is involved in accounting but most of the math for accounting is very basic.

Accounting is mostly rules based and there is a lot of logic and writing involved. I often joke that a career in accounting is a combination of tech support, investigating journalist, English major, phycologist, mathematician, and professional sports referee. There is a lot more involved than just math and the typical things you think about with accounting.

Going into college I would be prepared to learn a different skill set and a way of thinking than you have learned before. Your college classes will be very different than what you have learned before. Be prepared to be a little uncomfortable and be patent with the learning. It usually does not come easy at first and takes some time to learn what accounting really is and the concepts. 

Cody’s Answer

Updated Waltham, Massachusetts

Hi Madison,

Great Question! In my opinion there are 2 main things I think that students should focus on for a successful career in accounting.

First, one must have the basic accounting skills that can be obtained through a traditional Bachelors degree from and accredited business school. This will lay the foundational understanding of what accounting really is and why it is important to decision makers.

The second, and arguably more important focus is technology. If you're going to go to school for accounting, I would recommend either minoring or taking some courses in data analytics, comp sci, or MIS. Accounting, like all fields is rapidly changing and there's no telling what the field will look like when you graduate college, let alone 20 years in the future. One thing we can be sure of is that technology will play a greater roll than it does today and having a base understanding of the power of technology and what certain tools can do will be a big differentiator. (https://www.journalofaccountancy.com/newsletters/2018/nov/prepare-future-accounting.html)

I hope this helps!

-Cody




Justin’s Answer

Updated Burlington, North Carolina

Hi Madison, I would second what Rachel said above. I am also a Tax Associate at PwC and at times there are pretty long hours. That is one of the biggest things to prepare for when entering public accounting. While we do work long hours there are also slower times where we are able to invest in ourselves. The work is very rewarding and our firm provides many opportunities for on the job training and other ways for us to help grow ourselves and get better at our jobs. Having an open mind and being willing to do anything a few times to figure out what you like the most is a great way to start preparing.

Rachel’s Answer

Updated

Depending on where you work as an accountant, it can be a demanding job. As Tax Associate at PwC (one of the Big 4 public accounting firms), I work pretty long hours.

You should also be prepared to work with numbers a lot, since no matter where you work as an accountant that's what you'll be doing. We rarely do complex math, but there's still plenty of data entry and simple formulas.

I'd suggest also planning on becoming a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) because it opens up many career opportunities.


Since it's such a broad field, those are my general tips. I'd suggest trying to figure out what you want to do specifically since there are so many different options, and those different options require different preparations.

Rachel recommends the following next steps:

  • Think about what you like to do and what you are good at, then narrow down what field of accounting you'd like to work in (assuming you're still interested in accounting).

Ken’s Answer

Updated Cleveland, Ohio

The most important thing that you can to is to get to know yourself better to determine if this is a suitable career area for you and then talk to people who are doing what you think that you might want to do to see the inside view of the job and get their advice and suggestions on how to proceed.


Getting to know yourself and how your personality traits relate to people involved in various career opportunities is very important in your decision making process. During my many years in Human Resources and College Recruiting, I ran across too many students who had skipped this very important step and ended up in a job situation which for which they were not well suited. Selecting a career area is like buying a pair of shoes. First you have to be properly fitted for the correct size, and then you need to try on and walk in the various shoe options to determine which is fits the best and is most comfortable for you to wear. Following are some important steps which I developed during my career which have been helpful to many .

Ken recommends the following next steps:

  • The first step is to take an interest and aptitude test and have it interpreted by your school counselor to see if you share the personality traits necessary to enter the field. You might want to do this again upon entry into college, as the interpretation might differ slightly due to the course offering of the school. However, do not wait until entering college, as the information from the test will help to determine the courses that you take in high school. Too many students, due to poor planning, end up paying for courses in college which they could have taken for free in high school.
  • Next, when you have the results of the testing, talk to the person at your high school and college who tracks and works with graduates to arrange to talk to, visit, and possibly shadow people doing what you think that you might want to do, so that you can get know what they are doing and how they got there. Here are some tips: ## http://www.wikihow.com/Network ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/nonawkward-ways-to-start-and-end-networking-conversations ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/4-questions-to-ask-your-network-besides-can-you-get-me-a-job?ref=carousel-slide-1 ##
  • Next, when you have the results of the testing, talk to the person at your high school and college who tracks and works with graduates to arrange to talk to, visit, and possibly shadow people doing what you think that you might want to do, so that you can get know what they are doing and how they got there. Here are some tips: ## http://www.wikihow.com/Network ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/nonawkward-ways-to-start-and-end-networking-conversations ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/4-questions-to-ask-your-network-besides-can-you-get-me-a-job?ref=carousel-slide-1 ##
  • It is very important to express your appreciation to those who help you along the way to be able to continue to receive helpful information and to create important networking contacts along the way. Here are some good tips: ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/the-informational-interview-thank-you-note-smart-people-know-to-send?ref=recently-published-2 ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/3-tips-for-writing-a-thank-you-note-thatll-make-you-look-like-the-best-candidate-alive?bsft_eid=7e230cba-a92f-4ec7-8ca3-2f50c8fc9c3c&bsft_pid=d08b95c2-bc8f-4eae-8618-d0826841a284&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=daily_20171020&utm_source=blueshift&utm_content=daily_20171020&bsft_clkid=edfe52ae-9e40-4d90-8e6a-e0bb76116570&bsft_uid=54658fa1-0090-41fd-b88c-20a86c513a6c&bsft_mid=214115cb-cca2-4aec-aa86-92a31d371185&bsft_pp=2 ##

Andrew’s Answer

Hi Madison,

First and foremost, you should enter the field of public accounting with an open mind. There are various paths to take to jumpstart your career in this field. I am currently a first year associate at PwC and feel that the biggest thing you should prepare yourself for is being apart of a team. You will work across various industries and be on several different teams. The basis for a quality audit is having a functioning, hardworking team. Secondly, you should prepare yourself for the work itself. At some points during the year you should understand you will be working long hours. It certainly is difficult at times but keeping a positive attitude throughout is crucial.

Emily’s Answer

Updated Portland, Oregon

Hi Madison,

Great question! I would prepare to both be working with numbers as well as with lots of different people. There are a lot of different paths to take within accounting (public/private, tax/audit, etc), all of which will use both technical skills as well as interpersonal skills to be successful.

My background is in audit and in my experience I've used a variety of technical skills from math and analytic skills to writing and documentation based skills, which I found to be surprising. Going into college, I would embrace all the different subjects even those that you don't think have a direct correlation to accounting specifically because you never know what different skill sets you can learn from all of the different activities and classes!

Katie’s Answer

One thing I was surprised about (in a good way) is that there are so many options available within accounting. I work on the tax side of accounting, working on accounting for income taxes, and every day I feel like I'm learning something new. Even just within Tax there are so many options! If you know anyone in the accounting field, I would definitely recommend asking them to share more about their day-to-day experiences and what they specialize in, as well.