There are stigmas surrounding just about every class or college major out there. For example, those who study art will never be able to find a good job. Or, nursing majors have no social life. For accounting, the most common stereotype in circulation is that it’s incredibly challenging.
Maybe you’re considering a degree in accounting, or you’re studying business but you need to take an accounting class to complete your education. You’re likely wondering, “Is accounting a hard major?” The honest answer is: yes, and no. Certain aspects of accounting can be complex, but ultimately it requires hard work and studying just like other college classes. Not to mention, when you look at the advantages of becoming an accountant, the time and energy you devote to learning are more than worth it.
What Does an Accountant Do?
First it’s important to have a clear image of what an accountant does. Your average, everyday accountant updates financial information for businesses, government groups, or individual clients. They carefully comb the balance sheets to make sure everything is correct and current.
Some accountants are employed by large firms, while others are independent contractors. Some work full-time for one company, and some work part-time, putting in more hours during tax season or end-of-year budgeting. Becoming an accountant gives you a lot of options, including the freedom to specialize in a specific area based on your interests.
For instance, a payroll clerk checks time cards and issues paychecks, while someone who works in accounts receivable prepares invoices for clients and makes bank deposits. These positions need to be filled in hotels, ecommerce businesses, hospitals, heating and cooling companies, and many other places. Just because accounting is all about numbers doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of variety in jobs!
Benefits of Becoming an Accountant
When looking at the pros and cons of going into accounting, the pros are particularly alluring. Becoming an accountant brings job security, especially if you earn your CPA license, which we will dive into more later on. Job growth in the field of accounting is continually on the rise, with accountants in demand all across the country, so you won’t be tied down to a certain location. If you are someone who doesn’t deal with change well, accounting offers a clear career path with no surprises on the horizon.
Accountants have the promise of a high salary to look forward to as well, earning an average of about $70k annually in the United States, and there are always opportunities for advancement. In fact, fast progression is common in the field of accounting. You could strive for a management position or gain a specialty, like forensic accounting. There are options out there for virtually any industry you think is interesting, from employment by the federal government to working for independent music artists. No matter which segment of accounting you end up in, you’ll enjoy career diversity and greater job satisfaction.
As an accountant, you’ll have access to a fantastic network of professionals who want to help you learn and grow. With today’s technology and software, the duties you’re asked to perform will be easier than ever, so you can concentrate on furthering your knowledge instead of getting hung-up on small tasks. Being an accountant is a well-respected, prestigious and rewarding job that’s an excellent choice for the right person.
What Are Accounting Classes Like?
Part of knowing if you and accounting would make a good match is hearing about what the classes are like. As we discussed, accounting is basically tracking a company’s assets to ensure what’s coming in and what’s going out are all balanced correctly. You’ll be logging transactions, making ledgers, and organizing items into different categories. There’s expenses, revenue, liabilities, owner’s equity, and much more.
One assumption that’s often made about accounting is that it will involve very difficult math. However, just because accountants work with numbers all day doesn’t mean accounting is full of complex equations. In reality, the math used in accounting is fairly simple, relying on basic addition and subtraction, multiplication and division, and a bit of algebra. None of it goes beyond a high school level. If you’re studying business, the calculus or statistics classes you’ll have to take will likely be harder than accounting. So if you aren’t skilled at math or you dislike it as a subject, accounting will be tolerable and not impossible to pass.
The bulk of accounting is spent looking over balance sheets. This calls for high attention to detail and remembering all the rules you’re taught so you’ll be able to put the right numbers in the right spots. Though accounting is based around a lot of numbers and a little math, good verbal and written communication skills are also required, as with many other majors. Your professors will take time teaching you how to write for business.
When it comes down to it, accounting is about mastering a skill set and then using it to complete repetitive tasks. In your first couple of accounting classes, you’ll discover whether you want to continue pursuing it or not. Maybe you’ll find it too complex after all. Maybe your mind doesn’t work in the same way as the logic of accounting principles, or maybe it’s just too boring for you. However, if you can understand the basics in the beginner classes, it will be easy to take that knowledge with you to the advanced, upper level classes.
Advice for Accounting College Classes
Of course, some of the rules of thumb for college in general apply here:
- Attendance is key.
- Participation is recommended.
- You should always pay attention during lectures.
However, much of this goes double for accounting. Its vocabulary and processes are built to be logical, so it’s important to understand the “why” behind everything you encounter.
If possible, attend every class period. Trying not to miss even one lesson is essential so you can stay on top of the material — because every lesson relates to the next. Take good notes so you can refer to them later when studying or doing homework. Participate in class to hone your skills and see what you need to spend time practicing. Also, pay attention to the types of questions that will show up on the exam, as professors often hint at them.
Be on the lookout for patterns in equations, too. Formulating methods for calculation, like a numbered list of steps that helps you tackle homework problems, is necessary for success. If you pay close attention to the techniques used for solving problems, you’ll be just fine. It’s also good to brush up on all the technical terms and know the difference between ones that seem similar.
In class, you’ll be able to use a calculator and work with spreadsheet programs on the computer. While you’ll spend a lot of your time staring at sheets of numbers, it’s not the numbers themselves that matter. Rather, it’s how those numbers are applied. Looking at what are the numbers a part of and making sense of everything is a vital role in keeping a business running smoothly.
Accounting college classes can present a challenge. Be prepared to analyze and improve your time management skills because you’ll probably put in quite a few hours of studying or homework a week. Though this may lead you to ask, “Is accounting hard to learn?” you’ll see that the answer is “not necessarily.” It mainly calls for improving your study habits and putting the effort in to achieve success.
If you haven’t already, figure out what your style of learning is. Are you a visual learner, or do you have to hear things for them to stick in your mind? You could create a stack of flashcards with all the definitions of terms you need to know, or you could ask your professor if it’d be okay to record lectures so you can listen to them later. This will make your college experience as a whole easier, but it’s especially useful for passing accounting college classes.
Be ready to revamp your study routine slightly, too. It’s highly suggested that you look for a quiet place to study accounting where you won’t have distractions. Organize your class notes, homework, and exams so you’ll know where to find the information you need. Keep up as best you can with the assigned readings so you can follow along with the lecture in class. If it would be beneficial, reread any sections or technical terms you’re having trouble grasping.
Additionally, try to understand the concept behind the lesson you’re covering instead of simply working to answer every single homework problem correctly. Be sure you aren’t relying on memorizing the solutions, either. You want to really solidify the concepts you’re learning in your brain, so you might even want to complete practice problems beyond what you’ve been assigned. Make notes on the problems you got wrong or the concepts you’re struggling with, then ask your professor your questions during class or their office hours. Don’t feel bashful about doing so — it’s their job to help you learn, and you won’t come off like a nuisance.
When studying accounting, concentrate on improving your weak points instead of trying to spend an equal amount of time with all of the material. Not only that, but don’t spend several hours in a row hammering out equations or trying to understand concepts. Staying up all night studying won’t do you any favors. Instead, study in short bursts, spaced out by healthy eating or relaxation. This will give you time to truly absorb the information.
Tips on Becoming an Accountant
As you finish more and more accounting college classes and graduation approaches, the first thing on your mind will be how to secure a job. It’s good to remember that success in the field of accounting isn’t about the grades you earn, but it’s about developing your skills enough to have a shot at employment and to perform well as an accountant.
One way to develop your skills is to land an internship before you graduate. This will provide hands-on experience in your field, further showing you whether this is the career path you want to take. It’s also smart to join an accounting organization for the networking opportunities it will present.
After you earn your degree, it’s time to pick a specialty. There’s internal auditing, corporate or business accounting, taxes, and a whole lot more. Think back on what you got a taste of in class or through your internship. What did you prefer doing? Were any tasks easier or more enjoyable than others? Answering these questions will give you an idea of which area you might want to specialize in.
You should also decide between becoming an accountant or a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). While becoming a CPA requires more work, it will enable you to perform more tasks, such as reviewing statements or representing clients before the IRS. To become a CPA, you’ll need your bachelor’s degree in hand as well as enough units under your belt to qualify to sit for the CPA exam. Most states want you to have taken at least 150 credit hours of classes at an accredited college or university, with a certain number of those being accounting or business courses.
If you are eligible to take the CPA exam, it will involve four sections: Auditing and Attestation, Business Environment and Concepts, Financial Accounting and Reporting, and Regulation. You’ll be given a maximum of four hours of testing time to complete each section. The exam features multiple-choice questions and task-based simulations, and the Business Environments and Concepts section also includes written responses. Tutorials and sample tests are available online. After you pass the CPA exam and work a set number of hours under the supervision of a licensed CPA, you’ll be able to be certified as a CPA.
For greater employment opportunities in the future, like managerial positions, you should consider getting your master’s degree, becoming licensed, and pursuing further certification of some kind. Advancements in the field of accounting are simple — if you’re willing to put in the extra work.
Study Accounting at Vista College
If you find yourself wanting to take the first steps toward studying accounting but aren’t sure where to start, the Associate Degree in Business Management-Accounting from Vista College in El Paso is a good choice. There’s a wide range of accounting subject matter covered, so you’ll have no trouble discovering a specialty that catches your interest. The accounting college classes are built on a solid foundation of business education, with instructors who offer real-world training. Their years of business and accounting experience will introduce you to concepts you can apply directly to the workplace.
As we mentioned, there are dozens of job opportunities available for those with a background in accounting. Vista College will prepare you for success in positions such as accounts payable or receivable clerk, bookkeeper, or payroll clerk. Through Career Services Assistance, you’ll have access to a network of local business contacts as well. You’ll gain tips for a better job search strategy, learn how to impress in an interview, revise your resume, and have practice writing personalized cover letters.
If you’ve ever wondered if accounting is difficult, the answer is that it doesn’t have to be. Whether you’re mulling over career options in your mind and wondering about becoming an accountant, or you’re pursuing a business degree with accounting classes listed in the requirements, don’t be worried. There’s no reason to avoid accounting. It calls for hard work and commitment just like other college majors, but it isn’t impossible to master, and the benefits largely outweigh any fears or apprehensions you may have. Let our college campus in El Paso help you begin the path to greatness with an AAS degree. Enroll today!