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September 26, 2023

Is Accounting Still a Great College Major?

Do you wonder if every decision you've made is wrong? Not sure if you should eat the Hot Pocket that clearly has someone else's name on it? Have you gotten to the point where you're ready to take questionable advice from someone on the Internet? Email us your questions.

Hey GC,
I'm an undergraduate student studying accounting and I feel like I kind of enjoy my accounting coursework. At the very least, I don't hate it. However, I find it irksome that there seems to be so many people, especially on GC, that hates the Big 4 and public accounting. Some seem to find solace in industry, but others are just miserable as an accountant altogether. What's up with all the hate? Should I be changing majors?
Let me explain something about this little corner of the sandbox – people come here to bitch – LOUDLY – about their careers and there are various reasons for that. They're upset that they got a lousy raise. They're upset that the profession is considered the blue-collar class of the white-collar world. They're upset that their firm won't stop spouting platitudes about leadership, integrity, and professional service excellence when evidence points directly to the contrary.
A lot of the people around here got into accounting because it provides security and some decent money. There are plenty of jobs and from a practical standpoint, accounting usually results in hard and fast answers (e.g. Assets = Liabilities + Equity). I believe this is the "solace" you speak of. Some people discover that they don't really need "solace" or any other kind of security. They want adventure, excitement, and yes, maybe something slightly more creative and little less analytical. It happens all the time. 
But back to you – you enjoy accounting; that's good. But you're concerned about all the kvetching you read about the Big 4 and public accounting, the miserable people and wonder what's up with all the hate. The reasons I outlined above are largely based in cynicism. Another reason accountants complain about their careers is simply because they are burned out and need to start fresh somewhere else. You'd be surprised what some years outside the Big 4 (or public accounting for that matter) will do for your perspective. 
Yet another reason accountants complain is that they've discovered that career in accounting is not what they thought it would be. They can't BELIEVE they got caught up in they hype of getting a "hot major" only to find out that it's really corporate-y and some of the people aren't really that fun to be around. The only solace thoseat thpeople have is that they know they can come here and shake their collective fists at the sky without fear of retribution.
Now, there are plenty of people that do enjoy their careers as accountants and they do speak up from time to time, but they also know that trying to convince their jaded colleagues to be grateful for a diverse career choice, and a decent salary is wasted breath. There's not much point in trying to reconvert someone who has checked out of the faith.
As for changing majors, what you really need to decide is if you want to be an accountant/CPA. If the answer is yes, then continue on. If the answer is, "well, I'm not sure," then I think you might have to do a little soul searching.  Don't make it your focus if that's not the type of work you want to do. Major in something else and keep the accounting as a minor (if that's even possible) or a second major. Yes, I realize that's ambitious but it will make for an excellent background for whatever you get yourself into; having the ability to read financial statements and track money and will always come in handy. Good luck.

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