I was not a good accounting student. Despite trying hard, always showing up to class, and doing most of the homework, my brain just didn’t seem wired to be a great accountant. Regardless, I still think everybody should major in accounting, whether they work in the field or not. Let me explain.
To clarify, I didn’t struggle in accounting classes and then throw in the towel because of that. I actually struggled about the same amount as friends of mine who went to midsize or Big 4 firms. A lot of them have been successful and earned their CPA license since we graduated in June 2017. The main reason was that I worked in two internships during college—one was sales and marketing for a startup, and the other was in accounting with a large company.
In a nutshell, I did well in the sales job and had a lot of trouble getting my head around simple tasks in the accounting one. There were definitely some external factors at play, but I still don’t think I would have made it six months in public or corporate accounting if I’d done that right out of school. The other thing was that I did want to try a full-time sales gig and figured it would always be easier to transition from sales into an accounting job rather than accounting to sales.
The language of business
Anybody who has ever majored in business has probably at some point heard how “accounting is the language of business.” Well, it’s true. More accurately, accounting is the language of any entity that deals with money or other mediums of exchange. Understanding the basics of accounting is key to fully understanding how a place of work functions. Chances are if you don’t completely understand the place where you’re employed, that might reflect negatively on your reputation (eventually).
As a retired partner (also my tax professor) once said, “Bad economy or good economy, everybody still needs accountants.” I know there’s lots of outsourcing happening and some jobs are being cut because of the pandemic, but most people who work for firms or do any kind of complex accounting work are probably safe. At least the non-bottom 10% are safe.
I’m pretty sure CLA’s website used to say “we want the entrepreneurs” in their career section or something like that. Not what I’m talking about. For some reason, it seemed like the second I cracked open my first accounting textbook sophomore year, I’ve since been seeing business opportunities everywhere. That was, like, six years ago and it hasn’t stopped.
This is where you’ll think I’m fully insane. I swear on my 2017 copy of Becker’s FAR that whenever I need to get over a hurdle with one of my business-attempt projects, I read a couple pages out of one of the CPA books. I’m literally studying for the exam (an outdated version of it at least) because it’s helping me get closer to making money online at some point. Almost every major design or tech milestone I’ve cleared with building my main project always seems to come after I rip through 30 pages and a few practice problems (so far with FAR). I genuinely don’t think I’d be filing a patent soon if it wasn’t for reading these $10 books off Amazon.
How will it affect you?
Even though everybody’s different, it still wouldn’t hurt to study accounting. If you don’t have a plan and no major really sticks out in school, it’s like, what’s the worst that could happen? You could major in one of those ones where no real jobs exist, that’s what.
I get that there probably aren’t many undecided college students reading Going Concern. Fine. Please send this to your 19-year-old cousin who’s still scared of accounting from that time they saw you on April 16.
About the author:
Bob Buckley is an account executive with a major legal book publisher. He’s been getting into writing and blogging more to stay sane during the quarantine.