Accounting is the study of the creation and organization of business records. Every organization, business, company and charity has an accounting team or deals with an accountant at some point during the year. Graduates of accounting degrees pursue careers in public accounting, private accounting, and government and nonprofit accounting. Students who are interested in this line of work can start preparing early by taking certain math classes while still in high school.
Students who are interested in accounting typically pursue a Bachelor of Science degree. Requirements vary across universities and programs, but many require students to complete 120 to 124 total credit hours. Approximately 60 credit hours are taken up by general education requirements that give students a broad experience in the liberal arts. The other 60 credit hours are filled by foundational courses and electives in accounting. A major in accounting requires students to take calculus, an advanced mathematics courses, and to be familiar and comfortable with the math that is a prerequisite for this course.
High school students interested in majoring in accounting in college should take as many courses as their high schools offer. Most high schools require students to take a year of pre-algebra, algebra 1 and algebra 2, with each course serving as a prerequisite for the one after it. These classes introduce students to concepts such as variables, radicals, slope of the line, and systems of linear equations, and focus on teaching students how to solve different types of equations. These courses are required knowledge for all later high school and college courses in mathematics, and accounting departments expect most students to come into the major knowing this material.
Another important high school class for anyone interested in accounting is pre-calculus. Pre-calculus, also known as trigonometry, is typically offered as a one-year course and prepares students for calculus, the most rigorous high school mathematics course available. Pre-calculus builds on the topics introduced in algebra, such as linear equations, but goes a step further in teaching students how to solve and graph these equations. In particular, in pre-calculus students learn how to graph different equations using a pen and paper as well as a graphing calculator, an important tool for both high school and college calculus. Because most bachelor’s programs in accounting expect students to go straight into calculus, prospective accounting majors should take pre-calculus in high school.
In addition to algebra and pre-calculus, many prospective accounting majors also take calculus in high school. Calculus is the study of the rate of change of functions and most bachelor's programs in accounting require students to take at least one course in calculus. In high schools, calculus is typically divided into two advanced placement courses: advanced placement calculus AB and advanced placement calculus BC. Students who succeed in one or both of these classes have the option of taking the advanced placement exam at the end of the year and receiving college credit. Students who do not pass the exam, or choose not to take it, still benefit from taking this class because it gives them a good introduction into what to expect from the college-level calculus in their accounting programs.
Kate Prudchenko has been a writer and editor for five years, publishing peer-reviewed articles, essays, and book chapters in a variety of publications including Immersive Environments: Future Trends in Education and Contemporary Literary Review India. She has a BA and MS in Mathematics, MA in English/Writing, and is completing a PhD in Education.