An accountant is a vital part of a small business or management team. They work hard and efficiently to help with the overall success of the firm or team. Accounting is not just about the numbers. The courses you take to get a degree in accounting matter on many levels during and after college.
School Subjects Required for Accounting
There is a laundry list of subjects that you need to take to prepare yourself for a successful career in accounting. A well-rounded course load will prepare you for the business and the particulars of the profession. During the first year or two of college, a prospective accountant should lay a solid foundation of the basic courses, such as math and English, before moving on to more selective and advanced accounting classes.
The subjects in an accounting course of study include:
- General study of finance and management
- Cost accounting and management
- Income tax
- Accounting systems and auditing
These will create a launch pad to delve into more specific accounting subjects. Any experience an accounting student can gain at his current job or by volunteering for school groups or for events while serving in some sort of accounting capacity will also help with accounting career goals.
Beyond the Basics
An accountant needs to do more than be able to crunch numbers. The list of courses a budding accountant needs to complete in college covers a wide swath of interests. This will help to make the graduate more attractive to future employers or graduate admissions officials.
Aside from the basic school subjects required for accounting classes, an accounting major needs to take a bevy of different types of financial and management courses, legal aspects of accounting, statement analysis, professional standards and ethics, planning and consulting and tax accounting among other classes that delve deeper into this constantly changing industry.
Getting an Early Start
High school classes needed for accounting can prepare a young student for a future in the field. Ideally, a student expecting to launch an accounting career should take classes in more than just math, statistics and management. Successful accountants have a background that serves them, their clients and their business on many levels.
High school classes for accounting include completing two years of high school algebra, geometry and at least one additional advanced math class, such as precalculus and calculus. If you already know the college or business school you hope to attend to get your accounting degree, check the school’s admission requirements well before you graduate high school.
Accounting prerequisites taken in high school include more than just algebra, statistics and the standard laundry list of analytical courses. Aside from math courses, students expecting to pursue a career in accounting should round out their high school studies. Classes in physics, chemistry and biology can help a student prepare for a higher education in accounting.
Getting Ahead Early in School
Any advanced placement courses that you can take in high school can help you with college admissions as well as obtaining internships or entry-level accounting jobs while you go after an accounting degree.
The following class subjects will help to set a solid foundation for a successful future in accounting:
- Computer coding and applications
These can reinforce concepts learned in other classes such as math to further develop and use critical-thinking skills.
Subjects to Supplement Accounting Degrees
A truly talented accountant has many interests. A good candidate also has experience in how to engage with and handle people as well as numbers. Take courses in behavioral science, humanities and social studies to create a rich foundation for your future career in accounting.
Take time to volunteer for a variety of charities, small business events, job fairs or other areas that interest you. This can not only expand your resume but also open doors to areas of accounting that you may not have known interested you before. A good accountant can work well with many different types of people across varying areas of interest.
Associate or Bachelor's Degree?
If you are looking to just get your foot in the door with an entry-level position, an associate degree can offer a solid foundation for beginning your career. An associate degree in accounting will cover the essentials of accounting, technical aspects and bookkeeping. This is a good route if you plan to work in the following areas:
- a trainee for a management position in an accounting capacity
- a bookkeeper, billing clerk or payroll clerk for a small business
- an accounts receivable or accounting assistant for mid-level or larger firms
A bachelor’s degree will delve deeper into management, technical expertise and accounting avenues in different industries. The four-year degree typically offers more specific courses for accounting majors. These include classes that discuss taxation, auditing and accounts receivable in great detail. These classes will prepare the student for an entry-level job immediately upon graduation and many midlevel jobs.
When to Go to Grad School
If you have experience and an undergraduate degree in accounting, then a Master of Accounting degree can propel your career even further. A Master of Business Accounting degree is needed if you plan to go into management positions within larger companies in the industry. It has a much broader curriculum that is intended to pinpoint a student’s chosen emphasis.
A Master of Accounting is narrower in scope than an MBA. A good Master of Accounting program will prepare an accountant for the Certified Public Accountant or Certified Management Accountant exam. Courses are more research based and go into cost management, taxation, auditing, information systems, business valuation and financial and managerial accounting.
Continuing Education for Current Accountants
Tax and financial laws are constantly changing. Successful accountants are continually training to stay on top of the latest changes to ensure they can offer the best service to their employer or clients. Community colleges and business schools offer certification classes and more to assist accountants.
Continuing education courses are beneficial to accountants on many levels. If you are already working in some capacity as an accountant or hope to go further in your accounting career, then taking a few specific subjects or classes can raise your professional acumen.
Those who are already a CPA are required by the State Board of Accountancy in the state in which they reside to complete a specified number of continuing education credits annually or quarterly in order to keep their license in good standing.
Degrees in Accounting
After graduating from high school or obtaining a GED, those looking to pursue an accounting career should get a degree in finance or accounting. They can attend a business school, community college or university to take classes in law, computer programs and other vital subjects pertaining to accounting. Students can obtain the right to work as an accountant after receiving a two-year associate degree, four-year bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree in accounting.
What Makes a Good Accountant?
Accountants constantly need to be up on the latest laws, tax information and other vital information that could affect their clients or business. They must have a keen sense of detail and an ability to be organized in all aspects of their business. They should also have a background in how to interact with clients and management to round out their skill set.
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Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing about education, jobs, business trends and more for The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Today’s Parent and other publications. She graduated with a B.A. in Journalism from UNLV. Her full bio and clips can be seen at www.vegaswriter.com.