What I Wish I Knew Before Becoming an Accountant
As you consider getting back into the educational scene by pursuing an accounting degree, it is logical that you want to know more about the daily life of an accountant. You don’t want to invest in training only to find out a few weeks into the actual job that it’s not for you.
What better way to find out if it’s a good career move than by learning from practicing accountants themselves? We enlisted several seasoned professionals to find out what they wish they would have known before becoming an accountant. Read on to get the behind-the-scenes scoop you’ve been looking for.
Before becoming an accountant, I wish someone had told me…
1. There is a niche for everyone
“Though my university made it seem like there was only one path for graduated accounting majors, I quickly realized I didn’t have to take it,” says Leita Hart-Fanta, accounting teacher and owner of Indie Accountants. “I took an unconventional path, started my own business and teach as I travel around the country.” She emphasizes that the field is vast, as there are many types of accountants. A graduate can teach, get into marketing, become an auditor, organize a new business and much more.
Despite assumptions, accounting isn’t just a mundane number crunching job, according to Jennifer Brazer, an accountant with Complete Controller. She has encountered numerous positions that are exciting and cutting-edge including forensic accounting, becoming a start-up CFO and working as a tax coach.
While many believe all accountants are alike, our experts agree that accounting career options are broad and able to be catered to your area of interest. Once you master the fundamentals, you’ll have the ability to specialize according to your personal skills and interests.
2. Relationships are crucial
Stereotypes often portray accountants as introverted business professionals isolated in cubicles. It may surprise you to learn that their human interactions are frequent and highly necessary for success.
“I really enjoy the personal interactions and getting to really know my clients, their tax situations and their businesses,” says Becky Hofmann, an accountant who runs a home-based personal tax practice. Fanta-Hart agrees with this sentiment, saying that the connections she made in her first few years with clients and colleagues still contribute to her success today.
Developing great relationships with your clients and coworkers can play a critical role in your accounting career. Financial matters can be a sensitive topic, but being warm and approachable allows people to trust you.
3. Accounting jobs can adjust to your lifestyle
Not everyone can drop all current responsibilities for a new 9-5 career. If you have people depending on your time, you might be hesitant about the regimented workweeks you perceive in your future. But think again – it doesn’t have to be this way.
Hofmann loves being a self-employed accountant because she’s able to travel and spend time with her family. Though she started out gaining experience working for insurance companies, Hofmann personalized her accounting career as she began to start a family. Her personal tax business has thrived through her multiple relocations and home schooling her four kids.
“Some jobs require you to be married to your job, putting the rest of your life on hold. Others are more balanced but may not provide the same perceived glamour,” explains Rebecca Roddy, senior cost analyst with Hormel Foods. She emphasizes the importance of thinking through what type of life you would like to have as an accountant.
There are ways to build your accounting career around your desired lifestyle. Whether that’s working for an established firm versus being self-employed, working in public versus private accounting, or full time versus part time.
4. Preparation for the dreaded CPA is worth it
A 14-hour computer based test comprised of four sections, the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam, seems more than a little daunting. While there is no ignoring the rigor of this test, it would be a mistake to overlook its importance in cultivating a successful career in public accounting.
Not all companies require that their accountants pass the CPA, and independent accountants are able to acquire clients without this credential. But our experts emphasized that being a licensed CPA can greatly improve your job opportunities and earning potential. So if these factors are important to you, consider investing the time and energy into taking the CPA exam.
5. It’s normal to learn on the job
Picture yourself working through your first few months as an accountant, when suddenly your first auditing opportunity arises. You might think, Wait! I don’t remember mastering this part of auditing in my college courses!
But there’s no need to panic, according to Roddy. She claims about 90 percent of her work as an accountant had to be learned on the job because the tasks are so specific to the specific industry or role. She and Fanta-Hart both agree that college is essential for introducing students to the fundamentals of basic accounting concepts and previewing the various careers in the field. But don’t expect the learning to stop once you earn that diploma.
You’ll also be expected to keep up with policy changes and evolving techniques in the industry. So if you are someone who is willing to confidently take on the challenge of hands-on learning and professional development, accounting may be a great match for you.
Is accounting the field for you?
Now that you have a behind-the-scenes peek of what to expect in the field, are you still considering becoming an accountant? These expert insights should have you feeling more prepared and confident to conquer this career.
Learn more about the next steps in our article, Your Step-by-Step Guide on How to Become an Accountant.