Should I Become an Accountant? 5 Questions to Ask Yourself First
By Anjali Stenquist on 03/02/2020
You’ve always liked working with numbers. Whether or not math class has been your best subject, there’s something uniquely enjoyable for you about solving a math problem. It’s almost elegant. No matter what, five times five equals twenty five. Type in an equation on your calculator, and the answer comes up clear and uncomplicated. You’ve always found that structure satisfying. With this natural inclination in mind, you might be wondering if becoming an accountant is the right career move.
A career in accounting might have been on your mind for a while. Accounting is a stable and respected career with lots of opportunity to grow. Not only is it a very practical career choice, but it would allow you to do something you enjoy. As an accountant you would work with practical mathematics in real world applications to help individuals and organizations grow and maintain a healthy balance sheet.
But are there other indicators that an accounting career is right for you? We spoke with experienced accountants and found that many different choices and motivations brought people into the field of accounting. While each had a unique story, we began to see certain commonalities in the questions they asked at the start of their careers. Taking the time to ask themselves those questions helped these leaders in the field solidify their ambitions within accounting. If you are asking yourself if you should be an accountant, consider asking yourself a few more specific questions.
If you’re considering a career in accounting ask yourself…
Whether you are just beginning to consider becoming an accountant, or already have a multi-point plan in place to launch your career, here are five questions you should ask yourself about becoming an accountant.
1. Do you like solving puzzles?
To solve a puzzle you need to think logically, be persistent, and enjoy the process of untangling a situation to get a final answer. If you like the process of solving puzzles, you will probably enjoy the day to day work of an accountant.
“The first few days of Intro to Accounting, I had no idea what was going on,” says certified public accountant Abir Syed. “But then it suddenly clicked and I felt like the entire concept was just like solving a puzzle.”
Puzzles and accounting both require creativity and an appreciation for the rules of the game.
“I like order and rules and a specific goal or answer,” says Tracy J. Noga, professor at Bentley University. “I have always enjoyed any kind of puzzle where it is necessary to put a lot of pieces together in order to have it make sense.”
The process of putting pieces together to see the big picture is reflected in the problem solving and mathematical problems accountants work on every day. Accounting work often requires a lot of “figuring out” and reverse engineering in order to make sense of the information you’ll have available. Being energized by solving this sometimes-twisted knot of information is a huge plus.
2. Do you enjoy planning ahead and strategizing?
If you are asking yourself these questions, you probably already plan ahead for your education and career. It’s critical for an accountant to plan ahead for the financial outcomes facing the individual, business or organization they serve.
“You need to be strategic,” says Noga. “Take the information you have to understand the next two or three business moves to get that business where you want it to be.”
Your ability to plan ahead today could help you develop the strategic thinking skills critical to accounting. Are you the one consistently laying traps when playing friends in board games? Do you get a kick out of predicting the next moves of others? This knack for strategy and planning can make a natural transition into accounting.
3. Are you interested in business?
Though accountants work for nonprofits and individuals as well as businesses, all accountants manage financial information in the broader field of business. Becoming an accountant gives individuals a deep and complex understanding of the business world.
“Accounting is called the ‘language of business,’” explains Noga. “You need to be able to present the numbers in such a way that it tells the story of the business; you can understand how and why the business got to that point. Most people think of accounting as a very narrow field. However, you really need to understand all aspects of the business.”
Accounting definitely has the stigma of being one dimensional work. However, the actual work of accounting is vital, dynamic, and opens many doors to individuals who would like to grow into new opportunities down the road.
“If you’re the type of person who is entrepreneurial and just loves business in general, accounting is an amazing base on which to build,” says Syed. “You understand business at a level most other people don’t. Ask yourself if you can approach accounting with the open mind to think of it as a way to decipher businesses rather than the stigma.”
4. Are you comfortable learning new technology?
Accountants today rely on software like QuickBooks and Quicken, programs which are regularly updating and evolving. A strong accountant is able to stay ahead of new technology and quickly adapt to processes that make accounting professionals more efficient and accurate.
“Like many areas, the technology is changing rapidly,” says Noga. “Do you like technology and do you want to be on the cutting edge of implementing and utilizing new technology?”
If you have the digital fluency skills to continue to learn new programs, you have a big advantage as an accountant.
5. Are you comfortable working with data?
Accounting is all about managing financial data. Working with data requires a strong attention to detail and comfort working with important information. Small errors can have large, real-world consequences. This makes the work of an accountant both incredibly valuable, and uniquely challenging.
In addition to an attention to detail, working with data and information requires accountants to understand what individual pieces of data mean and how that influences the overall picture. Accounting is known as the language of business, and accountants have to be able to communicate the implications of that language.
“In my opinion,” says Noga. “You need to enjoy working with and interpreting information.”
Is accounting the right career path for you?
If you found yourself nodding your head yes to these questions, a career in accounting may be a great fit for your skillset and interests. Are you ready to take the next step for planning your career in accounting?
Get a better understanding of the road ahead in our article, “Your Step-by-Step Guide on How to Become an Accountant.”