You've done the research. You know that accountants are in demand and that earning an online accounting degree could lead to a secure career with plenty of opportunity for advancement. But have you asked is accounting right for me, or have you answered the question should I be an accountant?
Not everyone is cut out to be an accountant. You need to enjoy both technology and numbers as well as working with people and being a leader. You need to be able to sweat the details yet understand the big business picture.
Aside from a penchant for numbers, do you have the personality it takes to be an accountant?
Here are 10 questions to help you ultimately answer should I be an accountant.
Should I Be an Accountant?
- Are you detailed oriented?
- Are you a good communicator
- How do you feel about being the center of attention?
- Can you take being in the "hot seat"?
- Do you value honesty and integrity?
- Are you a stickler for the rules?
- Are you looking for a 9-5 job?
- Are you okay with routine?
- Are you inquisitive?
- Are you ready for lifelong learning?
1. Are you detail oriented?
If you're a detail-oriented person, you pay attention to the little things. That means you may like sharp creases in your jeans and crisp shirts, but it goes beyond attire or an obsession with making lists. It means you're conscientious and focused on accuracy and precision. You pride yourself on being a perfectionist. You're also patient and persistent in pursuing answers to challenging questions.
2. Are you a good communicator?
Bet you thought accounting was just about math. While it is a numbers-based profession, real-world business problems do not present themselves as mathematical equations, even if math is required to solve them. You need to be good with words – a careful and critical reader, and a good oral and written communicator, able to present and explain financial data, new regulations, financial results and business projections.
3. How do you feel about being the center of attention?
Some people think that accountants work in solitude in a back office where no one will bother them. While that may have been true generations ago, with the reshaping of today's business environment, accounting has moved to the forefront. Accountants are called upon to make presentations. They lead teams. So even if you have the best accounting skills in the world, you may not get hired unless you're also outgoing.
4. Can you take being in the "hot seat"?
The accounting field is that it can be a high-stress profession. Accounting is the language of business, which means that when a company's leaders want to know why something went wrong – or why it went right – they turn to their accountants. After all, in business, everything comes down to numbers, and that makes accountants the "go-to" people in any organization.
5. Do you value honesty and integrity?
Accounting staff bear serious responsibility not only for an organization's financial records, but for its overall financial health and security. Having access to sensitive financial documents, such as tax forms and balance sheet statements that are provided to stockholders and potential investors, requires a high-level of integrity and strong ethics. That means being truthful – sticking with what you know is right and not wavering even when challenged.
6. Are you a stickler for the rules?
Do you believe in following rules even if you don't agree with them? Accountants must follow lots of rules, principles, tax codes, and regulations governing what data to report and how to report it. While it is okay to be creative in terms of how you set up spreadsheets or develop presentations, "creative accounting" – or making up your own rules – is not.
7. Are you looking for a 9-5 job?
Accounting is a deadline-driven business that requires you to work until the job is done. That's especially true during the January to April 15 tax season, or before and after Sept. 15 when corporate taxes are filed. On the plus side, results-oriented people such as accountants derive a sense of accomplishment from completing standardized tasks with short completion times.
8. Are you okay with routine?
The majority of accounting work is transactional and repetitive on daily, quarterly and annual bases. The same processes need to be run every month; the same entries made. Of course, the numbers change but the procedures do not. This means that accountants must be comfortable with structure and routine.
9. Are you inquisitive?
Your primary responsibility as an accountant is to safeguard your organization's assets. That means you can't take anything at face value. Your job is to question everything and then be willing to dig in and investigate – to do the research necessary to find the answers and resolve discrepancies. For the curious-minded, this can be satisfying work, particularly when your ability to overcome a challenge results in success for your company or clients.
10. Are you ready for lifelong learning?
If you decide to earn any type of accounting certification, such as a CPA, CFE or CIA, you will be required to complete ongoing Continuing Professional Education (CPE) to renew your license or certification. Maintaining a CPA license, for example, involves earning 80 CPE hours every two years. Even non-CPA accountants must stay current with the field's ever-changing standards.
Have you answered is accounting right for me? Are you considering accounting as a major? What other personal characteristics does an accountant need?
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