Jori Hamilton 7m 1,098 #accountant
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As kids, few of us proclaim that when we grow up we want to be an accountant. Yet, it is actually a field that offers significant benefits. Not to mention in our financially focused society, those who have the expertise to navigate numbers are always going to be in demand. It is also an intellectually stimulating position, with opportunities to work across diverse fields of business.
So, there are some intriguing and attractive prospects to be had. That doesn’t necessarily mean it is a profession suitable for everyone. It requires commitment and a skill set not all candidates have a natural predisposition toward. There are challenges to meet the rewards, and as such, it’s important to get a full impression of what it takes to be successful in the field.
Let’s take a closer look at working in accounting and the elements that can help inform your decision to embark on the journey.
Obviously, nobody is born with the knowledge of how to successfully navigate a job in finance, it takes years to build the abilities you’ll need. However, it’s important to review the types of skills that make for an effective accountant so you can establish whether they’re in your wheelhouse, and even if you have any interest in developing them.
There is a fundamental set of skills every accountant needs. Many of these will be technical, revolving around adherence to financial legislation and regulations and utilizing accountancy software packages. After all, much of your time is spent dealing with numbers and how they relate to the effective and compliant operation of a business. However, you’ll also need to develop a strong set of relevant soft skills. Ethics is usually at the top of this list, as your standards here will reflect upon those you work for. You’ll also need to be adept at problem-solving; your clients or employer will rely on you to help them balance the finances of their organization to keep them not just afloat but thriving.
You’ll generally find much of the technical aspect of accountancy will be gained during university courses, which we’ll come to in a moment. But it’s important to understand that accountancy is most rewarding when you are in an industry that you have some personal interest in. As such, part of your skill development needs to be focused on how the skills relate to the sector you’re most interested in. If you want to be in the movie industry, you’ll need to research how finances affect projects and operations. If you’re targeting the nonprofit sector, you should look into how donations are invested and distributed.
You’re likely to devote years of your life toward building your skills before you actually start work, so you need to understand whether it is a path that both appeals to you and fits in with your lifestyle. The good news is there is a certain amount of flexibility.
From an educational perspective, the most traditional start is getting a bachelor’s degree in accounting, as this is geared toward providing a comprehensive knowledge of the basic technical and soft skills. You don’t necessarily need to do this in person or full-time, though. You can engage in your education online, but this can be challenging, requiring significant self-motivation. As such, if you choose to take this route, it’s important to put in place strategies that help you to take control of your education. You should consider how you learn most effectively and adapt accordingly and think carefully about how to balance the workload with your personal life so that it doesn’t become overwhelming. Whether you get your degree online or in person, though, this is still just the beginning of your path.
Among the most important and challenging aspects of becoming an accountant is gaining your Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certification for the state in which you intend to practice. The requirements to qualify will vary, but most will require a minimum of 150 hours of college credits in accounting, with some requiring several course hours specifically on ethics. Once your education is verified, you’ll then need to study for and take the CPA exam. From here, your route is relatively open. Some people choose to jump straight into an internship or an entry-level job, others keep studying toward specializations.
When you’re considering a career in any field, it’s important not just to focus on the type of work and how you get there. You need to understand how it is likely to impact the quality of your life. After all, we all have different priorities for what we need from a career and how we see it fitting in with our plans.
While you’re on the path to becoming an accountant, it’s likely to be no different than any other student experience. However, once you’re fully qualified there’s scope to make choices that fit your ambitions and needs. If you want to largely dictate your schedule to fit around your family or travel commitments, there are increasing opportunities to act as a freelance accountant in many fields. Indeed, as most software is online and invoicing can be undertaken via the cloud, the barriers to even working remotely or in a hybrid situation for a corporation are gradually reducing.
However, it’s also wise to consider the fact that accountancy is imbued with a certain amount of stress. You have responsibility for the financial wellbeing and legal compliance of your clients or employer. It is no surprise that this can be a little overwhelming for some, especially when facing challenging economic circumstances. So, if you choose to engage you’ll need to adopt practices that help you to handle the pressure and remain productive.
There are significant benefits to becoming an accountant. The career offers varied opportunities and there is a certain amount of stability. However, it’s always worth reviewing whether the skills you’ll be utilizing and the path toward a career are appealing to you. Don’t limit your considerations to the technical aspects, either — make certain you review the potential for a healthy work-life balance, too.
About the Author
Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer residing in the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of topics but takes a particular interest in covering topics related to business productivity and marketing strategies. To learn more about Jori, you can follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.