Is Accounting a Good Major?

Is Accounting a Good Major? | Accounting Smarts
Charles Hall

Last updated by

Charles Hall

on

June 10, 2022

My answer is a definite yes to the question, “Is accounting a good major?”. But only if it appeals to you. Your answer may be different, because only you know you.

My answer is a definite yes to the question, “Is accounting a good major?” But only if it appeals to you. Your answer may be different, because only you know you. So, while I can’t give you your answer, I can share my experiences that may give you insights you haven’t considered.

Before I get into my story, let me share one statistic.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the need for accountants and auditors will increase 10% between 2016-2026. This growth rate is faster than the average in most other occupations.

ShowHide

Table of contents

Were you born to be an accountant?

I was the first in a line of family members who chose accounting. So, I might be a little biased. However, I’ve seen a lot of success in this field which naturally paints a positive picture for accounting.

I think I was destined for accounting from the beginning. In 5th grade I was making plans to be a millionaire. I didn’t grow up with money, my parents were teachers, money was sufficient but scarce. The scarcity of money forced my parents into budgeting and record keeping.

Mom diligently recorded every penny spent or earned in a lined ledger book. At 70+ years old, she still tracks everything in her ledger book. Maybe I learned something from observing her that inspired me into the field of accounting.

As a young boy, curiosity often got the best of me. One Christmas, I just had to know what gifts I was getting. Having a logical mind, and understanding what she recorded in her ledger book, I couldn’t wait until my parents left for the evening.

I snuck into their room and found the ledger book in the bedside table drawer. As I opened it, sure enough, it was all there. The descriptions and numbers told the story. It was my first exposure to reading financial information, and I liked it.

Do you like accounting?

Something I have observed over the years goes something like this.

“You either love accounting or hate accounting, rarely is there an in between.”

Loving it or liking it, might come for several reasons:

  1. You like numbers. Numbers tell a story of the past, but they can also predict the future. If you see numbers this way, accounting may be your major.
  2. You're good at math. Some might think accounting is complicated math, it really isn’t, but you do need to enjoy it. You will deal with formulas, ratios, statistics and more on a regular basis, if that is appealing then accounting may be your major.
  3. You're detail oriented. Yes, you need to be attentive to details. Accountants review complex financial documents and it isn’t just about finding particular information, it requires finding mistakes and errors. People rely on financial information; they need to trust that you have presented it correctly. If you are a detailed person, accounting may be your major.
  4. You have good analytical skills. A primary skill of an accountant is the ability to analyze data by looking at trends, ratios and relationships to gain insights. They have to be able to tell the story, and even predict the future so decisions can be made. The best accountants provide valuable information to a company. If you like to analyze, then accounting may be your major.

What is the career path for an accountant?

The career path of an accountant is the most exciting part of accounting; because it is unlimited.

Many people start in accounting but end up someplace completely different. The reason being is when you know numbers, can analyze numbers, and communicate numbers you often become a critical component of decision making which opens doors to upper management and other opportunities.

Accounting is a foundation you can definitely build upon.

I mentioned earlier I was the first in my family to venture into accounting. Since then, I have watched 2 brothers, a nephew and 2 sons follow suit. All 6 of us are CPA’s but what is interesting is we all find ourselves in different roles and positions.

Me: I am a small business owner now, completely unrelated to accounting.

Brother 1: CFO at a large insurance company

Brother 2: Senior accountant at a large company

Nephew: Controller at smaller growing company

Son 1: Senior accountant at a new credit card company startup

Son 2: Tax accountant for the largest local CPA firm in the state

While most are still in accounting, and I certainly am involved in my own accounting, our path and experiences have been incredibly varied. Four of the six started in public accounting, with only one still remaining in public accounting. Two started in industry and have worked their way up to higher positions.

It might be interesting to note that I have one brother and one son, that bucked the trend and have completely avoided accounting. Let’s just say – they do not love accounting. The brother is a city planner turned attorney. The son is still figuring out his path, but it includes wanting to make a difference, and his feeling is accounting does not offer that opportunity.

Where do accounting majors start their careers?

Just to bring some clarity to the opportunities in accounting here is a list of areas most accounting majors find themselves in upon graduation.

  • Public accounting (CPA) – I’m partial to this route because you learn so quickly. You're exposed to all different types of business from the very beginning. You get to see what you like and what you don’t like through auditing. You quickly learn to understand the big picture of accounting because you are exposed to the entire balance sheet and income statement. And you connect with so many other high-level accounting people as you work directly with accounting personnel during audits. These connections often open doors for future employment. Just be prepared for the long hours of your expected work.
  • Industry accounting – is being employed at a single company doing accounting. A small company may only have 1 accounting person. Medium to large companies may have full accounting departments. When starting out you typically start as a staff accountant focused on one aspect of the business, like accounts receivable, accounts payable, or fixed assets. Growth often comes a little slower when starting in industry.
  • Government accounting – is being employed by a city, county, state, or even a school district. You will need to brush up on your government accounting as it is a different animal than the GAAP you learned in school. Like industry, the growth opportunities may come a little slower. Government has a much slower pace, so if you like a slow pace and life balance this may be your choice.
  • Management accounting – is an interesting dynamic area of accounting. Management accounting can have big impacts on companies’ efficiencies, processes and cost control. It may be harder to find a true management accounting position as management accounting may just be built into any accounting position you obtain.
  • Financial analyst – is a little outside the true accounting world. But it may be a springboard into an accounting position. If you like analytics, this may be the route to take.
  • Internal audit – is like public accounting but you are employed by a single company. You audit the company’s internal controls and processes among other things to ensure of the financial data generated in the company. Most likely as an internal auditor you will also work closely with external auditors during the financial audit.

Hopefully this has given you some food for thought as you determine whether an accounting major is right for you.

Charles Hall

Charles Hall

Charles has spent 25 plus years in the world of accounting and business. His experience includes working as a CPA/Auditor international accounting firms. He has worked as a controller and as a COO for small to medium sized companies.

Learn more about Charles Hall