What is an Accounting Major and is it Right for Me?

If you’ve always been good at math and seeing trends and patterns in numbers, and you consider yourself a skilled communicator who can relay complex data analysis to others, then an accounting major (and career path) may be for you.

Accountants look at financial trends to consult nonprofits, governments and businesses on how to best do their jobs and run their organizations. These analyses must be detailed, complex and data-heavy, allowing people to gain valuable insights from them.

What is an accounting major?

Accounting majors learn how to maintain financial accounts. It prepares students to be accountants by teaching them about accounting principles like auditing, reporting, budgeting and tax regulations.

Is it right for me?

Because accountants could be responsible for an organization’s financial well-being, accountants need to be able to pay close attention to detail and handle large amounts of data at a time. One wrong error or misfiled document could lead to big problems for a company or organization.

To figure out if an accounting career could be in your future, here are several key questions to consider:

  • Am I detail-oriented? Do I pay attention to detail without anyone asking me to?
  • Am I good with numbers? Does working with large sets of data excite or intimidate me?
  • Do I like working with things like balance sheets, profitability forms and tax filings? Do I have confidence in filling out forms like these and presenting them on behalf of a company, nonprofit or government entity?
  • Am I able to see and analyze patterns in large amounts of data and relay that information to people who may not be as well-acquainted with the data as I am?

What can I do with an accounting degree?

Just because you start off crunching numbers doesn’t mean you have to spend your entire job or career doing just that. Accountants have the ability to choose whether or not to work in the public or private sector as well as if they want to work on the more business-oriented side of any company. If you’re looking to go into business and want an analytical edge on the competition, an accounting degree could be perfect for you.

What do accountants make?

The amount you’ll make with an accounting degree depends on the type of company you pursue as well as how far you decide to continue your education. College students who graduate with a degree in accounting make a median salary of $50,500. For people who choose to continue their education and become Certified Public Accountants (CPA), the median salary is $73,800, and it can climb to well over $124,000 per year. Additionally, those with a CPA certification make 5% to 15% more than their non-CPA counterparts.

Next, learn more about this college major such as the Types of Internships for Accounting Majors and get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as When to Start Applying for a Summer Internship.

What Types of Skills are Best for an Accounting Major?

When you’re looking at what to study in school, it’s extremely important to look at the larger skill sets you’ll need to not only complete a college major but thrive within that area of study.

If you’re looking at a degree in accounting, there are three main skills you’ll need, and some may not be what you thought.

Analytical and Quantitative Skills

Accounting is a number-heavy major that requires strength in areas like math and statistics. Being able to see and understand patterns in data and then find solutions is rooted in strong quantitative skills, so if these are areas you enjoy and are strong in, an accounting major may be up your alley. Many accounting programs require several years of different math and statistics classes, so be prepared to spend a lot of time learning those subjects.

Problem-Solving Skills

Rarely do accountants deal with numbers in a vacuum, so the most successful accounting majors will be able to apply their math and statistics skills to solving complex problems that affect organizations on a high level.

Problem-solving doesn’t just happen in your math and statistics courses, either. Many accounting programs require students to take classes in economics, business and marketing, so you’ll have to be effective at taking the numbers and using them to your advantage across different academic disciplines.

Communication Skills

There’s often a misconception that accounting majors spend all day crunching numbers, when in reality, they must also be able to communicate their findings to people from all different fields.

To be a successful accounting major, you must be able to communicate your process and findings through oral and written communication as effectively and efficiently as possible. You’ll often be asked to present projects and other findings to your professors and in front of groups of all sizes. The best accounting majors will graduate with the ability to communicate effectively to any audience.

Next, learn more about this college major such as Natural Sciences and get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as Top 20 Entry-Level Job Questions and Answers.