Accounting, often referred to as “the language of business,” is the way in which information about a business or enterprise is communicated to its stakeholders. An accountant uses a well-established system to collect, analyze, and communicate financial information, which is then used to make important decisions about a business. Many different people use this information, including creditors, investors, consumer groups, stockholders, labor unions, governmental organizations, suppliers, managers, and more.
The most accurate definition of accounting is that published by The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). This states that accounting is “the art of recording, classifying, and summarizing in a significant manner and in terms of money, transactions and events which are, in part at least, of financial character, and interpreting the results thereof." To learn this process, accounting students take a wide variety of classes during their time in school, such as:
- Introductory, Intermediate, and Advanced Accounting
- Principles of Corporate Finance
- Developing the Business Professional
- Financial Statement Analysis
- The Accounting Cycle
- Accounting Measurement and Disclosure
- Taxation of Business
- Strategic Cost Management
- Topics in Financial Reporting
- International Accounting
- Assessing Financial Risks
- Business Communication for Accounting
- Accounting for Problem Solving
Careers: After graduating, students with an accounting degree can expect to pursue a career in one of four major areas: Public Accounting, Management Accounting, Government Accounting, or Internal Auditing. Other popular fields right now include forensic accounting, ethics, and computer science.
Skills: Individuals who excel in accounting tend to be good at mathematics, and able to quickly analyze and interpret facts and data. Being able to communicate this analysis to a client/customer is key, so effective communication skills are important as well. Also, a high level of ethics and morality is needed, since financial information is highly sensitive. An interest in pursuing more education in the subject is helpful if you wish to advance your career and increase your salary.
Salary: You need a bachelor's degree in accounting in order to work in this field. In 2008, the median annual salary was between $51,250 and $61,480, with the top 10% of accountants (those with higher degrees and more certifications) earning more than $102,380. Opportunities for work abound, and opportunities for advancement are many, because accountants are in high demand. Higher credentials, like becoming a Certified Management Accountant (CMA); higher certificates, such as becoming a Certified Internal Auditor (CIA); and higher degrees, like a Master's or Ph.D. in Accounting, all equate to higher pay and more job opportunities.
American Institute of Accounting
University of Oregon
University of Washington
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Williams, F.R., Haka, S.F., Bettner, M.S., & R.F. Meigs. (2004). Financial and Managerial Accounting: The Basis for Business Decisions (12th ed.). Columbus, OH: McGraw Hill.