Accounting is a skilled and respected profession that has always been in high demand. Students choosing an accounting major, therefore, can look forward to a lifelong career that provides a lucrative salary, interesting work, and opportunities for advancement. To practice as an accountant, however, there are minimum education requirements that students must achieve. For example, a relevant Bachelor’s degree is a minimum requirement, and that means getting through general coursework and basic business classes. Once completed, students will then need to take enough credits for their selected major to earn a degree. To prepare for a career as an accountant, students should carefully select courses for their major that will be most valuable to future employers.
1. Accounting Principles
No accounting student can graduate without getting through at least one basic accounting class. Accounting principles, therefore, is a critical course because it lays the foundation for future success. While taking this course, students should focus primarily on memorizing the individual line items that are associated with debits and credits. Unfortunately, many individuals graduate with little understanding of basic accounting principles, and they pay for this with reduced performance for the remainder of their careers. There will never be a better time to learn core accounting concepts, so students should be very serious about mastering all concepts taught in basic accounting courses.
2. Internal Controls
One of the most important responsibilities of accountants in today’s world is managing internal controls. In the wake of the Enron accounting scandal, businesses have learned to establish internal controls for every activity to prevent unforeseen fraud. While legal requirements were the initial impetus behind the establishment of internal controls in most corporations, many organizations are now also seeking to prevent astronomical losses and ensure accountability through internal controls. Accounting students who understand the principles of internal controls will be well-positioned to function effectively for a wide range of jobs in their future careers.
3. Business Entity Taxation
Whether planning to work in the corporate world or on behalf of private individuals, accountants must have a thorough understanding of business taxation to perform effectively. Even managerial accountants must understand business taxation since every transaction will ultimately be taxed several times. Therefore, accounting students should be sure to take business entity taxation to understand the unique way that business income and sales are taxed. If a student plans to become a tax accountant, it may be a good idea to learn more than the materials taught in class through supplemental reading or private conversation with the instructor. Students who master business taxation will have more options open to them upon graduation.
4. Business Law
There is significant overlap between the disciplines of law and accounting. Legal scholars must learn to understand accounting errors, and, likewise, accountants must understand basic law to prevent malpractice and discover opportunities for clients. Students who take business law will learn the principles driving the legal system that ultimately determine the rules for accounting. Many schools also offer law classes specifically for accountants, and students should be sure to take advantage of these classes to understand recent financial legislation. Students who understand some of the newest laws will have an advantage over their older counterparts who often struggle with staying abreast about new rules.
5. Accounting Systems
Accounting systems is a critical course because it teaches aspiring accountants how to get more work done using tools available in the modern world. Students might find using a pencil and paper for accounting to be obviously backward, but they might be surprised to learn that using an Excel spreadsheet is considered equally unproductive. Modern software can use statistics, complex algorithms, and predictive models to enable accountants to provide businesses with responsive information about constraints, hourly performance, and future demand. Since data-driven decisions are so critical in the modern world, students who possess at least a basic understanding of modern accounting systems are much more able to add value to employers after graduation.
Whether already enrolled in an accounting program or simply considering one in the future, students should plan ahead to get the most out of their education. School advisers can generally offer additional insights to ensure that students graduate with the right mix of courses for their targeted profession. Starting with a good plan can ensure faster graduation and a more rewarding career.