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GESancMan
10-20-2010, 04:32 AM
I saw a job advertised for an accountant in Bethel, a little town out in the Alaskan bush. Most people in their right mind wouldn't want to live there; I would love to. Ordinarily, I don't bother applying for accounting jobs, as I figure since I don't have an accounting degree, there will be many people applying who are much more qualified than I. Especially in these times.

The requirements for this job are a degree in Accounting, Finance, or Business Administration, and no experience necessary. I have my degree in Math, plus a year of graduate work behind me. During the course of my studies I've taken nine or ten statistics classes. This coupled with the fact that (I'm willing to bet) not many people will be applying, I'm thinking I may stand a chance. Or at least that's what I'm telling myself for encouragement. :)

I do have some experience with accounting type stuff - I ran a restaurant for over seven years, and was in management for years before that. I probably spent, on average, an hour a day doing paperwork-type stuff - making sure my numbers and records balanced, preparing bank deposits, figuring out weekly and monthly sales reports, labor figures, food cost... that kind of stuff. I figure I could probably get away with saying I have a year or two of "accounting" experience.

So here's what I'm wondering about: what is it about accounting or finance jobs that they require their own degree? I mean, I'm thinking with a degree in Math, surely my mathematical knowledge far exceeds that required for any accounting or finance job. And isn't math what accounting and finance are all about?

Khaki Campbell
10-20-2010, 05:21 AM
Your math degree will be pointless for an accounting job, because accounting doesn't go (for the most) beyond the four basic operations.

Thudlow Boink
10-20-2010, 09:07 AM
And isn't math what accounting and finance are all about?How many theorems does an accountant prove in an average week?

anu-la1979
10-20-2010, 09:14 AM
That would be like me saying my 4 tax law classes from school made me a CPA. Some of the basic stuff you can teach yourself but accountants for companies are making judgment calls about how the math should be done-example, do you even understand revenue recognition principals or how to read financial statements? The math itself is ridiculously easy.

I will give you that finance easier- I feel like there's one idea that repeats.

Omar Little
10-20-2010, 11:23 AM
Ever looked at the CPA exam? Not just a bunch of math.

Freddy the Pig
10-20-2010, 12:05 PM
Your management and cost accounting experience is more on point than the math degree. I would highlight the experience in your resume and cover letter.

Lantern
10-20-2010, 03:06 PM
So here's what I'm wondering about: what is it about accounting or finance jobs that they require their own degree? I mean, I'm thinking with a degree in Math, surely my mathematical knowledge far exceeds that required for any accounting or finance job. And isn't math what accounting and finance are all about?

Honestly this doesn't inspire much confidence in your knowledge of accounting. At the very least I would suggest buying an introductory textbook and studying it thoroughly.

Dangerosa
10-20-2010, 03:47 PM
Accounting is all about rules. The math is the easy part. The "can I capitalize, which depreciation schedule to use, do I need to use a different one for tax" - that's the hard part. The software does the math.

Finance is all about decisions - again, the math is easy. You have to know whether or not despite the math to go ahead or pull the plug. There are at least four ways to figure ROI out when making an investment decision - which is going to give you four different answers.

Fuzzy Dunlop
10-20-2010, 03:55 PM
On the other hand, math majors are the ones on Wall street doing the brilliant work with derivatives that has added so much value to the world wide economy over the past couple years. At my alma mater, most of the classes in the MS in Analytic Finance are taught by the Math dept. (although anyone will be willing to admit its popularity has dropped off a lot recently for unknown reasons)

Joey P
10-20-2010, 03:55 PM
Your math degree will be pointless for an accounting job, because accounting doesn't go (for the most) beyond the four basic operations.
Ditto. I'm a math major and I do 95% of the accounting for a small business. I don't remember the last time I had to use an integral or find the volume of an irregular function rotated around an axis, also, Gabriel's Horn doesn't really come in to play when it's time to pay the payroll taxes.

Accounting is all about rules. The math is the easy part. The "can I capitalize, which depreciation schedule to use, do I need to use a different one for tax" - that's the hard part. The software does the math.

Finance is all about decisions - again, the math is easy. You have to know whether or not despite the math to go ahead or pull the plug. There are at least four ways to figure ROI out when making an investment decision - which is going to give you four different answers.
On top of that, it's more then just rules, it's laws you need to worry about. When are 941's due (hint, it's in the Circular E, not the calculus books), what about 940s, do you file sales tax monthly, early monthly or quarterly. When are SUTA and FUTA payments due, what is your unemployment tax rate? These are the types of things that if you screw up the company can get fined.
Also, as was mentioned above, accounting is 95% arithmetic with a little algebra tossed in. Being a math major will really only help in that there's a good chance you're comfortable doing lots of arithmetic.

Fuzzy Dunlop
10-20-2010, 03:58 PM
Also, as was mentioned above, accounting is 95% arithmetic with a little algebra tossed in. Being a math major will really only help in that there's a good chance you're comfortable doing lots of arithmetic.

Are there even purist bookkeepers and accountants who do arithmetic with a pen and paper anyway? Old fogeys who don't trust excel or accounting software to add a series of numbers up?

msmith537
10-20-2010, 04:02 PM
Well, I doubt you need to be a CPA from Ernst & Young to land an accounting job in Bethel, Alaska. Although I often suspect that when you see a job advertised as requiring a "degree in Accounting, Finance, or Business Administration, and no experience necessary", it is more often than not, a Boiler Room style direct sales job.


You are sort of like asking why lawyers need their own degrees when most people can already read at a twelfth-grade level.

To echo what has already been said, accounting and finance are about rules. In the case of accounting, those rules are the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles or GAAP. There isn't much math other than addition and subtraction.


If you are really good at math, maybe you can go work at a hedge fund or investment bank or something building models.

NAF1138
10-20-2010, 04:11 PM
So here's what I'm wondering about: what is it about accounting or finance jobs that they require their own degree? I mean, I'm thinking with a degree in Math, surely my mathematical knowledge far exceeds that required for any accounting or finance job. And isn't math what accounting and finance are all about?

What is the difference between an asset and equity?

What accounts carry a normal credit balance, which a debit?

Which accounts are balance sheet accounts? What does that mean?

How and when do you close the books on an account?

What is cash basis accounting and how does it differ from accrual basis accounting, and which is the better method for the business you are working in?


Can you answer the above questions? If not then you probably need some accounting classes.


Are there even purist bookkeepers and accountants who do arithmetic with a pen and paper anyway? Old fogeys who don't trust excel or accounting software to add a series of numbers up?

Pen and paper, probably not. But in my office everyone uses a 10 key adding machine with tape to back up anything they do on excel. We are run by technophobes though.

GESancMan
10-20-2010, 06:10 PM
I should clarify that accounting is not a field I have some big interest in; getting an accounting job is not a goal of mine. I simply saw a job posted and decided to apply.

Thanks for the replies, everyone. Obviously I don't know much about the field, which is why I asked. ;)

NAF1138
10-20-2010, 06:17 PM
I should clarify that accounting is not a field I have some big interest in; getting an accounting job is not a goal of mine. I simply saw a job posted and decided to apply.

Thanks for the replies, everyone. Obviously I don't know much about the field, which is why I asked. ;)

Honestly, if you take a basic intro to accounting class you can probably fake the rest of it for a little while if they are as hard up for applicants as you say they are. And accounting is interesting. More interesting than I thought it would be anyway.

(I was an Theatre Arts major in college, this was just my day job...then it turned into my job. It's not bad.)

msmith537
10-20-2010, 06:49 PM
I find accounting a bit dry IMHO. Finance is actually pretty interesting though. A lot of it is probability, trying to quantify risk and determine if an investment will be worthwhile over time.

Thudlow Boink
10-20-2010, 07:01 PM
I don't want to be an accountant; I want to be a lion tamer (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMOmB1q8W4Y).

Joey P
10-20-2010, 09:04 PM
Are there even purist bookkeepers and accountants who do arithmetic with a pen and paper anyway? Old fogeys who don't trust excel or accounting software to add a series of numbers up?

Most (but not all) people use something like QuickBooks or Peachtree, but there's other places where arithmetic and algebra come in. Sure, you can use excel to do a food cost analysis, but often times it's faster to do it on paper. For example, just today I made a new item. It used chocolate, various candies and caramel. I weighed each item before and after to find out how much I put in and jotted it down on some scrap paper as I was going. When I had the finished product I weighed that to get my net weight. A few calculations and I knew what the final cost per pound was. Something like that, for me, is faster with pen and paper then excel.

louO
01-19-2011, 03:12 PM
I do not have an accounting degree but received my job as I have equivalent experience, I started out as an accounting clerk - landed that job because I had good math grades...many companies will hire people with equivalent experience instead of degrees...here is an example accounting jobs (http://www.emerituscareers.com/careers/accounting-jobs). However, if you are planning on ever being in an accounting supervisory position you would want to go to school for accounting as you will want to know how to do payroll which includes filing specific forms and you will learn this by taking accounting courses.

Lord Ashtar
01-19-2011, 03:19 PM
Ever looked at the CPA exam? Not just a bunch of math.

He's not applying for a job as Corporate Controller. I would think that someone with a degree in math would be able to pick up the basics on the job.