Is there an accountant in the house??

So, I’m going into eleventh grade in September and my parents want me to seriously decide on what I’m going to study in university and what I want to do afterward. Well, I’m really gifted in math; I have a keen eye for details; I’m organized to the point where it borders on obsessive-compulsive disorder; I don’t really like working with people, but if I have to, I will; I like it when things balance and are organized (did I mention that??).

Anyways, I took an eleventh-grade course called “Introduction to Accounting” this past year and I thought accounting would be a job that sort of fits me (math, lots of detail and organization). Granted, I know the basics of accounting, but I’m taking the twelfth-grade course for accounting next year. Anyways, my mom is actively encouraging me to research accounting a bit. I told her that I know a wonderful online community of people who will surely help me. So, is anyone here an accountant or do you know an accountant? What is the job like? What exactly do you do?

I’m not an accountant now, but at one point I had my CPA. I’ve let it lapse in recent years. Hopefully, I’m still qualified to respond!

There are many things you can do with an interest in accounting. Don’t assume that you must be an accountant just because you do well in an introduction to bookkeeping class. Accounting can be an entry into ** many **areas of management.

When I got out of school with and accounting degree, I went straight into auditining. Auditing is a love/hate kind of thing. If you love it, life is good. You work like hell during busy season (think 80 hours per week or more), but outside of busy season you can get a lot of time off and the pay is good.
Busy season is usually January through May. It’s not unusual for auditors to work 80 hours for several weeks in a row then take 3 consecutive weeks off. If you like that, it’s a great life.

If you’re considering getting your CPA. please note that it’s a great entry into many fields. I currently work in marketing. You would think that a CPA would have nothing to do with marketing. However, getting that designation really made an impact. I work for a financial services firm and having a CPA really made a differnce for them. It’s not like I really use my accounting education. It’s more the fact that they saw I was smart enough and quantitative enough to get the degree–they didn’t care about the rest.

When I was in auditing, we would get a customer’s books and go through them. We would check that they entered information correctly. Then we would do some spot checking to make sure that they were really checkiing what they said they were. To be a good auditor, you need an eye for detail and a good head for figures (it sounds like you have that).
All that said, in 11th grade, you’re still very young. Take accounting classes if they interest you. If you follow your interest and you have abilitiies to back it upl you will find a job to match!

I’ve got to say, I can’t think of a better entry level job for someone that is analytically bent than auditing. You gain an entry into so many different areas and yet you never pigeon hold yourself. If you’re not analytical, it may be different. But for numbers freaks, auditing is a great start!

I’m not an accountant, but my sister was for more than 15 years. She, like you, had a natural gift for math, figures and details. She loved her job for the first several years, and then she got burnt out on it.

So I asked her, and here’s what she told me: “It can get tedious, and it’s a lot of sameness, as far as your day-to-day tasks. It’s interesting sometimes, but not exactly exciting.”

Ok, well, she’s not the most descriptive person, either.

As my side job, I do some light accounting, and I find it interesting and challenging. I enjoy the problem-solving aspect, and the detailed bits of work. I don’t find a need for math skills in what I do, but that’s because I’ve set up applications to do it for me (because I suck at math).

Don’t know if that’s helpful, but it’s some secondhand accountant input.

I’m not an accountant, but know and have worked with enough auditors to second MaddyStrut’s recommendation relating to jobs in auditing. I work in government and know that there are quite a few government jobs which involve auditing tasks that are less concentrated in one part of the year. Don’t know what would be different in Canada.

Another field you might consider is actuarial science. I have a cousin who is in that field and works with banks on stuff that is way beyond my understanding. I know that you have to have great math and statistical skills. There are several Dopers who are actuaries (I’ve seen a couple threads in the past year; there’s one running right now from someone who is taking an actuarial exam); maybe one of them will stop in here and say something substantial about the field and opportunities in the field.

I think both of these fields might fit your personality and abilities pretty well.


First off, an incoming 12th grader should not be picking what she will do for the rest of her life. There is nothing wrong with exploring the options and getting a direction, but be aware that people typically change in college and, these days, a lot of people change after they have left school. (I’m on my third career and none of them have actually been based on my college major.)

That said, accounting is an excellent starting point, because it should give you and underlying feel for most careers that involve business. As MissGypsy noted, there is a certain amount of “sameness” to accounting that can often lead to burnout after a while if your personality is not suited to it. However, if you find you enjoy accounting, but are afraid of burnout, consider moving past it to finance. In finance, your decisions are based on a strong accounting base, but you then look outside your particular domain to see how you can use tax laws, cash flow, capital expenditures, revenue, and other things, including intangibles, to set strategic directions for a company. A good accountant can be an excellent accounting manager. His or her boss, the controller/comptroller needs to know finance to be better than adequate.

(Standard line about the auditors: they are the people on your side who come to the battlefield after the firing stops and shoot your own wounded. OTOH, it is an essential role in the world of corporations and government and a good auditor is worth nearly as much as a good salesman in terms of financial solvency. A bad auditor is simply an asshole that borrows your cubicle instead of using the restroom.)

I’m not an accountant, but my dad is…sorta.

He is a CPA and Enrolled Agent and has an economics degree. He started off doing basic accounting/book keeping/ tax stuff, but started his own business after not too long.

He branched off and now works settling tax issues for people against the IRS. He makes as much as a good attorney (in our town at least- he pulls the same retainer as the top attorney), works less hours (he spends his days playing poker on his computer, actually), and doesn’t have to do all that standard tax/accounting stuff because he makes me do it. Good times! :stuck_out_tongue:

Anyway, he clearly likes it. Accounting will open you up to many roads you can take. Be creative, be different, and you will make bank my friend :smiley: .

Some comments I made about an actuarial career in a previous thread:

I am an actuary and live in Australia. I qualified in 1990 and have found the job extremely interesting. I have worked in all sorts of areas - life insurance, non-life insurance, pension funds and banking, both here in Australia and overseas. Basically all the tasks have revolved around financial modelling, analysing past economic and demographic experience to project the future financial position of insurance companies and pension funds. For example, at a life insurance company an actuary could be involved in premium rating; analysis of the experience of the various risk portfolios; estimation of the insurer’s liabilities; or simply general management.

I’m not sure of the exact details of the qualification procedure in the USA. I’m sure that the website of the Society of Actuaries would have all the information. To become a Fellow of the Institite of Actuaries here in Australia one has to pass three lots of exams (entitled, rather unoriginally, Parts I, II and III). I completed the equivalent of the Part I and Part II exams by doing an Economics degree at university. These Parts cover mathematics, statistics, basic finance and economics, demography, mortality theory etc. I then studied the Part III exams part-time once I had begun working as an actuarial student. The Part III exams are more practically oriented, with the emphasis on problem solving and communication of solutions to business problems. The Part III exams are pretty tough, with pass rates ranging from 15-35%, so one definitely feels a sense of achievement on passing.

Actuaries are generally very well paid too, which, for me, was a big incentive.

Both of my parents are accountants. I’m not sure what it is that they do exactly- my mom writes down lots of numbers in Excel and then comes home and complains about what a dumbass her boss is, while my dad writes emails, tells people to do stuff, and then goes out for lunch or something. I may be kind of biased since crunching numbers from 9-5 in a cubicle is about the last job on earth that I’d want, but their jobs always seemed especially boring and tedious to me.

And I second the “don’t worry about picking out a career, you’ve got plenty of time to do that” stuff.

Before I quit my job, I worked in one of the 'big five" public accounting firms in Canada. Lets just say that it was a lot of work and being overworked all the time. Especially during busy season which for me was around December to July to accomodate December year ends which are due June 30. There are many different types of jobs in auditing in the accounting industry and the type of work you are doing. I remember taking grade 11 accounting, loved it, thought it was quite easy. Taking accounting in universtity, hated it, a lot of memorization. But the pay is pretty good. I think you have plenty of time to decide. If you enter into a business degree anyways, accounting courses are offered ususally as required courses, so try taking one like intro to accounting and see if you like it.

If you like accounting, I say go for it. Remember, though, that what you choose now or what you start out with in college is not what you have to stick with. My brother’s best friend in high school went to college to study engineering and artificial intelligence. After a semester, he figured out that he hated it, but wouldn’t move on to something else because “this is what I chose and I have to finish”. He’s now unhappily married and works as a cashier in a pet store.

Along with accounting take an art class or something completely NOT math related (except music). Try theater or intermural badminton or something. Have fun. It took me until well into my eleventh grade year to realize that you don’t have to start your career now, but you can dabble a bit.

Good luck!

To expound a wee bit on one of the career options, how does one break into the field of auditing? Do I need to get a CPA designation off the bat? What level of work experience will I need? Anything in accounting or do I need to be at a fairly high level?

Thanks for all the helpful replies. Accounting is something I am considering doing, but it’s definitely not something I want to do for the rest of my life. I’ll probably change majors or something in the middle of university, most likly. Anyways, I was also wondering, is there a field of accountancy where you do normal book-keeping? Or is that not accounting at all?

Besides auditing, there is finanical accounting, managerial accounting and tax accounting. Financial accounting is preparing the financial statements for firms. Managerial accounting is suppling the numbers that businesses use to make decisions. Tax accounting is (don’t let this surprise you) taxes. There are also people who specialize in payroll accounting. Then the Accounts Payable/Accounts Receivable that really isn’t accounting, but is bookkeeping. A small business accountant (either working for a small firm or self employed with a few small business clients) may do all of the above.

I spent almost 7 years working as an internal auditor, which may or may not require an accounting degree, depending on the company. I don’t have an accounting degree or any formal training as an accountant, but I ended up there through promotions at the first company I worked for. When I decided to change jobs, I got a position auditing at another company. One of my coworkers was prepping for the CPA exam, but I don’t remember whether even the department head was a CPA. Check out the Institute of Internal Auditors

But, with SOX in the US, it’s much more likely that you will need that accounting degree. Internal audit, when I was in the field, seemed like the red-headed stepchild in a lot of companies - they had to have a department, but it seemed like merely a cost center and not something that was great for the company.
To the OP, the Ohio Society of CPAs maintains a website for students: It may have something in there to give you some perspective on accounting as a career.

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When I was in college, an entry-level auditor position at a public accounting company was the holy grail. They were hiring people with accounting degrees right out of school - no experience, really. You didn’t need to have passed the CPA exam, but it was expected that you’d be preparing for it and pass it not to long afterwards. In California, public accounting experience (there are a few other ways, but this is the easiest) is a prerequisite to obtaining the CPA license, so people use public accounting (auditing) as their way to BECOME a CPA, rather than the other way around.

Auditors at public accounting firms often don’t stay too long. They stay long enough to get basic experience and the hours requirements to become a CPA, then go to work at private industry as controllers, etc.

I have a degree in accounting, but don’t actually do accounting work right now. I did right after college (didn’t go public accounting route, because San Diego jobs were not plentiful), where I did some cost accounting, accounts payable, and general ledger work. I then moved into financial analysis - budget analysis, variance analysis, etc. Now I work in the regulatory affairs group of a pharmaceutical company managing our budget.

An accounting degree is a good basis for a lot of careers. People see that field of study and figure you have “business know-how”, so it can apply to lots of different jobs.