As you consider career options, you may find yourself drawn to jobs in the accounting profession. However, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve been in a math class, you may find yourself wondering what types of math skills you will need for an accounting degree.
The Good News
Here’s the good news. It may come as a surprise, but math, though important, is not necessarily the main skill you will need in accounting. Mastering basic math formulas will be important, but other skills will also help you toward success. Computer skills and an ability to analyze and manage data may be equally or more important, depending on what kind of job you pursue.
Accounting programs usually require business and management courses as well as statistics. While some degrees may require a higher math course, it’s really lower math operations and basic algebra that will help you most. So if you struggled through calculus in high school or managed to avoid it entirely, don’t despair. Most accounting programs will have a good, basic math class to bring you up to speed. A comfort level with whole numbers, fractions, decimals, percentages, ratios, order of operations, exponents and some general algebra is what you will most often need to draw on in accounting work.
Remember that a lot of mathematical work these days is handled via computers, so you may need less skill in doing the actual calculating but plenty of confidence in knowing how to set up and input the data, run a spreadsheet and then analyze and interpret the data once it’s all entered. Staying abreast of current and emerging technology will be very helpful.
Remember Other Skills Are Also Important
Analyzing and interpreting data may be one of the most important skill sets of all. If you have shown aptitude in quantitative, problem-solving abilities, it is likely that you will be well prepared to study accounting and to eventually pass your CPA licensing exam. And while math is one way to work on your quantitative skills, you may find that courses in logic, economics or physics may be just as important.
Much of what you will end up studying may depend on the kind of accounting job you pursue. In general, you will likely find an ability to follow specific accounting procedures and to understand tax law important. You may need to study certain kinds of skills and procedures, such as those needed to become a financial auditor or to handle a company’s payroll.
Experts seem to agree that a lack of confidence in math shouldn’t stop you from pursuing an accounting degree if you have good basic skills and a willingness to review and solidify those skills. Accounting is not simply crunching numbers, but being able to use the numbers to help individuals and companies achieve their financial goals that matters the most. If you have an interest in pursuing accounting, knowing what types of math skills you will need for an accounting degree is important, but gaining a broader view of an accountant’s job overall will truly help you decide whether to enter the field. See “What Does an Accountant Do?” for more details.