You’re currently still in school and think a career as an Accountant is in your future? However, you’ve got to decide which subjects you are going to take in your final years of high school in order to lead to your future career.
In this post I am going to answer several questions which will likely benefit you in your high school years if you wish to become an accountant:
- Do you need to pick certain subjects at school to become an Accountant?
- Should you aim to go to University if I want to become an Accountant?
- What subjects will benefit me most in learning about Accountancy?
- Do you need to be good at maths to be an Accountant?
PICKING SCHOOL SUBJECTS LEADING TO A CAREER IN ACCOUNTING
I remember when I was in High School, and I really struggled when it came to choosing which subjects I would continue with. There were some subjects I really enjoyed, but had zero relation to my target career path. However, there were others which I hated, but were almost essential.
For example, I am a guitar player and love music. So, despite my better judgement, I decided to take music as a class. However, this didn’t actually detract from my ability to become an Accountant, in fact, it benefitted it! Often in an interview scenario, you will be asked about your hobbies – showing you’re not boring and that you have a personality is key to landing your dream job (see my post on nailing a Big 4 Accounting interview).
I find that often people focus too much on the academic side of things. While in reality you need to be a pretty balanced and well rounded candidate to really succeed in the accounting world. There’s a stereotype that we’re all boring and don’t have a personality. This isn’t the case at all, and the best Accountants I know are a lot of fun. It is the boring ones who end up in the same job for 30 years and don’t make much progress.
DO YOU NEED TO PICK CERTAIN SUBJECTS IN SCHOOL TO BECOME AN ACCOUNTANT?
Short answer: No, not really.
There are certain subjects which will benefit your learning more when it comes to going to University, or starting yuor career. However, I think it doesn’t matter too much.
The only subjects I would say are essential, are Maths and English. These are two skills that you need to be at least “good” at in order to be a successful accountant. I don’t think you need to be in the top class for Maths, or amazing at it. You just need to be able to solve mathematical equations and not feel out of your depth when doing some relatively basic maths.
Other than English and Maths, I think just choose the subjects you enjoy. You will succeed far more doing subjects that you really enjoy and are passionate about. Getting an A in Music is far more important than getting a C in an Accounting class. Generally Universities will look at grades, not subjects. As I’ve said, the only subjects I generally see as a ‘requirement’ are English and Maths
However, a tip I would give is to go and look at the entry requirements for University Degrees in the subject you want to study, and also the entry requirements for local jobs looking for trainee accountants. Do they expect you to have a degree? Are there certain high school grades/subjects they expect? This will give you certainty over what subjects to pick at school to continue your career path as an accountant.
SHOULD I GO TO UNIVERSITY TO BECOME AN ACCOUNTANT?
There isn’t a simple answer to this. I do not believe that having a degree will drastically improve your ability to be an accountant. However, I do believe it teaches you significant lessons about hard work and social skills. It is those lessons which create a divide between the good trainee, and the average trainee.
If you can’t afford to go to University, or it really isn’t something you want to do, then going straight into a trainee position is possible.
If you go straight into the work place from school, you could be a fully qualified Accountant by the age of 22 – I went to University and didn’t fully qualify until I was 25. That’s an extra 3 or 4 years of salary you will be receiving, and that can be a huge different on your personal life. Those 3 or 4 years mean you could get on the property ladder far sooner.
Let’s also remember the debt of going to University.
Personally, I don’t regret going to University. However, I do believe I would be financially better off if I hadn’t gone. However, I wouldn’t have landed the successful jobs that I have had without going to University. It led me down a path where I was able to get an incredibly prestigious Accounting qualification (ICAS requires a degree), and I moved to a location far from home after graduating. These events wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t go to University.
My advice would be to sit down and think about exactly what you want from your career, and the answer will likely become obvious.
WHAT SUBJECTS WILL BENEFIT ME MOST IN BECOMING AN ACCOUNTANT?
I’ll keep this bit pretty simple, and just state the subjects I think will benefit your learning. Some schools may not have these subjects, which makes it difficult. For example, I know people who studied Accounting in High School, however, my school didn’t have this as a subject.
This one is obvious. If your school offers this as a subject, and you want to be an Accountant, I think you’d be a little silly to turn it down as an option. This will likely give you a great foundation going forwards. You will understand things your peers don’t when taking on your qualifying exams, and this will stand you in good stead for success.
Economics will teach you the power of money, and how it works around the world. This is a key understanding for Accountants, and something that really benefitted my understanding of finance as a whole while at University.
The closest thing I had to an accounting class at school was business management. It was my favourite class. Your future accounting qualification will have a business management style module, so this is very relatable to your future qualification. If your school offers it, I would 100% take it.
Maths is often on the entry requirements for an accounting course at University. I know many people hate it as a subject, and I know a lot of the subject is highly irrelevant to real life. However, it is usually an essential, and you will struggle to get into a University course, or even an entry level trainee role without it.
English just helps your basic understanding of the English language. It will allow you to communicate better, and write better and more concise emails. There’s nothing worse than a colleague who can barely string a sentence together, or regularly makes spelling errors.
DO I NEED TO BE GOOD AT MATHS TO BE AN ACCOUNTANT?
No, but you do need to take it as a subject.
You don’t need to be getting top level A’s in Maths, but you need to at least show you are competent with numbers. I would recommend taking Maths and trying to do as well as possible in it – despite how much you likely dislike the subject.