Do you have to love math to be an accountant? Due to the importance of numbers in the work of an accountant, you might think that you will have to take numerous – and difficult – math courses to earn your accounting degree. For potential accounting students who don’t enjoy or excel at complicated mathematical formulas, this concern could deter you from pursuing a career that would otherwise be a great fit. It is true that math skills are important for success as an accountant, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, you should know that most of the math involved in accounting requires proficiency in basic math skills rather than complex high-level mathematics.
Math Courses in an Accounting Curriculum
If you’re considering majoring in accounting, you might be relieved to learn that it is more important for aspiring accountants to be good at research, logic, problem-solving and using computer software than to excel at advanced mathematics. Of course, you should expect to take some math coursework during your college career. Like students in other majors, students of accounting must complete their college’s general education requirements, which usually include at least one or two math classes. As an accounting student, you might have to take a course in algebra or precalculus as well as an applied calculus or business calculus class. Coursework in statistics can also be important, especially for teaching accounting students how to analyze financial data.
The type of accounting degree you earn can play a part in how much math is a part of your curriculum. At the undergraduate level, there are a variety of possible degrees you can earn in the subject of accounting. A Bachelor of Accounting or Bachelor of Accountancy (BAC) degree focuses more on the foundational concepts and practices of accounting than on developing students’ math skills. A Bachelor of Science in Accounting (BSACC) degree emphasizes technical accounting and analytical skills and is more likely to include some advanced mathematical coursework.
You can also choose a more general business degree, like a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) or Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA) with a concentration in accounting. These programs include studies in a broad range of business and management topics with some emphasis on accounting principles and practices. BBA and BSBA degree programs are less likely to require extensive studies in mathematics, but they also focus more on a general business core than on more specialized accounting topics.
While each degree program covers both theory and techniques to some degree, it’s important for aspiring accountants to consider whether they prefer to study applied or conceptual accounting coursework and choose a degree program that fits their needs.
How Accountants Use Math
The reason the BLS reports that you don’t need complex math skills to be an accountant is because the math used to manipulate numbers in accounting is generally basic. The notion that accounting is all about math is one of the most prevalent myths about accounting. Accountants follow formulas to create financial statements, but those formulas are consistent and typically require accountants to simply plug in the right numbers. The math used in these formulas can be done with a calculator or spreadsheet software. The credits and debits found in accounting can be handled with simple addition and subtraction. What accountants do need is familiarity and a degree of comfort with working with numbers, especially in the form of percentages, fractions, and decimals.
If you aspire to become a certified public accountant (CPA) or attain another accounting certification, then you will need to perform enough math to pass your exams. Some accounting professionals report that the math needed to pass their credentialing exams is more complex and difficult than the math they use daily in their work as an accountant.
In addition to math skills, communication skills, analytical skills, organizational skills and attention to detail are important qualities for accountants to have, according to the BLS.
If you want to be an accountant but you’re not good at math, don’t give up hope. Instead, speak with an advisor or career counselor at your school or an established accounting professional to find out how much math you will really need to do to earn your accounting degree. You may be pleasantly surprised to find that you already have sufficient math skills for the job. If so, your education is more a matter of learning accounting theories and how to apply them.