Accountants I Have a Question

Updated on January 05, 2012
H.J. asks from Saint Paul, MN
13 answers

Do you feel that you are gifted in doing math? Or is it an area you struggled iwth but do o.k. with in your field. Do you like what you do. What is your lest favorite part of your job? I am someone who would like to be an accountant or a financial advisor but never really thought I was a good math person. Now I don't think I am horrible but definately not a straight A college math student. Any insight!

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answers from San Francisco on

I do accounts payable and I can't add without a 10 key to save my life!! I was always terrible in math but I love my job. I love the detail work and I love seeing things through the whole cycle. I am SUPER organized and very detail oriented, which you have to be to do accounting. The most important thing is to find a good employer to work for. I work for a wonderful company so I am very lucky!

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answers from Dallas on

I am a bookkeeper. While I LOVE math, accounting is more about categorizing & tracking expenses; lots of different kinds of taxes and knowing all the rules about them; payroll & understanding deductions & additions to payroll. Managerial accounting is about using past data and future predictions to help companies make good decisions. Forensic accounting is the study of accounting data to reveal fraudulent practices or discern a chain of events. Yes the math is important, but usually the computer will handle that part. Accountants need to be organized and analytical. Some customers will have well kept records, but others will only have notes scribbled on napkins. A good accountant can turn those napkins into a record of the year's activity and file a federal tax return. I agree with some of the other comments; take an intro to accounting class at a community college. That will give you a good idea of how you really feel about accounting.

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answers from Houston on

I'm not bad in math concepts but most of my math is done on 10 key or x-cel. I have a bad memory and never memorized my multiplication tables. I also count on my fingers. Those weaknesses don't really factor in and I am a good accountant. I love accounting. There is nothing more perfect than the double entry bookkeeping system. It's like figuring out a puzzle. I'm a CPA but I don't like tax preparation and I don't work in public accounting. I'm more of a managment accountant. I like to provide good information for solid decision making. I feel like I'm an important contributor to the success of the school I work for. The thing I don't like is collecting past due balances. Hearing everyone's hard luck story is more information than I care to know.
Soon I'll have to take a more serious job and I'm looking into fraud examination.
Best wishes on finding your niche.

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answers from Charlotte on

I'm not an accountant or good at math. I just want to say that if you are really interested, the best thing you can do is take classes and see how you do. I think that a lot of what makes people good at math is being able to see the big picture. If you can "see it", knowing all the rules and how to apply them makes you someone who can help a business. If you only know how the rules work, but can't make good suggestions to help your clientele, then you are a mediocre accountant or financial advisor. I've met financial advisors who think that whatever they sell or know applies to everyone they meet. It isn't true. It's like hearing a stock broker tell someone who doesn't have discretionary funds to go into the stock market. It's like they have blinders on (and totally against the Prudent Man Rule), and I hated that when I worked in the business.

So take some classes, get your feet wet, and see what you think. If you don't end up feeling like it's for you, you will at least know how to look at accounting in a different way. And financial advising uses a different set of skills than accounting, just to let you know.

Good luck!

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answers from St. Louis on

Most good colleges are going to require business Calculus which I actually found easier than algebra but maybe it was just me.

I think the need for math varies with the area you practice in. Tax is more knowledge of law. Audit is more investigating. General practice you may want some firing brain cells because even if you can run a program you need to be able to explain what it tells you.

I am IT and accounting so I have a very strong math background, in retrospect I wish I had done actuarial sciences but water under the bridge.

I guess the thing is you need to understand the accounting concept rather than math. What I mean is in this story. For some reason my professors, oh I graduated a little over a year ago, thought I would make a good tutor. Fools! So we were working on budget spreadsheets and this kid just didn't get what cells needed to flow into what. This was a 300 level class. I asked him what goes into cost of goods sold. He did not know the answer. It isn't a trick question. If you are bringing a product to the market what goes into the cost? That kid was never going to be an accountant.

Oh that's it, common sense, that is what you really need. Being very precise doesn't hurt. Math, like others have said the computers will do that for you.

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answers from Cleveland on

I don't work in accounting anymore but it was my college major and I did work in the field for several years after graduation and got my CPA. I'm "strong" in math ie: was pushed a year ahead in school but have never considered myself a quant jock at all. I was lost in HS functions, hated physics etc. So accounting does not require complex math. I think people who enjoy accounting are to be honest, not overly creative, like organization, and precision. I'm like that so not criticizing. It can be a bit boring and actually, many people find their acct classes some of the hardest in college they take. Even my engineer husband who is very talented at math and understands things I can't come close to had a hard time with accounting. It's kind of something that has to click and then once it does, it's actually kind of cool. Same time, boring. You're not creating anything. You're keeping track of what other people do. And it's a "back office" function so not adding to the profits of a company which means they often want to cut staff, load on the work, you don't get a lot of credit etc. But depends where you work of course. And it's a skill that no one can take away from you vs a kind of intangible degree. Accoutants are also always needed.

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answers from Phoenix on

I have been doing accounting for over 10 years & am not good at math. I don't really like math, to be honest. If you can use a 10-key, calculator, are detail oriented and "get" accounting processes, those are more important than being good at math. I found that I was naturally good at accounting & fell into it. Some people have the knack & some don't.



answers from New York on

You have gotten some wonderful responses so far. Here is what I can add to the discussion.

Instead of taking classes I would strongly recommend a different perhaps more productive route. Take a self assessment test. This will let you know what kinds of opportunities would better suit your temperment, talents, skills and abilities. Then pursue your strenghts.

I'm an accountant and I didn't realize I truly didn't enjoy accounting until half way through my junior year of college. By then there was no turning back because neither me nor my mom were made of money. I wish I had taken an assessment test first and then pursued what would have been a better match for me.

I have done fairly well in the accounting business but there is more to working than money. You should be passionate about what you do. The routiness and systematic way of accounting is what irks me most but those are characteristics of the job that will never change.

Long story short - accountants keep track of money and things and record the money and the things and then remember where those records are stored based on a series of rules.
Financial advisors - help assess and recommend how to manage your money to reach a goal.

Please check out for a really great assessment test which is affordable in my opinion because it is cheaper than actually taking a class or two. I really hope this helps.



answers from Des Moines on

I'm a retired accountant. Average skills in math are perfectly fine for accounting. No need for algebra, geometry, etc., etc. However, what is needed more than anything to be successful in accounting is to be a VERY detailed person with a lot of patience and perseverence. Accountants use calculators for help, plus accounting type software. Computer literacy is a must - a good aptitude and understanding of Excel software is absolutely necessary.


answers from Houston on

My friend is an accountant. I am absolutely horrible at math and she explained her job to me in the way that accountant's math is more along the lines of solving the word problems one would use, being analytical, as well as percents and an understanding of taxes/interest and a lot of checks and balances using various software.

You can read about the nature of the work/training and such here:



answers from New York on

I've been working in the accounting field for over 40 years and yes you need strong basic math skills (adding, mutliplying, percentages, averages), but you do not need college math skills.

I'm not a CPA, but I know many who really didn't like having to do their internships in public accounting, and didn't enjoy the traveling.

Your best bet is to take an accounting course and see how you like it.



answers from San Francisco on

Hi H.,

I have chosen accounting (focus on taxation) as a second career. I was never a star in math, but I wasn't awful either. I have not run into any problems in the math area since beginning my courses...and now, two years later, I am within one semester of finishing!

I agree with prior posters who say that being analytical and detail oriented are helpful. I will respectfully disagree with the poster who said it's not creative--that's not the case at all when you are doing tax or financial planning. It's extremely creative and challenging...and exciting to SAVE money just by planning well. I get excited just thinking about it ; ) Good planning does add value to a company or to a family's "bottom line."

But I will agree that it's not for everyone. And I am personally not interested in being an accountant for one company--I prefer taxation because interpreting the law and applying it to your client's situation makes every engagement different...and I like variety.

Financial planning sounds interesting too...Do you know anyone in the field whom you could assist for a few days? This might also give you some insight...Good luck! S.



answers from New York on

I was terrible at math in high school. Even in grade school I was tracked lower and had to study very hard to get back into the first tier classes with my friends. I went as far as Trigonometry in 10th grade and never took a single math class after that, even in college. My major was English.

As long as you are competent with computers and particularly Excel (!!!), you could probably do accounting. I would also say you need to be able to handle the basics of math - addition, subtraction, division, percentages, etc. Being able to review your work is very important too - you want to catch mathematical errors before submitting your work.

I took a basic accounting course when it was clear I was going to be handling most of the bookkeeping and tax forms in my company. If you have not taken this type of course yet, I would highly recommend it before deciding accounting is your career path. Accounting has several important rules you need to memorize in order to keep an accurate General Ledger and prepare reports. I have found down through the years that there are some people out there who simply cannot understand the accounting rules no matter how hard they try.

Good luck!

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