There's a lot more to accounting than financial statements, audits and taxes.
If you know accounting, you can follow the money as it flows through your company. This is an extremely important skill and one that's highly valued in major corporations. Think of deep accounting knowledge as a tool that can unlock lots of different career paths — including many outside of the accounting profession.
Simply put, accounting builds your business IQ.
A technical foundation
In any career, you'll be expected to be a good steward of your organization's financial resources. That means understanding your sources of revenue and costs, keeping track of financial information and making good decisions based on that information.
To someone with accounting knowledge, those things become second nature. No matter what industry you're in, accounting know-how instantly makes you one of the smartest people in the room.
There's a lot you can do with deep accounting knowledge
In the C-suite: Senior management must understand their organization's complete financial picture and make sound financial decisions. They need experience in budgeting, profit and loss management and setting financial strategy, among other things.
When managing projects: Before a new project is approved, many companies require that its potential return on investment be calculated. Once it is kicked off, project managers – no matter what their industry or functional area in the company – are expected to manage costs and other financial aspects of their projects.
While doing business abroad: Global business is increasingly a reality. Analysts and managers must understand the differences in doing business in different countries, from tax liabilities to currency fluctuations.
When dealing with the law: All organizations need to understand how contracts, taxes and other legal matters affect their finances. And that requires the expertise of a trained accountant. Law firms and law enforcement agencies frequently need accountants to help them analyze and interpret financial information of all kinds.
In serving the public good: Government agencies and nonprofits may be mission-driven rather than profit-focused, but they still need professionals to ensure they're managing their money according to the constraints set down by legislators, donors and the law.
Whenever trust is important: Leaders must make decisions based on the information they have. They need to be confident that the numbers are right and that there are no hidden nuances that might steer their decisions down a different path. Accountants are frequently the guardians of this trust, making their role critical at the highest levels of any organization.
Many, many choices
Think accounting is only for accountants? Think again. Adding accounting skills to your career arsenal will give you access to lots of potential jobs in lots of different organizations and industries.
Want to go higher on the corporate ladder? Want to move to another company? Want to start your own venture? A little accounting knowledge may be exactly what you need to make the jump.
What's your Business IQ?
Learn more about how accounting can make you smarter. Where do you stand now? Test your Business IQ and find out.
The University of North Carolina's Kenan-Flagler Business School delivers its top-ranked Master of Accounting degree in online and on-campus formats. GMAT waivers and fellowship awards are considered for those with significant work or military experience and GI Bill Benefits can be used to fund the program's tuition.