It's true. And here's why: The skills required to be an exceptional leader in the military — problem solving, strategy, planning, teamwork, attention to detail, and a strong work ethic — are the same skills required to be a successful accountant. In fact, major corporations and public accounting firms alike look for these "soft skills" first when they build out their teams.
Among these soft skills, leadership may be the most important. Companies place a high value on incoming employees who are boardroom-ready and who possess the maturity to work in client-facing situations. They often find these leadership attributes in those transitioning out of the military.
Of course, accounting knowledge and skills are required, too. But, with an undergraduate degree — any undergraduate degree — these skills can be gained in as little as one year. In fact, some graduate schools have designed their Master of Accounting degrees to cater specifically to those with little or no accounting experience. And, to make things more convenient for those already working, or serving, some programs are now fully online, allowing students to log in from anywhere in the world.
Accounting is challenging, but it's also straightforward. Less math than you might think; it's more about organization and documentation. Less rigid than you might think; there's actually a good deal of judgement and flexibility. And, because they regularly work on teams and with clients, accountants are less "back-office number cruncher," more "proactive communicator."
But, why accounting?
Hmmm ... why not? Accounting is very popular career choice. Accountants make strong starting salaries and see rapid salary progressions; even those just entering the workforce top six figures after just five years. Accountants are also in serious demand, both in public accounting firms and on corporate finance teams.
And, accounting is cooler — and way more important — than you think. Accountants help businesses make critical fiscal decisions that can shape investor confidence. Auditors verify transactions, protecting companies from allegations of fraud and criminal misstatement. Tax strategists uncover opportunities for significant savings. At more senior levels, those with an accounting background often fill key seats in the c-suite: CEO, CFO, or VP of Finance.
For those in the military planning to transition into the private sector or for those continuing to build a career within the military, a Master of Accounting degree is a key step toward lucrative accounting and finance positions. The degree also prepares students, and provides the necessary education credits, to sit for the CPA exam, the key professional credential within the accounting field.
As noted above, some schools, offer online programs that allow students to earn the degree from anywhere in the world while continuing to work or travel. The best programs leverage webcam-connected classrooms to bring students together for live, interactive discussions and learning management systems that deliver course lectures via recorded video.
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.