How an Accounting Degree Can Help You in the “Real World”

Your accounting degree doesn’t just help you get a job. It comes with great practical uses in the real world.

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My career journey has been a very long and interesting one. I have gone through many peaks and valleys to get to where I am right now, but there is no place I’d rather be.

I have loved animals throughout my entire life. When it came time to apply to college, I wanted to get a degree in marine biology and work in animal care. I talked with many schools with great marine bio programs. However, when I spoke with career counselors, they all reinforced how difficult it is to actually find a job in the field.

In school, math was a subject I excelled at. I always got As, and it was something I actually didn’t mind doing. I went with the safer bet and majored in accounting. I did extremely well in college, and I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and my Master’s degree in Business Administration. I then started working at a bank headquarters as an accounting specialist.

I later realized I despised being behind a desk all day and typing the same thing into a computer over and over again. I longed to do different things throughout my day instead of the same, repetitive motions. I had an epiphany that I had to go after my childhood dream. Am I crazy? Yes, but I’m glad I put in my notice at my job, moved back in with my parents and started volunteering at Mystic Aquarium. After a lot of hard work and resilience, I was eventually able to work my way up to a job as a full-time Animal Care Specialist for Living Exhibits, Inc., which is a company the aquarium outsources to bring in seasonal exhibits.

While I do not have a career in accounting, I do not regret my experience. I still find ways that my education has come in handy throughout my life. Here are four ways in which accounting has helped me in the real world, and can help you, too.

Restaurant Tabs
It is pretty much a given that when I am out to dinner with a large group of people, I am handed the check at the end of the night. In accounting, you are taught how to divide up expenses and figure out percentages. I know how to allocate each person’s individual expenses because I’ve written up whole financial statements for companies. If you ask me what your tip should be on your meal, I can tell you in approximately one half second because I have figured out percentages a million times. I also know how to figure out the tax because I know that the tax each person is owed is based on each person’s balance, just like a company’s net tax is based on its profit.

Work expense sheets
In any job or career, there are always expenses involved. Since they are company expenses, the company needs a way of recording and tracking those expenditures. Therefore, in comes everyone’s dreaded spreadsheet, the expense report.

Expense reports are records of all your expenses — allocated to individual categories to know how company money is being spent, tax included. If you have been supplied with a company credit card, this amount of money should equal the current balance on the card subtracted from total amount of money that was placed on the card. Managers will then know how much is being spent or if money needs to be reallocated towards something else.

Most people cannot wrap their heads around figuring out the expense report. I automatically took to it. Not because I am obsessed with Excel, but because I already knew how to figure it out. Accountants use the double entry accounting system, in which every entry in a financial statement has a corresponding and opposite entry. For example, on any financial statement, a debit will increase an expense, and a credit will decrease an expense. The corresponding entry will be a decrease in cash, which is an asset. Assets are decreased in credit. As expenses increase, cash flow is decreased. That statement is the principal of financial statements, and the whole theory behind an expense report.

The expense report is simply a balance sheet in a financial statement. So, for me, the expense report is not Frankenstein’s monster. It’s a more than conquerable beast.

Sales
This one pretty much goes without saying. I’m not going to lie, just like any other girl who likes to have 500 pairs of shoes but doesn’t want to pay full price for them, I love sales. But what’s also great is that I can figure how much I am actually going to end up paying in five seconds. After figuring out tax percentages and mortgage interest, it’s easy. I’m the one to have around if you want to figure out if you can buy a dress that’s on sale for 30% off if you only have $40 left. I’m like a walking calculator.

Taxes
I know, I know. Tax season is like hurricane season. It’s stressful, time consuming and potentially can take away your money. However, for me, it’s not so stressful. When I was getting my Master’s degree, I interned at the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. It’s a program created by the IRS to help those with lower incomes file their taxes for free. My job was filing tax returns. In doing so, I know the entire process.

I know about certain tax credits that I qualify for. I know which forms need to be filled out, how to file to make sure that I am getting the maximum refund and if you should itemize your deductions or just take the standard. I also know certain things that count as deductions that most people don’t know about, potentially increasing your payout. And I will never have to pay for an accountant, which will save me lots of money.

 

Your degree can always prove useful in ways that you might not even necessarily realize. I will never regret getting my degree in accounting, because I now have knowledge that I wouldn’t have if I had not made that decision. I use my degree every day. So be crazy, go after your dreams and never settle. I’m sure glad I never did.

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