Whether you want to run your own business or work for a company, accounting skills can be useful. Many accountants go through a degree program to obtain their training, but it’s not always necessary.
You can teach yourself accounting basics, but an accounting degree is usually necessary for professional certification. If taking the CPA exam is a goal, most states will require an accounting degree. But if the goal is to learn the basics, self-teaching is an excellent option.
Accounting is a great skill to learn for anyone who wants to run a business or work in a corporate office. If you know how to manage the books, you can keep track of your finances without outside help. Keep reading to learn if you should teach yourself accounting and how to do so.
Why Teach Yourself Accounting
If you want to learn accounting, you may be trying to decide between getting a degree or learning it on your own. Teaching yourself accounting can be a great way to develop a new skill without going back to school.
Consider a few practical reasons why you should learn accounting, in or out of the classroom.
Even if you don’t plan to work in accounting, learning accounting means you can understand financial information and issues. If you know some basic accounting, you can ensure your bank balance is correct.
You’ll be able to pick out fraudulent transactions. When you go to buy a house or car, you’ll be able to negotiate by understanding the value.
If you decide to start a business, you can use your accounting skills to figure out your company’s value. Whenever you need to work with a manufacturer to create a product, you’ll know if they’re trying to overcharge you.
Increase Your Skills
Whether you work for a corporation or want to start your own, accounting skills are helpful. You can use your accounting skills to set a budget for your own business. If you work for a large company, you can help the accounting department.
Even if you don’t work in accounting or finance, the more skills you have, the more marketable you’ll be. If you ever need to find a new job or outside funding, you can show your accounting skills.
You don’t need to be an accounting expert, but knowing the basics can help almost anyone. Who knows, maybe you’ll decide you want to work in accounting after you learn the basics.
Self-Teaching vs. Accounting Degrees
If you want to learn accounting, you have to decide between teaching yourself or pursuing an official education. Both options have unique benefits, and one might be better for you. But neither is always the ideal choice. Consider a few advantages to each situation.
Pros of Self-Teaching
Teaching yourself accounting can be as affordable as you want. You can take a course or two, or you can use books and articles to study accounting. It doesn’t matter if you want to learn accounting for free or have money to spend on your studies.
Studying accounting yourself is also less time-consuming than getting a degree. Unless you’re already in college and trying to pick a major, you may not want to go to school. College requires time, money, and mental energy to get through your classes.
You also have to study a specific curriculum through an accounting degree. When you learn on your own, you have control over what you learn and when. Learning on your own is a great way to get your foot wet in the world of accounting, and it can set you up to work in bookkeeping.
Pros of Accounting Degrees
If you need structure to study a field like accounting, you may not want to teach yourself. Going to school for accounting can give you some security. You will have a set framework of topics to study and courses to take.
An accounting degree can also help you if you want to become a certified public accountant (CPA). Most state CPA exams require an accounting degree, so you need to go to school if you want to take that route.
Even if your state doesn’t require an accounting degree, getting one can make you look more credible. You can put your degree on a resume for any accounting jobs, and you can stand out.
How to Teach Yourself Accounting
If you determine that you don’t need an official degree in accounting, you should figure out how to teach yourself accounting. Here are some steps you can take to start learning about numbers and business financials.
Get Comfortable With Numbers
The first thing you can do to teach yourself accounting is to get comfortable with numbers. Many accountants work with numbers, and they use spreadsheets or similar software to track financial transactions.
You should learn a program like Excel and start working with different numbers and balances. Luckily, you don’t need to learn advanced algebra or calculus. However, you should be able to do some mental math, and you should know how to input formulas in Excel.
Learning and using accounting involves a lot of numbers, so you should understand them. Then, you’ll be able to learn the basics and more advanced concepts.
Learn Accounting Terminology and Tools
Once you have an idea of how to use spreadsheets and are comfortable with numbers, you can learn some accounting terms. Accountants and bookkeepers regularly use balance sheets and income statements to track financial data.
You can find a list of accounting terms online, and you can study the definitions. However, you’ll want to put some of the terms into practice using balance sheets and other documents.
It can also help to learn the basics of accounting software, like QuickBooks. Especially if you want to run a small business, you need to understand how to track finances over time. QuickBooks even offers certification if you want to use it for business.
As you teach yourself accounting, you should read as much as you can. While you can use articles and online resources, there’s nothing like a good book. Books like Accounting Made Simple by Mike Piper cover the basics of accounting.
You can read through a book at your leisure, so you can go as fast or slow as you want. The Piper book covers concepts in a way that’s easy to understand, so you don’t need to overwhelm yourself with accounting terms.
Still, it’s a great option for studying the basics. Once you read up on accounting, you can put those skills to work or further your studies.
If you want a more interactive option for teaching yourself accounting, take a course or two. You can find some accounting courses online for free, so you don’t have to invest any money. Consider a course like Introduction to bookkeeping and accounting to learn some basic skills.
The course offers a statement of participation once you complete the course. Then, you can use that statement to show you know the basics.
If you want to go more in-depth, you can look for accounting courses through a continuing education program. You can work with an accounting teacher, and you can go through the materials with others. This can be a great option if you want motivation but can’t commit to a full degree.
After you get a grasp on the basics, you should put what you learn into practice. The easiest way to do this is to practice with your personal finances. You can plan out your budget or track the income and expenses as they hit your account.
Even if you want to do more than bookkeeping, practicing your skills is essential. Knowing a lot about accounting theory is great, but practical skills are just as crucial to running a business or landing an accounting job.
Teaching yourself accounting is a great way to learn about finances. But if you want to become a CPA or get a corporate accounting job, you may need professional training. Still, self-teaching can enhance your accounting skills no matter what industry you work in
- Harvard Business School Online: 4 Reasons Everyone Should Learn Basic Accounting
- CPA Accounting Institute for Success: How to Become a CPA Without a Degree in Accounting
- WikiHow: How to Learn Accounting on Your Own
- NYS Society of CPAs: Accounting Terminology Guide
- Amazon: Accounting Made Simple: Accounting Explained in 100 Pages or Less
- Quora: Is it reasonable to think I could teach myself accounting?