Career Guide: What Can I Do With An Accounting Degree?

Bill Schneider

Bill Schneider

Bill Schneider almost became a doctor. That was his initial plan, until a friend who was a Certified Public Accountant pointed out that, just like a doctor, a CPA is a profession that is respected, takes great talent to join, and helps people — but does so at half the college education and expense. Schneider took his friend’s advice and became a CPA in 1990. Today, he has 25 years of experience in the field and currently works in Dallas, Texas, as a Director of Accounting for AT&T.

Question: How do you describe what you do to people outside the field?

Schneider: “I have many ways to describe what I do and it depends on who asks. As CPAs we are responsible for making sure people understand what is really happening in the company so that can make good decisions that make a business successful. That means investors can trust what the companies are telling them. It means those who are retired can continue to count on the dividends and interest that are funding their retirement. It means employees get paid the right amount for their work and it means that you and I pay the right amount of tax — no more, no less than is truly owed.”

Question: Accounting often has a reputation for being “boring.” Is this fair? How would you dispel this myth?

Schneider: “Boring is in the eye of the beholder. Many people in the world think football is boring. Other people think baseball is boring. Accounting is boring if you don’t like solving mysteries like Sherlock Holmes. Accounting is often like that — trying to figure out what is really going on and then how we should tell others about it so they can understand it as well. People think accounting is all about numbers, but the truth is it is about people and communication and decision making. The numbers are just a language that accountants use to do all of that.”

Question: What are the best aspects of your job?

Schneider: “Accounting is a base for everything we do, not only in business, but also in government and in not-for-profit organizations. The beauty of accounting is that your career can go in a thousand different directions all from the same base. You are not tied to a single technology or industry. You can work for yourself or as part of the largest companies in the world. In a world that will change many times during a career, accounting is a profession that allows you to change with the world.”

Question: Where do you see the profession headed? For people just starting their education or their professional career, what should they consider specializing in or studying?

Schneider: “The magic of the accounting profession is that you can do so many things. Whatever direction you end up going in, just make sure it is something you enjoy. As the quote goes, if you are doing a job that you love and enjoy, you?ll never work a day in your life.”