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What do Phil Knight, the founder of Nike, Inc., and John Grisham, the prolific novelist, have in common? In addition to their acquisition of immense wealth, they both
degrees before embarking on what turned out to be incredibly successful
careers in nonaccounting businesses.
Contrary to contemporary perceptions, accounting is neither
a modern invention nor a narrow field. Moreover, accountants are a diverse
group of people who perform critically important roles at all kinds of
For example, accountants comprise approximately 15 percent
of all Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents, according
to the government agency. They frequently conduct financial investigations
for some of the FBI’s most notable cases, including those against terrorist
organizations, spies, and organized crime. This isn’t a new phenomenon, either;
when the FBI was first created in 1908, bank examiners comprised more than
one-third of the agency’s overall investigative team, the FBI notes.
In addition, another emerging special credential is becoming
more important within the accounting profession: the Certified Fraud Examiner
(CFE). In fact, the Bernie Madoff $50 billion fraud was uncovered by a CFE.
Until approximately 500 years ago, a majority of Europeans
relied on Roman numerals, which are notoriously difficult to manipulate in even
straightforward mathematical equations. Although rudimentary examples of accounting
records have been traced back to the time of the ancient Sumerians, true innovation
came as a result of the increasing popularity of Arabic numerals.
In Venice, Italy, at the end of the 15th century,
a Franciscan friar named Luca Pacioli (who happened to be Leonardo DaVinci’s
math tutor) published a math text that included a chapter devoted to what
became known as the “Venice System” of double-entry bookkeeping.
Simply put, double-entry bookkeeping requires that every transaction be entered
twice to account for the value of the sale and the exchange of the good in
Under the Venetian double-entry bookkeeping system, a shop
owner who sold an apple for $5 would note not only that his cash holdings
increased (or debited) by $5, but also that his apple inventory declined (credited)
by one unit. In this regard, Pacioli’s influence is manifested every day by
modern accountants; in fact, the terms “debit” and “credit” are derived from
Pacioli’s use of the terms “debitore” and “creditore.”
Double-entry bookkeeping ultimately served as the basis of
modern accounting and has had a profound impact on how commerce is both
conducted and measured across the globe. It even has formed the basis for contemporary
Accounting has evolved significantly since the time of
Pacioli, who essentially recorded in words a practice that was becoming more
and more popular among merchants of that era. The field has become increasingly
advanced, especially over the past 20 years. The proliferation of mobile-device
technologies is having a particularly profound effect on the accounting
Yet the most significant driver of change over the past few
decades has come as a result of the Sarbanes-Oxley
Act (SOX) in 2002. Much like the accounting failures in the 1920s that led
to the enactment of the Securities Act of 1933, SOX was a reaction to scandals that
had rocked corporate governance during the late 1990s—including, among others, Enron’s
bankruptcy. SOX increased the independence of outside auditors and improved
business reporting standards by demanding transparency, enhanced reporting, and
stringent auditing guidelines.
Since the implementation of SOX, many public companies now work with multiple accounting firms, which is driving
demand for qualified accountants, and is bringing a renewed focus to the field.
Accounting firms had to hire more employees as they work to comply with the
comprehensive legislation included in the sweeping regulatory overhaul, according
Effects of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act,” which was originally published in The CPA Journal. In fact, the accounting
profession ranks among the best job opportunities for college graduates, according to a
recently released report from UC San Diego.
Technology’s influence has been substantial, as well. As
computing power has grown, so too has the accounting discipline, which has
become more nimble and fast-paced. What’s more, over the past 5 years “software
as a service” (SaaS) offerings such as NetSuite
have become ubiquitous. The growing popularity of such advanced, cloud-based
tools has meant that accountants have had to further their own learning through
continuing education in order to maintain professional proficiency.
With the technological revolution showing no signs of
abating, continuing education is
an essential requirement for all CPAs, according to the American Institute of CPAs. For accountants who are not yet CPAs, there are multiple kinds of
offerings they can pursue as they pursue continuing education, including a Bachelor
of Science in Accounting and a Master
of Science in Accounting.
Additionally, graduate certificates in accounting are another way that accountants can enhance
their skillsets and improve their value to current and future employers, according
to staffing firm Robert Half. These kinds of academic programs explore increasingly
important concepts such as financial reporting systems, business law, the
latest auditing techniques, and cost accounting. The successful completion of
such curriculum also helps accountants prepare for the CPA exam.
to the Occupational Information Network (O*NET), accountants typically exhibit critical thinking, problem solving,
mathematical reasoning, and inductive reasoning skills. Moreover, an
understanding of compliance software such as Intrax ProcedureNet, as well as
tax preparation software like ATX Total Tax Office, is considered industry
As long as commerce exists, there will be a need for
accountants. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,
employment among accountants and auditors is expected to increase by 13 percent
between 2012 and 2022—faster than the average rate of all other
Nevertheless, because organizations are increasingly seeking
to hire the best educated, best qualified, and most highly motivated professionals,
it’s imperative that accountants continue to advance their knowledge and professionalism
if they hope to maintain relevance and differentiation within a competitive
Did you learn something new from this article or find information relevant to your career?If so, share it!
Kaplan University cannot
guarantee employment or career advancement. National long-term projections may
not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not
guarantee actual job growth.
If you are considering an accounting degree we invite you to find out more about the School of Business and Information Technology and explore our undergraduate and graduate degree offerings.
Interested in other business career insights? We invite you to take a look at our Career Moves site, which periodically publishes new articles and other content on this subject.
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