A degree in accounting can open the doors to many different exciting careers. You could choose to open your own accounting practice, or you may want to be a forensic accountant that helps the police to track down white collar criminals. The one thing that stops people from pursuing accounting as a profession is the need to know math. But accounting and math do not go together as much as people may think.

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What is Math?

According to the experts at the the University of Oregon, math is more of an art than it is a science. While mathematicians use formulas and numbers to arrive at their conclusions, there is no real set pattern to what kinds of mathematical equations apply in each situation.

Math can be defined as the use of numbers and equations to solve a problem. The people who devote their lives to the study of mathematics are more interested in coming up with solutions to people’s long-standing issues than they are in making sure that all of the decimals line up.

What is Accounting?

Accounting is an exact science that utilizes numbers and basic mathematical formulas to determine the answers to very specific questions. For example, an accountant will run numbers through a spreadsheet to find out how much revenue a company generated and then compare that to the expenses to determine income. These numbers are very exact and the results need to be accurate.

What is the Difference?

The main difference between mathematics and accounting is the defined purpose in accounting. A mathematician will use a variety of formulas to try and determine how much fuel is required for a rocket to successfully land on the moon, while an accountant has very stringent equations that he uses to determine quantitative numbers for financial reports.

The best example to give would be the difference between a cowboy and a jockey. When a cowboy rides a horse, he has several goals to accomplish and several different ways to accomplish those goals. A jockey is only interested in running the horse through the race course and finishing first. They are both riding a horse, but they have very different approaches.

Does an Accountant Need to Know Math?

An accountant, according to Worthy and James publishing, needs to know the basic mathematical principles behind addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. An accountant may have some need of limited algebra, but that would be the extent of the mathematics that would be involved.

In reality, an accountant would need to know significantly more about tax laws and financial record keeping than mathematics. Even at the highest levels of accounting, there is a limited use for higher mathematical processes such as trigonometry and calculus.

If you have a very organized approach to things and like to make sure that all of your results are accurate, then you are more suited to be an accountant than a mathematician. True mathematics experts are problem solvers and have an extensive understanding of mathematical theory. Accountants rarely go beyond the basics of math and that should be a relief to people who want to be accountants but do not want to get deeply involved in math.