Live the Life: How to Succeed as an Accounting Major

A degree in accounting earns respect similar to that of engineering students. Employers already know a few things about a graduate with an accounting degree: they are disciplined, they are analytical, and they understand abstract concepts. In other subjects, taking a test is a matter of memorization, often no is understanding required to pass a test. Accounting is a subject where you have to understand both the math and the context behind it. Successful accounting students must develop excellent habits early in their college career.

Study Habits

Late-night cram sessions are usually not effective for accounting students. The best time to study your accounting material is when you are alert and it is fresh in your mind. Studying the relevant chapters immediately after you class is the best time to fortify the material. A close second is after a full night’s sleep. Set aside time every day for studying accounting and don’t waiver from that time. Once you’ve established the habit, it will be easy to stick to.

Getting Enough Sleep

Studying accounting requires an alert mind. Not only are you calculating complicated accounting equations, you are also required to understand their context. In addition, many concepts in accounting have answers that could be right or wrong. For example, what’s best the LIFO or FIFO method of tracking inventory. The answer to this question depends on solid understanding of the details of cost accounting.

Preparing for Tests

Read the chapters. Answer the questions at the back of the book. Look up the answers. Re-do the ones you got wrong. Go through these steps daily, and again the week (not the day) before a test. Find a study partner or group to help talk through concepts you do not understand. This will also help you cement the concepts you think you may understand, as teaching someone else is the best way to learn something. Also, ask in advance what type of test you’ll be taking and if there is a time limit. If it’s a multiple-choice test, there will be no partial credit. However, this kind of test can allow you to only do part of the problem allowing you to eliminate the wrong choices. If the test is timed, the professor may be testing your mastery, not just your understanding, of the material. If the test is an essay test, you may expect partial credit, which means even if you don’t ge the right answer, if you understand the concept, you may get almost full credit for the problem.

Expect Ambiguity

Accounting can be counterintuitive. Why, for example, record revenue as earned before cash exchanges hands? Why value inventory two different ways for tax purposes and for financial statements? The successful accounting student finds discussion of these concepts fascinating. But if you are sleep-deprived, unprepared, or just plain confused, the beauty of these ambiguous topics will be lost on you. Remember that accounting is like a puzzle where some pieces fit in several places, but the big picture is what’s important.

Successful accounting students never stop learning, even after they’ve landed that first job, earned a certification, or otherwise found success. The field of accounting is a fascinating, mind-boggling world where principles change often yet other things stay the same. The successful accounting major never stops being a student.


About Sara Huter

Sara Huter has over 15 years experience in the banking and energy industries, and over 10 years as an adjunct professor. Her work has been published for, the International Directory of Company Histories, the Encyclopedia of Business Insights: Global,, and Find out more about Sara at her Google+ Profile.