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Let's Talk Business: Accounting is the Foundation of a Great Career

Dick Riley, accounting department chair and Louis F. James Distinguished Professor of Public Accounting, explains how accounting basics net big returns.

Accounting is about helping individuals, organizations and businesses make better decisions.

You may recall a high school bookkeeping course and think accounting is just about transaction analysis and creating financial statements, like the balance sheet or income statement. You may even recall the dreaded words “debit” and “credit.”

Foundational skills are critical to be successful in most any career. Before an engineer can build a bridge or skyscraper, they need to know calculus. Before a doctor can cure patients, they need to know human anatomy, biology and chemistry.

Accounting is no different.

But before you can help others make great decisions, you must understand the numbers – the financial inputs required to make those decisions. You also need to consider non-financial data.

When buying a car, for instance, people often consider the look and color, the maintenance history and likely uses (e.g. driving to work in Florida versus driving to a ski resort in a West Virginia snow storm).

Whether it be taking on a mortgage to buy a home, taking out student loans to earn a degree, or Elon Musk buying Twitter, a good accountant must understand the meaning of those inputs!  

Here’s another example: WVU's Morgantown campus has almost 25,000 students from over 100 nations, 355 majors and 14 colleges. This university creates mountains of data. Optimal decision-making means marrying all of these non-financial metrics with financial numbers.

That’s where data analytics and accounting intersect, and that’s why all WVU accounting courses include data analytics. Many accounting majors select a data analytics (Management Information Systems) minor and vice versa.

However, many students also want to use their degrees to help others. Accounting can do that too. In fact, that’s the core of the profession.

Recently, the Chambers College sponsored the “Accounting Female Partners & Corporate Leaders Panel.” One point emphasized by each of these successful women was an emphasis on the joy of helping others. Listen to any long-term accountant reflect on the best part of their careers and invariably they will center on their role in helping others make good decisions.

So – if you like numbers, enjoy solving problems through data analysis and want to make the world a better place, maybe accounting is the career for you!

Want to learn more about Accounting at the Chambers College? Check out our undergraduate programs, graduate programs and professional certifications.

Dick Riley
Accounting Department Chair
Louis F. James Distinguished Professor of Public Accounting

"Let's Talk Business" is a series of guest blogs written by members of the Chambers College community. All views expressed in this post are the author's own.

Chambers College