Loyola University Chicago

Quinlan School of Business


Accounting has often been referred to as the language of business. But it is much more than that. Accounting is an information system. A properly developed and implemented accounting system will take raw data, convert it into information, and ultimately transform that information into knowledge.

A common misconception is that accounting is like balancing your checkbook. Everything has to balance and there is not much thinking that goes into it. While it is true that debits do have to equal credits, accounting information is built upon assumptions, estimates and projections. Accounting information is complex. It requires great skill and knowledge to be an accounting professional.

You only need to look to the very recent past to see how important accounting is. When things were going well, no one noticed the work of the accountants. But when things went wrong, it became very apparent that what the accounting profession provides is a critical component of the business world.

Accounting is far more like an art than a science. In science, once a law of nature is understood, and the mathematics is worked out, that is it. The law can be applied but not changed. In accounting, we make up the rules as we need them. Financial reporting rules, audit guidelines, tax and business law, etc. all change to meet the needs of the market and management.

Accounting professionals must be creative. They must be able to anticipate needed changes in the accounting information, develop new information, implement the changes, evaluate the changes, and then be prepared to do it all over again. You will never stop having to learn new things in accounting.

Anyone who is determined to be as good as they can be in their chosen field can be called a geek. For example, if you are about to have surgery, wouldn't you want your surgeon to have been a really diligent student who studied hard and did what s/he had to do to become really good in the operating room?

This is another common fallacy. Accounting professionals know what information is needed for decision making. They know how to provide information and they know how to interpret it. Accounting professionals advise, teach, consult, cajole, and participate actively in decision-making, management, and leadership.

First, professionals provide clients and companies with something of value. Second, the body of expertise of a professional is recognized both by members of the profession and the community at large. Third, there is a relatively high level of autonomy in practicing one's profession. Lastly, there is an acceptance of specific obligations to the public at large.

Math skills help but they are not an absolute requirement. Obviously, you must be comfortable working with numbers, but that is really only part of what you need to be successful. Many other skills are as every bit as important as math skills.

I'm glad you asked. The accounting profession will require much of you. The following lists what the profession believes are the basic competencies accounting professionals must have to be successful.

According to Robert Half, the basic competencies accounting professionals must have to be successful are:

  1. ​General Business Knowledge
  2. Information Technology Expertise
  3. Strong Communication Skills
  4. Leadership Abilities
  5. Client Service Orientation

Absolutely, yes! We have been educating accounting professionals since the 1920's and we have over 4,500 alumni. We have the facilities, the resources and a dedicated and highly qualified faculty to help you succeed.

Remember: Your education is a team effort. Learning is lifelong and you must be prepared to commit to a rigorous and rewarding career. We as a faculty can help you succeed, but you must put in the time and the effort to learn.