Do I Need To Be Good At Math To Be An Accountant?

"I am about to become a freshman in college, and they’ve been making us spend a lot of time in the career center learning about possible options. Nothing really seems too ideal for me, so I figured I may as well try to pick something which is going to offer a lot of reliable opportunity and which will also pay me well. I thought of accounting. Everybody needs accountants, so an accountant should always be able to find a job that pays well. All great in theory, except for one thing: I am terrible at math. I don’t even enjoy math. How much math is actually involved in accounting though? What level of math would I have to take up to in college to get my accounting degree, and what type of math would I have to use on the job every day?"

asked by Priscilla from Omaha, NE

You need to be somewhat good at math to get an accounting degree (and actually work as an accountant), but not necessarily a genius. It’s also more a question of being really good at a few things, and not having a huge span of mathematical knowledge. In general, you’ll be getting computers doing most of the complicated mathematics for you, and you mostly need to be able to do the four main functions really well: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

You learned those in elementary school, so I’m guessing you are probably all right at them.

That said, to get your accounting degree, you may need to take a few higher-level math classes. This depends on where you study to get your degree. There are some colleges that will demand you take a couple of calculus classes, and not necessarily “business calculus.”

Typically they are the same calculus classes that physics, engineering, and mathematics majors are asked to take. But once you are through with them, you are unlikely to actually have to use what you learned in them later.

Often this calculus requirement is only imposed because it is also imposed on all other liberal arts majors at a given university, in which case you are unlikely to be getting out of it anyway. You also may have to take a level of statistics or matrices.

The bottom line here is that while you may be required to take some math, you will not be drowning in it or spending the majority of your educational hours studying it. Accounting has more to do with applying math than anything, and you will be taking a lot of other classes that cover how to do this.

As far as the day to day business of accounting, it really is more about applying very basic mathematical equations and ideas in very clever, creative ways in order to help a client save money. There is no cause for major intimidation here. This kind of clever thinking is something that you may be very good at, even if you do not excel at mathematics.

Career Spotlight: Accountant



An accountant is a person whose profession is inspecting the financial accounts of businesses and individuals. They carefully monitor and record the revenue and expenses of a business. As businesses g[...]

Join The Discussion - 3 Comments

  1. Keith says:

    I feel statistics is important, and having the mathematics background in algebra, cálculus, and statistics is important skill since it teaches critical thinking, problem solving, and organization as well as logical thinking.

  2. April says:

    I think the answer was right on point, but I’d like to add a couple of things. Remember those word problems we all hated throughout school? THAT is what accounting is like. You will be presented with numbers and, yes, you will need to know what to do with them even if it’s simply multiplying them. Along with addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, you should understand percentages, ratios, and basic algebra as well. I have yet to use any of the calculus, geometry, or trigonometry that I was required to take in school.

  3. Fuh Emmanuela says:

    I love to do accounting so much but people discourage me a lot because I did Geography,Economics and Mathematics in High school.I really love to take accounting as a career.

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