A Few Words About Accounting

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The next time you walk home from school, look around you. You’ll see accounting everywhere. The stores, the shops, the small pizza stand and the large grocery market, the shoe- repair shop and the huge clothing store, the young woman on the corner selling handcrafted jewelry, and the huge diamond- studded jeweler around the comer-they all are built on accounting. Big and small-and medium too-all sizes of all businesses revolve around accounting.

Even as you read this article, whether on the bus or at home or in school, accounting figures into all places. Your family has to take account of the monthly budgets. Your school has to take account of its educational budget.

One small boy, while playing in his room at home, was trying to explain to a young friend what his father, an accountant, did at work. He headed for a dresser drawer and, upon opening it, pulled out a bunch of socks, all folded neatly together-except for a stray fuzzy yellow sock.

“See?” the boy exclaimed. “A deficit. My Dad makes sure that all his company’s socks match!”

Over the years, of course, socks become stocks, and deficits are often not so yellow and fuzzy-but the boy had the right idea. Accounting, he had learned, is all about making things match.

Maybe the job-match for you is accounting. Maybe not. But it’s an interesting field-more stimulating than many people realize. And it’s full of options. There are as many different kinds of accountants as there are different kinds of taxes (and there are plenty of taxes, as you will learn whether you become an accountant or not).

Now’s the time to learn. The accounting field has never been as wide open as it is today, and evidence shows that it’s going to keep opening wider and wider. And it’s a different kind of field because-unlike most positions in business-you can begin right at the top and still work your way up, as you will see later.

As long as there is business in the world (and sometimes it seems that the world is a business with various accountants running different departments), there will always be a need for accountants. These money-men and -women are the basic need of every business.

Don’t be frightened off by that word business. Many people have the image of accountants as people who get dressed in the morning (although most of them do that) in a pinstriped suit and stuffed shirt and then head off to The Office, where secretaries bring them coffee all day. It’s not always like that; some businesses don’t even have water coolers. No, today the word business has expanded to mean any operation that deals in money-and what doesn’t? That means not only corporations, but schools, theaters, art galleries, charitable organizations-even some individuals have full-time accountants to keep their financial affairs in order (probably many of the personalities you watch on television make so much money that they need professional full-time money management). The job possibilities are limitless.

Maybe you’ve seen your parents “keeping books” around the house or around their office. Perhaps you’ve heard them complaining about the sky-high electricity bill or the very long long-distance phone bill, and trying to do a little bookkeeping to make it all come out even. If you’ve ever had a job at, say, a grocery store or a pharmacy, you’ve no doubt seen books with large sheets ruled in green and red lying on the manager’s desk. These are the books of accounting. They exist in every business. (If you’ve never seen one, go to a stationery store and look around; you’ll find this and many other tools of business there that might interest you.)

A little background: Your whole city was built on accounting. For the very first store that was erected, someone set up some kind of record-keeping. People moved in and people began to shop at this store. Then someone decided that the population surrounding the location could support another store. So another store was built. And someone set up an accounting system at that store. And then another store.

If there is a corporation near you, charters had to be secured from the state before it could start business. Stock had to be sold. Paperwork had to be done. And as the first dollars came in for stock, someone had to keep a record of who paid what and what was issued to whom? Guess who did that work?

If a factory were interested in moving to your area, accountants would first decide if a plant could be set up, based on a lot of financial decisions. Accountants would figure the shipping costs from your city to points of sale for the products manufactured at the factory. The accountants would make their report to the factory owners, who decided . . . and so the factory moved to your city.

In any new plant, hundreds of people are given jobs. These people come from all over. So there’s now a need for super-markets, gas stations, garages, new homes, stores of all kinds, and schools. All these need accountants to keep their books. So your town keeps growing and growing.

With that growth, a stronger municipal government is needed. So a mayor is elected. Members of the City Council are elected. A city manager and city hall are set up. A city clerk is named, someone who is both a clerk and a record- keeper. This person keeps books because people living in the city are paying taxes, and there are water bills and electricity bills. The mayor has to be paid, streets have to be paved, street lights have to keep the night brightly lighted… who would keep up with all these things?

Answer: an accountant.

The importance of accounting has increased since 1900 basically for three reasons: a tremendous expansion of industrial activity; an increase in taxation and government regulation of business; and the development of mass-production systems with greater emphasis on cost control and efficiency. These trends made the accountant’s role a very necessary one.

In small business today, the books are kept in pen and ink. Large companies (and, increasingly, even some small ones) rely on computers and machines and wires. But behind it all -behind the pen and the computers-are accountants. Many people feel that the accountant is the lifeblood of the business. In fact, many business executives have some accounting knowledge. They are smart if they do, because that’s what business is all about: money. And that’s just what accounting is about, too.



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