How and Why Finance & Accounting Experts Can Broaden Their Horizons

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Finance and accounting are among the most in-demand skills in the labor market right now. If you have an accounting or finance degree, and/or are a certified professional accountant (CPA), you may even  find yourself being hassled by recruiters on Linkedin and elsewhere. Yet if you really want to maximize your skills and make the most of your career, you’ll have to understand a lot more than “just” the numbers. These days, employers want finance professionals who understand how numbers fit in with the business’s big picture and larger strategies. Fortunately, there are a variety of methods, such as online learning, that finance experts can use to increase and broaden their skill sets. 

The Department of Labor has projected annual job growth of 11% in the auditing and accounting field, and numerous other publications have cited finance and accounting related jobs as in-demand. U.S. News, for example, found that accounting is the most in-demand bachelor’s degree, while finance comes in at number three. In other words, now is a great time to learn how to be an accountant or finance expert. But what if you want to do more than handle the “regular” accounting/finance tasks and want to use your finance expertise to work in other areas? 

Many accountants and finance experts aspire to do just that. Despite the reputation of finance experts being “just bean counters”, there are plenty of opportunities to advance, learn more skills, and engage in other areas of work. Chief Financial Officers, for example, have emerged as key strategists and decision makers. Most CFOs don’t simply track a company’s spending, obligations, and revenues, but instead are deeply involved in forming company-wide strategies. 

Yet in order to grow from accountant to business strategist you’re going to have to expand your skills. This is true of just about every job, by the way, but when you have specialized skills, like finance and accounting, it is especially important to broaden your horizons. 

There are a lot of options when it comes to furthering your knowledge and education. You can study on your own, of course, but often employers will want evidence of your achievements. You can sign up for an MBA class, and fortunately many universities now offer online and part-time options. However, these programs can be immensely expensive. Arguably, a better option is online, on-demand learning.

Broadening Your Skills on Your Own Terms

So you want to broaden your horizons, but don’t have the time or money needed to pursue an MBA? Luckily, formal degrees aren’t the only way to expand your skills. Knowledge is knowledge, and you can expand your own skills with self-directed study. This can be done by picking up your own books and info, of course, but there are also a variety of self-directed online programs that provide structure and direction, while still giving you flexibility.

Frequently, professionals are turning towards alternative certification programs and online learning. These programs can offer the best of both worlds. You get expert insights, structured learning, and a certification to provide evidence of your accomplishments. At the same time, you can learn on your own and at your own pace. This means you’ll often pick up more knowledge, while also completing the program more quickly. No dropped classes, no failed exams, no waiting a semester until the classes fit your schedule.

For working professionals, such as accountants, you can also focus on the skills you really need to work on. You don’t have to waste your time with redundant classes. If you’re a CPA or finance expert, your time will likely be better spent learning business strategy, marketing, SEO, digital engagement strategies, and other things rather than finance and accounting. Some traditional MBA programs shoehorn you into one-size-fits all programs, and you waste time going over what you already know.

If you’re  a career professional, the most important thing is to focus on areas where you are lacking. Nobody knows everything, and learning is a constant process. The workplace can be very complicated and no matter how much you know, there will always be areas where you can expand and bolster your knowledge. This is especially true for specialized careers like finance where most of your work, especially early on, will be focused on specific problems and will utilize specific skills. 

With continued learning you’ll be able to expand your knowledge becoming a jack of all trades while also remaining an expert in finance. This can help tremendously. If you see your career path as evolving from accountant to CFO, being able to weigh in on discussions in marketing, operations, strategy, and everything else will be essential. CFO’s are often key strategists in every area. At the very least, they are indispensable finance advisors for the Chief Marketing officers, and COO’s, and the CEO him or herself. 

Of course, you’re not going to become a marketing expert, or an operations genius overnight. Online classes in marketing, operations, SEO, and other fields, however, can help you pick up that knowledge. You will then be able to leverage it in the workplace and advance your career.