Learning accounting, the first time, is so much exciting. And it is suffice to say that, writing about it is also so much exciting to me. But our world isn’t as pleasant as it is in our dream; there are always challenges which make our life even more worth living. So does it in the accounting learning-curve. A constant question I get from readers (through email) is, “where to start?”
This post answers the question.
Where You Should Start Learning Accounting
If you have the same question, here is a single advice I repeat time-by-time: start with the basic.
Accounting is a technical skill with dynamic characteristic. Being an accountant, you are specialized, thus need to be darn good at it. And, to get into such skill-level, you need two things:
1. A strong foundation; and
2. A constant learning –curve, overtime
To be able to fly, even a supersonic jet would need a strong ground. To be able to master the accounting, you would at least sense the ground; get use to the basic. Else, you could loss in the middle of the process of mastering it. (More on this a little bit later)
The next question, probably, is: “Where should I get the basic accounting materials?”
Where You Can Get Basic Accounting Materials
Here are your best bets:
1. Accounting Teachers/Mentors
If you are an accounting student, your professor is the main source. If you are a clerk or junior accountant, the chief/senior accountant—who supervises your works on daily basis—is the main source.
Either one, expect her/him as a mentor that is able to give you the sense of the ground. Listen to her/him carefully and follow, then you are good to go.
2. Accounting Books/e-Books
There are plenty of basic accounting books or e-book you can start with. But reading too many different books may results in confusion, instead of enrichment.
If I ever asked to recommend a good basic accounting book, I would say Keiso’s is good, while other may argue it. A better approach is to compare different books (written by different authors), then choose one or two of them that you can understand easily.
Don’t forget, though, that the only way to master accounting is by practicing whatever you’ve learnt, as often and as many as possible. So, getting a book that has quizzes/problems (and its solution) at the end of every chapter, is extremely important.
3. The Internet
I have to describe it carefully since internet can be a ‘double-edge-sword’; it can be an effective tool—thus makes you really productive person—in one side, but also a monster time-sucker on the other side, when you use it unwisely.
Here is another challenge comes; getting accounting material isn’t easy, particularly on the internet. I mean a serious accounting material that enriches your knowledge and skill (not mere accounting terms and definitions.) This was the reason why Accounting Financial Tax.com is available for the public.
At Accounting Financial Tax.com, you can get most (if not all) of the materials; from the very basic to the advance accounting topics. As of today, Accounting Financial Tax.com hosts 1160 articles. You can browse the materials you are looking for in many different ways:
- Browse it by category (main menu above this article)
- Use the “advance search” feature (on the top menu), for a specific article/topic, in certain range of time, in within a category.
- Find them out through the “Accounting Archive” (on the top menu).
- Go the basic way by making use of the search feature (on the top-right of the site)
Millions of accounting people like you, around the globe, have enjoyed comprehensive accounting materials available at Accounting Financial Tax.com. Many of them, in various skill-levels, have joined me since the first time I wrote, in 2007. Through email subscription, they get notification for every new article published here right on their inbox—so they can always jump right onto it and never missed any. If you haven’t done so, I encourage you to do the same.
Accounting-Financial-Tax.com is surely not the only place where you can find accounting materials. Looking for IFRS/IAS guidelines for example, you can browse IASPlus (powered by the PwC) for free. If budget is not an issue, you can even enroll online accounting courses, at a small cost, which unfortunately has not been offered here yet. You can find one elsewhere for the time being.
The next question, probably, is: “what topic should I start with?”
Basic Accounting Topic You Can Start With
I really want to say that accounting is an easy skill that everybody can learn and master in a matter of days, to boost your enthusiasts. But, then I become a big liar—which I don’t want to be. The truth is that learning accounting takes lot of sweats and probably tears too, to make it sounds worst.
To be safe and at an ideal condition, one would need at least enough interest to be able to master accounting faster. This is the only factor that will keep you up, overtime. As a checklist, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I have enough interest in business thingy in general?
- Do I love to work with numbers, particularly money?
Accounting is all about business and numbers. To sense it, you can start reading the following articles:
- Accounting: The Language of Business, Investing, Finance, and Taxes – Here you can observe and sense whether or not accounting is the right stuff for you.
- Range Of Accounting: What Accounting Department Mainly Responsible For? – Through this post, you can learn what accounting mainly responsible for and get the sense of where accounting likely involves in most of your life, as an accountant, business owner and individual.
- Why businesses need proper bookkeeping – Focusing on a business owner’s perspective, why they need bookkeeping (and accounting in a broader scope).
The list can goes on, but I am pretty much sure a starter gets enough sense whether or not accounting is for him/her, after reading the above three posts.
In addition, either you’re completely new to accounting OR you have been learning accounting but need some basic refreshers, the following posts maybe useful for you:
- Basic Accounting: Assumptions, Principles, and Constraints – It post explains assumptions principles and constraints used in the accounting.
- Qualitative Characteristic of Accounting Information [Hierarchy of Accounting Qualities] – Although the accounting is much about numbers—which is quantitative, there are qualitative measures accountant should respect to. You can learn the hierarchies on this post.
- Basic Accounting: Debit and Credit – Double Entry System – This post provides you with basic ‘debit-and-credit’ concept famously known as “double entry accounting system” (a.k.a the modern accounting).
- Bookkeeping Fundamentals – This is an extremely long post. It explains the first three elements of the bookkeeping fundamental: debit-and-credit (again), chart of accounts, and initial entries to the books
- Accounting Records And Its Flow Process [Basic] – This post helps you understand the role and function of accounting record as source documents (such as: bills, invoices) and introduces the books of prime entry and the ledgers. You then are able to look at the link between source documents and books of prime entry and the accounting ledgers.
- Chart Of Accounts – This post covers the types of account numbering formats that can be used to construct a chart of accounts, and eventually lists sample charts of accounts that use each of the formats for both balance sheets and income statements.
- Accounting Term And Definitions For Chart Of Accounts – This post describes terms and definitions used on the chart of accounts, thus (hopefully) helps you understand the chart even better. Not only for starters, may even seniors (management-level) find it useful, particularly when setting up chart of accounts and its procedure for the first time.
The next list by no mean complete, but is a good start to learn the basic:
- Basic Accounting Cycle in 9 Steps (a quick overview)
- One Full Accounting Cycle Process Explained (explained with case examples)
- How Accounting Works in the Real Business World (even more case examples)
- A Basic Knowledge to Prepare Bookkeeping System (a good bookkeeping foundation)
- How to Set-up General Ledger [GL] and Opening Entries (learn how to make opening entries)
- Accrual Basis Accounting Fundamental (most of accounting treatment come from this principle)
- How to Convert Cash Basis to Accrual Basis (putting it into practices)
- Changes and Correction of Errors Journal Entry: Change on Accounting Principles (yet another important basic topic)
- Change In Accounting Estimates and Reporting Entity (part of the preceding topic)
- Journal Entry for Correction of Errors and Counterbalancing (learn how to correct the wrong journal entry)
Getting Used to Accounting Common Terms and Definitions