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Why teachers make great accountants

Teacher is in class and then transitions to the board room

The world of education — classrooms, students and tests — might, at first glance, seem distant from the business world.

But many of the skills and traits that teachers, coaches, and other educators possess provide a strong foundation for navigating the world of commerce — especially as an accountant. Teachers listen intently, extend empathy, and translate complicated material into plain language, all key attributes of a seasoned and successful accountant. If you’re a teacher contemplating a career change, accounting is a great way to leverage skills you already have, earn more money and open a world of new opportunities.

“When I decided to leave teaching, I didn’t have a good idea of what I wanted to do career-wise,” said Mark Loyd (MAC ’17), Senior Financial Accountant at Boom Supersonic. “As a former English teacher, becoming an accountant was not at the top of my original list of options, but the more I researched different fields, the more I realized there was a good amount of crossover between teaching and accounting. Four years into my time as a CPA, I do a lot of reading and writing, I discuss complex topics and hear a variety of perspectives, and I get to teach newer accountants some of what I’ve learned in the recent past, all of which are elements of teaching English that I enjoyed.”

>> Interested in switching your career to accounting? See what our career experts have to say.

>> Watch Mark Loyd describe his path from teaching to accounting (2:56)

Here are five reasons why accounting might be a great career for you if you’re a teacher.

Listening to understand.

Teachers have to be skilled listeners to understand why a student is struggling or how a new administration policy will affect their classrooms.

Accountants, likewise, need good listening skills. Their work often requires them to collect information from a wide range of people — including those without financial or accounting expertise — and understand what they’re being told and what they’re not.

The electives available to students in a Master of Accounting (MAC) program can strengthen your listening skills even more. For example, the UNC MAC program offers a class in negotiation — a critical business skill that involves listening carefully to what you’re being told to understand what the other person or company really wants.

Communicating to teach.

Teachers and coaches are master communicators. They present to groups, explain new concepts one-on-one, and inspire students to find different ways to understand difficult topics.

Communication is also essential for accountants. They are routinely asked to write reports and memos as well as deliver presentations. They must be able to explain accounting issues clearly and succinctly to non-accountants — in effect, teaching them.

The UNC MAC program prepares future accountants through a required course in communication to sharpen their writing and speaking skills. They also learn to handle some of the unique communication demands accountants face.

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Working collaboratively.

Teachers often work together. They collaborate to understand develop curricula and help struggling students.

Teamwork is a fact of life for accountants. Auditors visit corporate clients in teams to collect information and review records. Tax accountants work together to check each other’s’ work and complete complex business returns. And corporate functions — from accounts receivable to internal audit to SEC reporting — are handled by teams.

The MAC program at UNC offers leadership classes to help students understand themselves and others and equip them to work together with other professionals from a wide range of backgrounds. This focus on working together is vital for a successful career.

Adapting to change.

Teachers and coaches work in fast-changing environments. From snow days that disrupt plans for the week to the COVID-19 pandemic that forced teachers to quickly shift to online teaching, teachers must be able to adapt to changing expectations and circumstances.

Accounting is also a dynamic profession. Tax laws and financial reporting standards change regularly — and sometimes with little advance notice. Accountants must be able to adapt to changing regulations, new technology and constantly shifting business conditions. Being adaptable is a key to success.

As part of the MAC curriculum, students learn about emerging topics in the profession, such as the application of analytics to accounting and finance problems. They also learn how to conduct accounting research so they can keep up with changes in the profession once they’re working.

Learning for career advancement.

It’s no surprise that most teachers are dedicated lifelong learners. They hone their teaching skills, master new material and learn how to use new instructional technology.

Accounting, like education, isn’t a static profession. Not only will a typical accountant see dramatic changes in regulatory standards over the course of their career, they will also encounter new demands. For example, a growing area of demand for accounting expertise is the measurement and reporting of non-financial information, such as environmental sustainability or cybersecurity.

The MAC program at UNC provides the foundation an accountant can then build upon as job requirements, the business environment and regulations change.

Take the next step.

So, what does it take to turn those hard-won teaching skills into a new career in accounting?

The UNC MAC program is designed to be an entry into accounting with no prior business or accounting experience required. Accountants are in high demand, and recruiters often extend job offers long before students have finished earning their degrees — ensuring there’s a job waiting for them upon graduation.

“My experience has given me a ton of different career options moving forward, and I’ve been able to provide a more comfortable lifestyle for my family,” said Loyd. “I’m glad I chose the career path I did.”

For teachers interested in changing careers, a MAC degree is a great way to build on strengths and skills you already have.

Learn more about what it takes to become an accountant:

>> See what our career experts have to say about switching careers to accounting.

Master of Accounting graduate Mark Loyd discussed his career switch from teaching to accounting.