How to learn accounting on your own (steps and tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 7 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A career in accounting can be very rewarding. No matter your industry or current position, a deep understanding of financial accounting can benefit your CV and your career. If you want to learn fundamental accounting principles by yourself without going back to university, there are a number of different steps you can take. In this article, we discuss the steps you can take to learn accounting on your own and provide some tips to help you succeed while going through the process.

How to learn accounting on your own

If you're thinking about a career change or are thinking of ways to improve your work skills or your CV, you may have been wondering how to learn accounting on your own. The process of accounting is one that helps businesses and individuals analyse their finances and financial statements and offer advice about many monetary issues. Although many accountants may start their career by achieving a university degree, it's not the only way you can learn accountancy.

If you're thinking about a new career in accounting or want to improve your accounting skills, you may not have the time or money to go to university. Fortunately, there are a number of easy and free steps that you can take to learn accounting by yourself during your spare time. Here are some steps you can take to learn accounting by yourself:

1. Learn how to read financial statements

To begin your education in financial accounting, the first step you might want to take is to learn how to understand and read the most important financial statements. When you begin your studies, take the time to understand these three financial statements: the balance sheet, the income statement and the cash flow statement. These documents are, arguably, the most important documents that a company holds, and all of these documents contain valuable information about a company's financial health.

Understanding these financial statements can be useful regardless of your current role or industry, as they highlight how well a company is doing in financial terms. By being able to understand these statements, you may be able to make more informed business decisions, which could improve the profitability of the company. Here is a brief breakdown of each of these financial statements:

  • Balance sheet: The balance sheet is a financial statement that details a company's assets and liabilities. This statement can highlight the financial position of the company, and reflect the company's financial standing, including total assets and liabilities.

  • Income statement: The income statement of a company shows all of the profits and losses of a company in terms of revenue, profits and expenses in a given period of time.

  • Cash flow statement: This financial statement highlights all of the cash flows of a company or all the money coming in and going out of the business, such as operational costs and any investing activities.

Related: What is basic accounting (principles, jobs and education)

2. Choose how you want to learn

If you decide that you don't want to learn accounting at university, there are still many different options that you can choose from to learn accountancy practices on your own. Here are some of the different learning methods you can choose from:

Online courses

Online courses are one of the most popular ways to learn without going to university. You can apply to accredited institutions or programs that may also partner with different companies for job placements. There has been a lot of improvement in online courses over the last couple of years and there are now many different courses available. The biggest advantage of online learning is that you can complete the course at a time that suits you. Moreover, online courses are typically cheaper than in-person courses and can provide you with the necessary knowledge and accreditations.

Take free classes

Although online courses might be a great option, it's important to note that most of these courses still cost money to attend. If you can't afford this, there are still a wide range of free online courses that you can take. Many universities and other teaching programmes offer free online courses that you can take at your leisure and can offer you an introduction to the processes of accounting.

Use free online resources

If taking a course isn't the right option for you at the moment, try free resources online that you can use to get a deep understanding of accounting processes. From websites to videos to free books, you may be able to learn about accounting in a wide variety of methods, which may suit you if you want to learn on a more casual basis. When researching free options, review who or what is offering the information and seek additional information about the topic elsewhere. Although free information can be beneficial for increasing basic knowledge, courses typically offer substantial information.

Read More: How to become an accounting consultant: a step-by-step guide

3. Dedicate the time

Once you choose your learning method, you might then dedicate the time to learning about accounting. Accounting principles build on top of one another, so taking the time to fully understand the more basic principles of accounting can help you to succeed when learning about the more difficult skills. Whether you have a lot of spare time or just half an hour every day, make sure that you set yourself a work schedule so that you can stay on track, monitor your progress and achieve your goals.

4. Put your knowledge into practice

When studying accounting, it can be tempting to learn all about different financial statements and other skills without spending time using them in real-world scenarios. But applying your knowledge can help you learn faster and become more skilled. One easy way to put your accounting skills into practice is to take online tests or find free case studies of financial statements, which you can then analyse and report on. If you're working for a company, consider asking your financial department about any resources they may be able to offer you or if they might consider you for accounting tasks.

Related: How much does a management accountant make on average?

5. Consider getting accredited

Although accreditation is not necessary to succeed in a career as an accountant, you may want to consider it if you want to work for some of the biggest companies. An accreditation into the Association of Accredited Technicians is a qualification that you may get if you pass a series of exams and can highlight to employers that you have the necessary skills and experience that they are looking for.

It's important to note that the time and money you may want to commit to achieve an accreditation may be too expensive for some people. Some training providers offer bursaries and discounts for those who are struggling to afford the accreditation.

Related: What is a certified public accountant? (With requirements)

6. Speak to accounting professionals

One way to gain valuable experience and understanding of a career as an accountant is to speak to a network of professional accountants. Connect with professional accountants, whether it be with people within your company or outside of it. This networking can help you to gain valuable information about career opportunities, accounting practices and support that you can use to develop your skills. People already working in accountancy may be able to help you with any challenges you might be facing and a network of professional accountants can help you find a job once you complete your studies.

Related: 7 types of careers in accounting (with duties and salaries)

Why learn accounting?

There are many different reasons why you may consider learning accounting. First, if you're thinking about a career in accounting or are thinking about a career in the financial industry, it's imperative that you have a deep understanding of how to analyse financial statements. An accounting career is an incredibly flexible one, as it gives you the basis to work within many financial positions and we know accounting roles for being well paid. Moreover, every industry requires accountancy help and there is usually a high demand for accounting professionals.

Even if you aren't thinking about a career in accounting, a deep understanding of financial statements is a skill that many companies want to see. Moreover, if you're planning on running your own business, understanding how to manage your own business' finances is imperative to success. With an understanding of accounting, you may be able to understand the financial health of your company, which you can then use to make informed business decisions that can increase your profitability.

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