According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of accountants and auditors is projected to grow 11 percent until 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. Accounting teaches financial skills that are fundamental to any enterprise that handles money. Therefore, it is a good skill to have no matter what your future goals may include. Whether you want to become a captain of industry or run a nonprofit that feeds the hungry, understanding accounting will be fundamental to your success.
Accounting is one of the most popular majors at Oakton, possibly because it is so useful, but also because the accounting department features some of the college’s most award-winning professors.
The department is led by Jay Cohen, who has been honored by the Illinois Community College Trustees Association and the Illinois CPA Society for excellence in teaching. Like many of Oakton’s professors, Cohen didn’t start out to be a teacher. However, after many years working in the corporate world, he was bitten by the teaching bug.
“I love the personal atmosphere of a classroom. There are two levels of teaching I find rewarding. When students are able to understand complex accounting concepts, and when I meet individually with students to discuss their different career path options,” says Cohen.
In accounting, the career path options are nearly endless. Some people get into accounting because they love working with numbers, others admit they never enjoyed math, but love being at the heart of business, keeping the score, helping people with tax issues, and looking for creative ways to help people become better at managing their money.
The Oakton curriculum offers a 63 credit hour A.A.S. degree program and four accounting certificates: a 42 credit hour certificate in accounting with concentrated study in accounting principles, intermediate accounting, cost accounting, federal taxes and advanced accounting; a 16 credit hour certificate in accounting technology that leads to the Certified Bookkeepers Examination; a 19 credit hour certificate in income tax preparation that leads to the IRS enrolled agent exam; and a 36 credit hour professional accounting-CPA preparation certificate that leads to the national uniform CPA exam.
Adventure in accounting: The number cruncher who nailed Capone
In the end, it was a cash receipts ledger, and not a smoking gun, that brought down one of America’s most notorious mobsters. Treasury Agent Eliot Ness got the headlines when he and his team of “Untouchables” arrived in Prohibition-era Chicago to challenge Al Capone, the city’s most powerful mobster. But it was agents from the IRS’s Special Investigative Unit working with Ness who got the goods on Capone. After searching hundreds of documents seized in police raids, IRS investigator Frank Wilson found a cash receipts ledger that not only showed the operation’s net profits for a gambling house, but also contained a reference to Capone’s share of the take (“17 percent – Al” was scrawled on the ledger). This was significant because Capone had been claiming zero income on his tax returns, despite the fact that he commanded an array of legal and illegal businesses and vice operations that some estimates placed at $100 million during the peak of his power. The ledger was the first piece in an evidentiary puzzle that would end up sending Capone to prison for tax evasion. Wilson got his man because he saw the big picture, asked the right questions, and was able to connect the dots – all skills that can advance any accounting career.