Educating Today's Government Accountants

Article excerpt

An article published in the Spring 1997 issue of The Government Accountants Journal, entitled "New Options for Educating Government Accountants," by David Meeting and Adel Novin, contained the results of a survey that gauged the strengths and weaknesses of entry-level government accountants as determined by their supervisors.

Respondents to the survey indicated that communication, government accounting theory and computing/ information systems are among the most important academic subjects a student should study to prepare for a career in government accounting. Unfortunately, the article related that business schools and students are not giving these subjects enough attention.

I have some practical suggestions for managers looking to improve their staffs' skills in these areas and for individuals who wish to develop their own abilities.

Those who want to strengthen their verbal communication and interpersonal skills should consider joining Toastmasters, an organization whose mission is to improve its members' public speaking abilities. Toastmasters clubs typically meet weekly for an hour or an hour and a half. Members follow a program of giving 10 formal speeches, which helps them understand and overcome the most common mistakes made by public speakers. Part of the meeting is devoted to impromptu speaking, which is the sort of speaking typically done in meetings. Members also meet and greet guests and visiting speakers, which improves interpersonal skills. Best of all, this learning takes place in a friendly atmosphere where it is acceptable to make mistakes. Making a few painless mistakes at Toastmasters now can help prevent a personally and professionally painful experience further down the road.

Other options for public speaking and communication include one-day seminars and short classes offered by private vendors and government agencies, community colleges or night schools.

Listening is just as important to effective communication as selfexpression. Consider taking a class or audiocassette course in how to listen. Private vendors, government agencies and community colleges also offer classes in effective writing and business writing.

There is no lack of sources for computer training. Colleges and universities offer courses and degrees in information systems. Classes about basic computing, spreadsheets, wordprocessing and the Internet can often be found for a nominal fee or even for free at libraries, computer stores, night schools and churches. There are $15, self-study software courses that can be loaded into your computer that give hands-on instruction in using spreadsheets and other computer programs. There are numerous reference books and manuals for business software.

Government accounting is a complex field that is easiest to learn through formal study. Schools of business typically offer undergraduate-level courses in government accounting. Another resource is the U. …