By Jessica Scheck, MBA
Accountants are often stereotyped as boring, tax-expert introverts who sit behind a calculator all day crunching away at numbers. However, these stereotypes do not accurately reflect the reality of what it’s like to be an accountant.
This article uncovers six of the most prevalent misconceptions about being an accountant:
Accountants are boring and introverted.
Accountants are just like people in any other occupation; they have families, hobbies, and social lives. A dull personality is not a requirement to study accounting. Consider just a few celebrities who all graduated with a degree in accounting:
- This UFC World Light Heavyweight Champion (former), Chuck “Iceman” Liddell.3
- The world-renowned saxophone player, Kenny G.4
- Baltimore Ravens quarterback and Super Bowl XLVII MVP, Joe Flacco.2
Accountants are good at math.
Accountants are not human calculators, nor are they mathematicians. Accounting usually involves elementary math skills such as multiplication, division, addition and subtraction.
There are many skills that are far more important than math in the accounting profession. Successful accountants will have high-level analytical skills, a proficiency in professional writing, and effective communication skills. Accountants in financial reporting, for instance, are responsible for the accurate and on-time completion of the financial statements, which may entail writing footnote disclosures and presenting information to auditors and board members.
Accountants sit at a desk all day and crunch numbers.
The ability to multitask is essential in the daily life of an accountant. Accountants work in fast-paced environments where information is often time sensitive. Staff meetings are a regular occurrence since accountants frequently work as a team to produce financial reports, complete special projects, or streamline business processes to improve efficiency. Responsibilities of an accounting professional also include keeping up-to-date with advances in technology and changes in rules and regulations.
Accountants are tax experts.
Not all accountants are knowledgeable on tax compliance and able to provide tax advice. Tax accountants compose a very small percentage of all accounting professionals. A career in accounting does not necessarily mean that you can expect to be working overtime as the April 15th tax deadline approaches. There are several other areas of accounting outside of taxation including: financial accounting, budgeting, cost accounting, auditing, and government accounting.
Accounting is only for men.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, women in the United States are earning 52% of bachelor’s degrees in accounting and 53% of master’s degrees in accounting.6 In addition, the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) reported that women have represented about 50% of new CPAs in the accounting profession over the past twenty years.1
Accountants don’t have lives outside of the office.
According to U.S. News, Accountants rank third in Best Business Jobs.7 Jobs are ranked using a scorecard consisting of a mix of various factors that are critical to consider when choosing a career. These factors include: Salary, Job Market, Future Growth, Stress, and Work Life Balance. The U.S. News report concluded that flexibility in the accounting profession is above average in terms of an alternate working schedule and work life balance. The stress level is average and the opportunities for advancement are high. This information suggests that accountants have the financial capability and the flexibility to enjoy time away from the office as needed.
In an attempt to attract more young people to a profession in accounting, many firms are finding creative ways to break the long-standing accountant stereotype.
For example, PricewaterhouseCoopers recently published a YouTube video to compare the negative stereotype to the reality of a day in the life of the present-day accountant. The video was part of a campaign initiated by the Center for Audit Quality (CAQ) on September 22; the hashtag #AuditorProud was shared across social media outlets to raise awareness to the advantages of an auditing career.5 To gain a better perspective of what it’s really like to be an accounting professional you can watch the video here: https://youtu.be/WnhL-j7EycE?list=PLk2yg8hkVi_84wQfSAfjQFVpV5S__CPEh
- American Institute of CPAs. Women in the Profession. Retrieved October 13, 2016, from http://www.aicpa.org/Career/WomenintheProfession/Pages/WomenintheProfession.aspx
- Baltimore Ravens: Joe Flacco. Retrieved October 13, 2016, from http://www.baltimoreravens.com/team/roster/joe-flacco/3e20766f-6520-4ca1-9901-44389aaea8b8/
- Chuck Liddell Bio | The Iceman | Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell. Retrieved October 13, 2016, from http://www.chuckliddell.com/bio
- Kenny G. Wikipedia. Retrieved October 13, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenny_G
- McCabe, Sean. September 21, 2016. Accounting Today. Second annual ‘#AuditorProud’ campaign to attract young candidates on Sept. 22. http://www.accountingtoday.com/blogs/accounting-tomorrow/news/2nd-annual-auditorproud-campaign-to-attract-candidates-sept-25-79313-1.html
- National Center for Education Statistics. Digest of Education Statistics. Bachelor’s, master’s, and doctor’s degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions, by sex of student and discipline division: 2011-12. Retrieved October 13, 2016, from https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d13/tables/dt13_318.30.asp
- US News. Best Jobs Rankings. Retrieved October 13, 2016, from http://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/accountant