Most professions are surrounded by certain stereotypes. Unfortunately, these are what is pushing people away from what could be a very rewarding career. In the case of accounting, many people think that it is an uninteresting, paper-pushing role held by math whizzes.
However, what many don’t realize is that accountants play a much more important and interesting role in organizations, and they are much more varied than simply crunching numbers. They can also make a big difference in people’s lives and their relationship with money. Let’s take a look at some of the most common myths and misconceptions about accounting careers.
You Have to Be a Math Genius to be an Accountant
It is true that accounting requires a certain understanding of math. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to learn advanced math to succeed in accounting, and you don’t need to know calculus to do someone’s taxes.
When it comes to accounting, the most important thing is to have a detailed-oriented mindset. It’s also important that you have a solid grasp of the rules, regulations, and relevant laws your clients must comply with. So, know that you do not need to be a mathematician to be an accountant. You should also know that other non-math skills like writing could come in handy in this profession.
Accounting Is Strictly a Paper-Pushing Job
Part of the job of an accountant is indeed about crunching the numbers. However, they’re more often asked to determine if someone is on budget or project revenue for the next quarter than doing bookkeeping these days. After all, accounting software allows almost anyone to do basic bookkeeping.
Accountants are becoming more involved, and their roles are closer to that of financial advisors. They may produce financial reports, track spending, give advice on how to reduce costs, perform cost-benefit analyses or estimate the total cost of ownership of a particular piece of equipment.
Other accountants meet with clients to create plans for getting out of debt, reducing their overall tax bill or setting up an estate plan. This is aside from traditional accounting tasks like managing payroll and doing tax returns.
Accountants may work in:
- Financial planning
- Payroll offices
- Purchasing departments
- Human resources
- Project management
- Private practice/consulting
If you decide to become a full-fledged financial advisor, know that those are usually limited to CPAs with a master’s degree. If you want to go that route, one solution could be to first start a career as an accountant, then get a master’s degree in accounting from an online business school.
There are many AACSB accredited online business schools such as Suffolk University that will allow you to get your masters in as little as 24 months. This would allow you to get experience, and get your formation while you keep your position. You could even take advantage of advancement opportunities in your organization.
Accounting Is Boring
This is one of the most recurring stereotypes about accounting jobs. It is easy to think that’s true, but most accountants know how much their work can be important and rewarding.
There are also tons of accounting specializations that people may not be aware of. For example, you have forensic accountants who track down stolen money or investigate potential embezzlement cases. Then you have corporate accounting jobs like budgeting, purchasing, and payroll which are the few areas that remain relatively mundane.
A lot of people also downplay how much their role can impact the lives of their clients. They can help them pay off debt, avoid bankruptcy, get a tax refund, or educate them on how to better manage money.
“I am always trying to find new things to teach my clients,” said CPA Laura Canales. She also had advice for those who want to enter the field, “You should always focus on genuinely helping your clients and see yourself as their adviser, not just a number cruncher.”
All Accountants Do Taxes
Tax accounting is one form of accounting, but it is far from the only one. Some of the most common types of accounting include:
- Financial accounting
- Cost accounting
- Government accounting
- Fiduciary accounting
Note that some of these roles may overlap. For example, an accountant may maintain the books or audit someone else’s. Alternatively, an accountant may offer to set up a budget for someone in addition to distributing money from a trust. So, don’t assume that taxes are all that accountants are involved in, though you will need to have a thorough understanding of the tax code and recent changes in it.
Accountants Are Obsolete
We’ve already mentioned that software has reduced the need for bookkeepers. However, it hasn’t eliminated the need for accountants. Instead, accountants are moving into financial planning, financial advising, and management roles. Accountants are more likely to provide advice to reduce someone’s future tax bill or amend a prior tax return to receive a refund for example, since so many people file their own taxes online using off-the-shelf software.
It Is All Men
This is far from true. In the United States, 60% of all accountants are women. In Canada, it is 50%. However, women are less likely to hold senior positions, and this contributes to the perception that the profession is male-dominated. Roughly one-fifth of partners in public accounting firms are women.
Accountants Are All Introverted Nerds
We’ve mentioned how being detail-oriented is a strength in this profession, but one can be conscientious without being introverted. In fact, people skills are an increasingly important job requirement.
Few accountants are sitting in a back room maintaining the financial books these days. Instead, they’re working on project planning teams, setting budgets and schedules, and adjusting each as issues arise. They’re prominent members of management teams, providing detailed analyses and reports so that they have the data they need to make the right decision.
Accountants are often tapped to become managers as well, and they’re expected to train new hires and educate staff about financial matters. Communication skills, cross-functional teamwork, and salesmanship are now part of the job description.
Don’t let the myths, misconceptions, and historical stereotypes of accountants dissuade you from considering a career in accounting. The profession is growing and changing, but it has a bright future ahead of it.
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