6 Things You Thought You Knew About Accountants but Were Wrong
The accountancy field is rife with misconceptions. From being a maths geek to doing boring taxes every day, we debunk 6 myths about the accounting field here.
Updated 17 May 2022
While we love a good career horror story, myths that go unaddressed can get mixed up as facts and create stereotypes and misconceptions. The field of accounting suffers from the same fate.
Are all accountants really boring? Must they be good at maths? Is it primarily a desk-bound job?
In this article, we explore some of the top misconceptions surrounding the accounting profession and aim to demystify some of them here.
#1. Accounting is boring
With the accounting field dating back to thousands of years ago, you may have formed an opinion that accounting is a dated and dusty profession. The truth is, accounting has evolved beyond bean counting in dull and dreary offices. These days, there are many fascinating and intriguing accounting fields.
Take for instance the field of forensic accounting. Forensic accountants work like financial detectives to investigate fraud and financial irregularities, taking down tax evaders, insurance fraudsters and embezzlers. It was through forensic accounting that Al Capone, America’s most notorious mobster, was indicted — for tax evasion.
Other interesting accounting jobs include sports accountant, entertainment accountant and fashion accountant. After all, even Lionel Messi and Taylor Swift needs an accountant.
#2. Accountants must good in maths
If you break out in a cold sweat at the thought of trigonometry, functions and matrices, we’re here to assure you that you don’t have to be a mathematical genius to be an accountant.
While accountants do need to be somewhat comfortable with numbers, they only need to be proficient at adding, subtracting and basic algebra. This is because most accountants use Excel and accounting software to perform a large number of calculations. Moreover, the key to accounting is knowing the rules and classifications, as well as how to apply them.
So, just because you’re not scoring As for maths doesn’t mean it should stop you from pursuing an accounting career.
#3. Accountants only work with numbers
While it’s true that accountants largely work with numbers, there’s more to accounting than just digits, debit and credit.
For starters, part of the job of an accountant is to prepare financial reports and to analyse business performance. In order to do this well, accountants must have good writing skills to get their point across without getting bogged down by jargon and terminology.
Not only that, accountants often have to work with other people to get their job done. Whether it’s with clients or people from other departments, they’re expected to be able to communicate effectively with others to make sense of the numbers and support business decision-making.
#4. All accountants work painfully long hours
Are you shying away from accounting because of the horror stories of late nights and long hours?
It’s not as bad as everyone makes it sound. The truth is, it really depends on the role and what company you’re employed in.
For certain roles such as auditing, you may be required to work longer hours, especially during busy seasons (e.g. financial year end, tax season). And if you’re working in larger companies or with one of the Big Four accounting firms, you’ll be expected to work extra hours in the evenings and during the weekends to meet deadlines.
Otherwise, by and large, many accountants have good work-life balance except during month-end closing where they adjust account balances and produce financial reports.
#5. All accountants can do taxes
Despite popular misconception, tax accounting is only one of the many branches of accounting. Other key areas of accounting include financial accounting, management accounting and audit and assurance services, all of which entails different tasks and responsibilities.
While most accounting graduates will have a general understanding of taxes, they are by no means an expert. This means that someone who is an auditor (a person who inspects financial records to ensure compliance to accounting standards) will not be able to advise you on how to file income taxes.
So if you think that all accountants can help you with your taxes, think again!
#6. Accounting is a desk-bound job
Mention the word “accountant” and you might conjure an image of a bespectacled person huddled in a cubicle behind stacks of files and papers.
While we love a good stereotype, this isn’t the whole truth.
Travel is frequently required in audit, where auditors often have to carry out their tasks at the client’s premises. In addition to offices, they may also conduct site visits as part of the audit process, visiting warehouses and factories to perform inventory and equipment checks. At times, they may even have opportunities to travel overseas!
To paint every accountant with a single brush is doing a disservice to the many accountants who are doing exciting and multi-faceted work within the profession. We hope this article helps to dispel many of your long-held misconceptions about the field of accounting.