Debunking 5 Misconceptions About Accountants

By Staff Writer Published on January 4, 2014

All things considered, accounting is a phenomenal career path. Accountants generally enjoy great pay, competitive benefits, and rock-solid job stability—even when the economy takes a turn for the worse. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job market will create over 452,000 new positions for accountants and auditors by the year 2020.1

But, for all its good points, accounting has one major problem: a bad public image. Movies and TV shows often portray accountants as fastidious introverts obsessed with numbers. Many people don’t pursue a career in accounting because they’re afraid they’ll die from the monotony of crunching numbers all day.

In reality, these myths about accounting couldn’t be farther from the truth. So, without further ado, sit tight while we debunk five of the most common misconceptions about accountants and accounting:

1. Accountants are BORRRRING

In all fairness, there are perhaps some accountants out there who perpetuate the stereotype. However, you might be surprised just how interesting many accountants can be. Take for instance this list of “boring” accountants:2

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Chuck Liddell, professional MMA/UFC fighter

Earned his bachelor’s degree in business and accounting in 1995.

Image courtesy of Motor Trend

Bob Newhart, comedian

Started out in accounting.

Image courtesy of ABC

John Grisham, bestselling novelist

Finished his bachelor’s degree in accounting before going on to law school.

Image courtesy of Scholastic

Arthur Blank, cofounder of Home Depot and owner of the Atlanta Falcons

Currently a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).

Image courtesy of

Thomas Pickard, former #2 man at the FBI

Nearly 1,400 of the FBI’s special agents are accountants.

Pickard pictured left.

Ray Wersching, ex-San Francisco 49er field-goal kicker

Worked as a CPA during the off-season.

Image courtesy of

2. You have to be a math whiz to be an accountant

Contrary to popular belief, accounting doesn’t require you to solve complex mathematical equations in your head. If you can do simple arithmetic (addition, subtraction, multiplication, etc.), chances are you can handle most of the math accountants use daily.3

Combine this with a basic knowledge of how to use tools of the trade such as calculators and accounting software, and you’d very likely make a decent accountant.

However, don’t be fooled into thinking that a cursory understanding of math and accounting software are the only things you’ll need to be successful. In addition to formal educational training, such as gaining a business and accounting degree, accountants actually require a variety of skills to have staying power in the field. These skills include but are not limited to strong interpersonal communication, customer service, analytical thinking, and even writing.

3. Accounting is the same thing as doing taxes

Many people choose not to major in accounting because they believe they’ll end up doing taxes for the rest of their lives. While many accountants do specialize in tax preparation, taxes are only one small aspect of the accounting field.

For example, many accountants specialize in forensic accounting. Forensic accounting employs investigative accounting techniques to inspect for fraud, embezzlement, and other white-collar crimes.

Managerial accountants, on the other hand, record and analyze a business’s financial information, as well as propose budgets, evaluate performance, and manage company costs and assets.

Public and not-for-profit accountants can work for a number of different organizations, such as government agencies, hospitals, colleges, public school districts, health and welfare groups, labor unions, political parties, or religious institutions.

These are just a few examples. In reality, there are a great many other fields that employ accountants, and each of them uses accountants in different ways, so don’t make the mistake of thinking that becoming an accountant means you’ll be doing taxes every day.

4. Accounting is for men only

This might surprise you: women not only have a strong presence in the accounting and auditing fields, but they’re in the vast majority. According to the Clarion-Ledgerwomen now make up more than 60% of all accountants and auditors in the United States. That’s an estimated 843,000 women working as professional accountants.4

True, this hasn’t always been the case. In 1951, there were only some 500 female CPAs. Suffice it to say, a lot has changed since the 1950s.

This shift in hiring trends could be due to changing workplace dynamics, or perhaps the increased willingness of employers to allow their employees to work from home. Whatever the case, if you’re looking for a female-friendly profession, accounting is the way to go.

5. Accountants aren’t “idea” people

When you picture the stereotypical accountant, you probably see someone who spends all day at a desk rummaging through invoices and going over spreadsheets. People often see the entirety of their roles as keeping the books clean and the budgets balanced.

In actuality, many businesses are coming to recognize accountants for their unique and innovative contributions to an organization’s success. High-level managers will often consult accountants regarding what business practices and financial principles deliver the greatest “bang for the buck.”

Don’t forget, as shown in our list of “dull” accountants above, many accountants go on to start up their own businesses, some achieving colossal success. Think of it this way: if accounting is the language of business (as it’s often said), then perhaps accountants know how to express their business ideas better than anyone else.