Accounting and Accountants: 6 Common Misconceptions
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 six 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
- Chuck Liddell, professional MMA/UFC fighter. Earned his bachelor’s degree in business and accounting in 1995.
- John Grisham, bestselling novelist. Finished his bachelor’s degree in accounting before going on to law school.
- Bob Newhart, comedian and star of the Bob Newhart show. Started out in accounting.
- Kenny G., world-famous smooth jazz musician. Worked as an accountant before his music career took off.
- Arthur Blank, cofounder of Home Depot and owner of the Atlanta Falcons. Currently a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).
- Ray Wersching, ex-San Francisco 49er field-goal kicker. Worked as a CPA during the off season.
- Thomas Pickard, former #2 man at the FBI. Nearly 1,400 of the FBI’s special agents are accountants.
This list just goes to show you that accountants don’t all fit into one mold.
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-Ledger, women 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.
6. You can’t make good money as an accountant
This is one of those myths that’s just simply not true.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2012 the median wage of all accountants and auditors was $1,366.00 a week or $34.15 an hour.5 The top ten percent highest-paid accountants made over $2,144.40 weekly—that’s over $111,510.00 a year!
Many accountants start out as lower-level bookkeepers or accounting clerks who generally earn about $654.40 a week or $16.36 an hour, which is still a significant step up from minimum wage.6
To sum up, choosing accounting as your career path could be a fantastic way to secure your financial future, and your family’s.
How Can You Get Started?
After reading this, you may be wondering what you need to do to start your career as an accountant.
The first and perhaps most important thing you can do is get the right accounting education and training. If you’re a working adult, however, you need to find an accounting program that caters to your needs.
For instance, at California College San Diego they have flexible class schedules, so you can go to school without having to quit your job. You can choose between daytime, evening, or online classes to fit your schedule.7
CCSD also offers accelerated programs, so you can finish your degree faster.8 You can earn your associate’s degree in just 20 months or less or your bachelor’s degree in accounting in 36 months or less.
In addition, you could also qualify for one of their Fresh Start Scholarships and save up to $5,000 on tuition.9
Find out more about business and accounting degree programs at California College San Diego by visiting their website at www.cc-sd.edu or calling them at 1-888-773-8590.
2 http://www.topaccountingdegrees.org/celebrity-accountants/ and http://www.rasmussen.edu/degrees/business/blog/accounting-myth-busters/.
5 http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes132011.htm. “Weekly” wages assume a 40-hour workweek.
6 Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/bookkeeping-accounting-and-auditing-clerks.htm (visited December 11, 2013). “Weekly” wages assume a 40-hour workweek.
7 Online classes are offered by our affiliated institution, Independence University.
8 Accelerated Degree Programs are compared to traditional colleges and universities. See National Center for Educational Statistics, Table 4 (http://www.nces.ed.gov/pubs2007/2007154.pdf).
9 Scholarship awards are limited and only available to those who qualify. See www.scholarshipshc.com for details.