Accounting students face so many misconceptions about the accounting field and the people who make careers within it. Through television and movies, many people seem to develop this caricature of an accountant: the introverted math expert that is probably really busy during tax season. That’s why this blog post is dedicated to dispelling just a few of the many myths about accounting.
Myth #1 — You have to be good at math to be an accountant.
Just about anyone who isn’t an accounting major immediately associates math with accounting. It’s only natural – numbers are a recurring part of the job, but it’s more about managing and interpreting what the numbers mean, not just what they add up to. Some math whizzes may have a natural affinity for the accounting world, but it’s not simply because they can function as human calculators.
Accountants use math on a daily basis to the same extent that many other careers do: basic arithmetic and an excel spreadsheet. Accountants aren’t ever forced to accomplish intense math problems in their heads, there are literally apps for that. Accountants rely on software that does the heavy mathematical lifting.
Like I said, it’s about recognizing what exactly all the numbers mean. Interpreting what provides a better visual of exactly how a business is operating; revenue, expenditures, assets, liabilities, etc. Accountants provide businesses a solid understanding of their own affairs and recognize pieces of a larger puzzle that can help obtain improved outcomes.
Myth #2 — Accountants are really boring people/don’t have social skills.
So accountants are not natural mathematicians. So what? It doesn’t mean they are interesting, affable, or sociable people…right?
Just about every type of accountant has to have a solid set of communication skills. If the first part of an accountant’s job is to recognize the patterns and trends they are trained to look for, the second part of an accountant’s job is to relay this technical information into understandable terms to individuals with non-accounting backgrounds.
On a daily basis they all have to communicate to clients, coworkers, vendors, and various stakeholders in a business. Accountants also tend to work as part of a team, and constant effective communication isn’t just effective, it’s required to get work completed.
If you’re still not convinced, here’s a list of some notable individuals from wildly different fields who dabbled in accounting:
Chuck Liddell – If you don’t know him by his Ultimate Fighting career, you’ll probably recognize the haircut. He holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting.
Kenny G – Smooth jazz virtuoso and one of the best-selling artists of all time, Kenny Gorelick worked as an accountant.
Arthur Blank – Current owner of the Atlanta Falcons and co-founder of the Home Depot is a Certified Public Accountant.
John Grisham – Every pre-law student’s favorite law drama novelist. Before he went to law school he earned a degree in accounting.
Thomas Pickard – former acting director of the FBI. Also, a Certified Public Accountant.
Ray Wersching – NFL field-goal kicker. CPA during the off-season.
Myth #3 — Any accountant can do your taxes.
The reality of this myth is a real heart-breaker for spouses, friends, family, and basically anyone who knows an accountant. The short and simple answer is: no, not all of us are able to do your taxes. In fact, most accountants are not any more qualified to prepare a person’s taxes than a random person off the street.
Why? Specialization within the field of accounting. If all every accountant had to do was tax work, they’d likely get a degree in tax preparation, not accounting. While there are many accountants who specialize in tax preparation, it is merely one narrow slice of the pie that is the broad accounting field.