Myth vs. Reality: What is Being an Accountant Really Like?
Are you organized and detail-oriented? Do the people who know you best respect you for your integrity, problem solving abilities and extreme attention to detail? Attributes like these make you an ideal candidate for training in a wide range of careers.
If you also enjoy working with numbers, one of the most obvious options is a career in accounting. You’ve heard this is a promising field that would leverage all of your existing talents, but the question still remains: What is being an account like?
Understanding the ins and outs of the job will help you determine whether or not it’s the right fit for you. Knowing what accounting isn’t like is just as important as knowing what it is. We turned to some accounting pros and benchmark organizations to help debunk some of the common myths about careers in accounting. Keep reading to learn what being an accountant is really like!
5 Accounting myths that just don’t add up
Myth 1: Accountants are just tax preparers
Vincenzo Villamena is a managing partner at Online Taxman and he insists that this myth is far from the truth. He says accountants actually wear many hats and work year-round—not just during tax season like many assume.
Tax preparation is definitely one of the more common responsibilities of accountants, so there is a degree of seasonality. Villamena says he is incredibly busy from January to May and moderately busy the rest of the year, which is actually one of the things he appreciates most about his career.
Other responsibilities of accountants that aren’t tax-related include: processing a company’s payroll, collecting receivables and making payments, preparing financial reports and maintaining record of assets, liabilities, profit and loss.
Myth 2: Accounting is a profession for men
“This is laughable,” says Marissa Flynn, accountant for the City of Lakewood in Washington. “Accounting is for anyone who enjoys working with numbers and solving problems.”
"Accounting is for anyone who enjoys working with numbers and solving problems."
Flynn explains that all of her direct supervisors and several of her colleagues have been women, so anyone who assumes it’s a male-dominated industry is mistaken. She adds that accountants are needed at every level in every field, so individuals can find a position that meets their specific needs and preferences.
“Choose a career that aligns with your interests, not based on inaccurate and outdated myths about gender roles,” Flynn advises.
Myth 3: Accountants must be superior mathematicians
Many people are intimidated by accounting careers because they assume the work involves the highest level of math. You'll be happy to hear that this assertion is incorrect, according to Flynn. She explains that accounting is much more about theory than math.
"I'm definitely not a math whiz," Flynn admits. "I add, subtract, multiply and divide, always using a calculator!" She adds that it's important to have a good understanding of fractions, percentages and decimals, as well as knowing how to use Microsoft Excel. These are all skills that are covered in most accounting degree programs.
Myth 4: Accounting is boring
Accounting can be as dry or exciting as you want it to be, according to Amanda E. Cioban, CPA at Manada Tax Services. She says her job is very interactive and she loves the fact that she gets a behind-the-scenes look at many businesses.
"The notion of an accountant as a 'number cruncher' is outdated."
“The notion of an accountant as a ‘number cruncher’ is outdated,” Cioban says. Advancements in technology have streamlined many of the processes that some might consider boring. Mobile apps, client portals and cloud computing have helped increase mobility and productivity for modern accountants.
Cioban says she appreciates having the ability to focus more on the human aspect of the job, networking with clients on a regular basis. She considers herself more of a trusted business advisor than a number cruncher.
Myth 5: Accountants don’t earn a lot of money
Everyone has a different definition of what “a lot of money” is. But in comparison to the national average wage index, which was just less than $45,000 annually in 2013, we think you’ll agree that accounting is a worthwhile career option.
The average annual salary of an accountant in 2012 was more than $65,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.* Earnings can reach as high as $115,000 annually for top-tier accountants. So you will not only be supporting the financial future of your clients, but for you and your family as well.
The reality is clear
If any of these misconceptions have been deterring you from pursuing a career in accounting, it’s time to set the record straight. Now that you know what being an accountant is really like, you can determine if it’s the right career for you.
*Salary data represents national, averaged earnings and includes workers of all levels of experience and education. This data does not represent starting salaries and employment conditions in your area may vary.