By Lisa Walther, CPA, Tax Senior
When most people hear the word ‘accountant,’ their vision is clouded by a set of preconceived notions based on old-school misconceptions about the profession. I’m about to debunk some of the common myths that not only get in the way of having a positive relationship with your accountant but may also discourage people from pursuing a career in accounting. I hope this disrupts your thinking and gives you a glimpse into what accountants are really like.
Myth #1: Accountants love math.
I hear this one all the time. Whenever I tell people I’m an accountant, they immediately say, “You must be so good at math!” But, this is not necessarily the case (and not even a pre-requisite for being an accountant, by the way). While we do look at numbers, for sure, we are actually more focused on analytical skills than pure mathematical skills. All that’s really required to do the job is basic arithmetic, and these days we use calculators for that. So, we’re not the ‘math masters’ of the universe after all. Perhaps that title needs to be attributed to engineers, like my husband, who has to do hardcore math (calculus, etc.).
Another assumption is that all accountants can answer your tax questions. A large number of accountants do specialize in tax, but there are so many more types of accountants and their jobs have nothing to do with taxes. It is true that to pass the CPA exam, every accountant has to have a general understanding of tax. However, if it’s outside their area of expertise, chances are they will not know the latest tax rules or how to deal with complex tax issues. That means your best bet is to discuss tax details with a tax accountant only.
The old stereotype is of an accountant sitting behind a desk wearing a green visor, with head down and punching numbers into a calculator. That could not be farther from the truth. To be successful in this line of work, accountants need to engage with people and maintain long-term relationships with their clients, or else they won’t get very far. In fact, we have an apt slogan at Weinstein Spira: “Relationships Count.” Since we are often in the role of a business advisor as well as accountant, it is essential to possess (or develop) people skills for powerful interactions.
Wrong! Did you know that about 60% of accountants are actually women? Still, most people think it’s a man’s job. Although a lot of accounting executive positions have traditionally been held by men, more women are becoming visible and influential as they move up the corporate ladder. Accounting is one of the jobs that can provide a lot of work/life balance, which is especially attractive to women. So, while guys are not being pushed out, women do see this as a career that allows them to have both a family and career due to the flexibility it affords.
The bottom line is that accountants are more relatable than you may have thought before reading this article. The main takeaway is that we’re not just the traditional number crunchers of the past…we do a lot more than that! There are so many specialties in the accounting field that anyone can find their niche and be successful. Finally, if you’re considering a career as an accountant, don’t let the myths dissuade you.