When you hear accountant, what comes to your mind? You probably envision a skinny, nerdy guy with a pocket protector and thick black-rimmed glasses with white tape on the nose piece.
Is that about right?
Accountants are stereotypically thought of as nerds. But, here’s the thing. They aren’t all nerds.
Ask my 16 year-old daughter and she will probably tell you I’m a nerd. Most teen daughters think the same of their parents. We embarrass them by just living. Therefore, we’re nerds. That’s logical thinking right?
Being a nerd is just one of the many misconceptions of accountants. There are so many more. Let’s explore some of them now.
Misconception of Accountants # 1 – Good at Math
When I tell someone I’m an accountant, the first thing I hear is, “You must be good at math. I couldn’t ever do that.” Really? Accounting is not about difficult math. Accountants don’t use calculus (at least I don’t).
Anyone who can use a calculator can be an accountant, at least from the math perspective. Every now and then I have to use basic algebra to solve for an unknown but in a typical day I do no more than simple multiplication. And, that is done using a calculator.
Accountants rely so heavily on calculators or 10-keys that many can’t even do math in their heads anymore.
I remember very clearly working at a client early in my career and performing an inventory count of a small retail store. I had used a 10-key on my computer so much that I forgot how to use a regular calculator. It was very embarrassing!
Misconception of Accountants # 2 – Taxes
The business world has gotten so complex that there are very few generalists anymore. Everyone specializes in one specific field of accounting.
From the moment I passed the CPA exam, people have asked me tax questions. Sure, I have a basic knowledge of tax law but I don’t deal with it on a daily basis. You ask me about bank accounting, I can answer your question. But, don’t ask me about taxes.
Not all accountants prepare tax returns for clients. Many don’t even complete their personal tax returns. I don’t. I outsourced mine to a different CPA several years ago. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Misconception of Accountants # 3 – Not Athletic
Picture that skinny nerdy guy wearing the short-sleeve button down dress shirt with a tie that goes to only mid-abdomen. He is the most non athletic person you can imagine.
That’s not typical. The majority of my co-workers through the years were very good athletes in high school and college. In fact, many played at least one (if not two) sport at the Division I college level.
It’s amazed me over the years how many athletes we’ve hired. It’s not because we want athletic people. That does us no good (unless there is a city-wide Corporate Challenge in which we want bragging rights) from an accounting standpoint.
Instead, college athletes proved they can handle multiple things at once. They can play college sports at a high level and still maintain good grades in their classes. That takes good time management and dedication.
Misconception of Accountants # 4 – Men Only
Why is the stereotypical nerdy accountant always a male? Why can’t it be a female?
Traditionally, men were viewed as the accountants and women as bookkeepers. That stereotype is finally changing (and for the better). More women than men are taking the CPA exam each year.
Several women-owned accounting firms have been started and are thriving! Women can do as good of a job as men in accounting. Sometimes, they do a better job.
These are four common misconceptions of accountants but there are more. What other things do you think of when you hear accountant, CPA or auditor? I know there are more.
Accountants are normal people. Their careers can span any industry and lead to several different types of jobs. Thankfully, every business needs an accountant. Most people do too.