Myths of the accounting profession

What are your opinions on these myths?

Didn't find your answer?

Hellooo everyone, 

Some research has come out that shows a large discrepancy between the perception and reality of careers in accounting and auditing. These myths are massive barriers that are preventing young people from getting into a career in accounting and a reason why firms are finding it hard to recruit young employees. 

Here are some myths that students and young graduates with no knowledge of accounting had:

  • Work in auditing/accounting is tedious and stressful, it is filled with egoists & out of touch with societal trends and environmental goals. 
  • Work in auditing/accounting is for number crunchers and people who enjoy working alone in front of a computer screen
  • What real impact does audit and accounting have? It’s just numbers.

What do you guys think about these myths? Are they true, why do you think young people have this mindset?

How would you respond to these myths?

Looking forward to seeing what you all have to say!

Replies (25)

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By Roland195
07th Dec 2023 12:07

I would find it hard to argue that working in auditing isn't stressful and tedious.

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By Postingcomments
07th Dec 2023 12:19

Since I have worked in tax from the start, I would say this, but the auditors who stayed in audit after their 3 years were up, weren't the brightest or the most dynamic of people.

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paddle steamer
By DJKL
07th Dec 2023 12:34

Audit is for those who do not care what others think of them, nobody is grateful to auditors, if you want to be appreciated there are two main area to consider:

1. Raise funding for the business, if you can persuade a bank to part with a few million you will be loved, so concentrate on business finance during the exams. It is also good fun despite having to talk to bankers. (Some of them are nearly human and they do sometimes invite you to meals/rugby matches etc)

2. Tax - if you have cunning plans that allow the business to get from A to B by the cheapest route then you will be loved. If not this then HMRC enquiries are good fun for the accountant (except dealing with the stressed client). I did always want to work in IHT planning but we never really had the client base and outsourced the bigger clients, but again, structure someone's tax and you are their friend. (My Dad , a solicitor,did Estate Duty and CTT planning/Trusts etc for rural clients and got lots of Xmas presents from them- butchered lamb, case of apples, jars of honey, whole salmon and of course toys for me and my siblings.)

3. If you do not bother about being loved but want to be noticed, become the Grim Reaper and embrace insolvency work, I understand from a friend who was a partner in Arthur Young that it is pretty mentally stimulating if you can bring a business back from the dead though burying them must be a bit depressing- as I have two half days of insolvency work from the late 80s on my CV I am obviously fully trained to advise on insolvency work- certainly looks interesting from this side of the fence.

Whilst I have in the past audited and I still do financial accounting, there is little love from me to them, I do them just to get the chance to do the more interesting bits at 1 & 2.

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Replying to DJKL:
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By Taxguy96
07th Dec 2023 14:26

I would agree wholeheartedly with your post.

Having worked in audit/accounts and more recently in a tax advisory role, I can say beyond doubt that I received more thanks for the work I did in my first year of tax compared with 3 years of audit.

I have always felt that with tax I can create an actual benefit for my client, have more contact with clients (actually get to know them), and become their number one go to person for anything business/tax related - even if I don't know the answer I can connect them with someone that does.

With audit, it always felt to me that we go through a huge amount of stress to tell clients that their numbers are pretty much OK (i.e. not materially misstated) - never really saw the value add.

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By FactChecker
07th Dec 2023 13:03

What "research has come out" (i.e. who commissioned/published it, who did they survey, etc)?

I certainly wouldn't argue with most of the listed 'myths' ... but then I can easily locate people for whom those are the benefits (not downsides)!

Suspect the 'research' says more about the people behind it (and the angle they were seeking to promote) than about the 'youth of today' (or indeed any professionals either wincing or glowing with pride at the 'findings').

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Replying to FactChecker:
Molly Macfarlane
By Molly Macfarlane
07th Dec 2023 13:10

Hi FactChecker,

The research was conducted by EDHEC Business School's NewGen Talent Centre and Mazars. They interviewed students/recent graduates with limited knowledge of the profession and then they interviewed employees in several accounting/auditing firms. This was to see the discrepancy between the perception and reality of careers in accounting and auditing. The results identified a number of myths that those with a lack of knowledge held.

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stonks
By WinterDragon
07th Dec 2023 13:40

Move over dinosaurs, as possibly one of the youngest members of AccountingWeb I get to have my say.

It is stressful! I can't speak to audit as I have not worked in a big firm nor done any audit training. I fell backwards into a career of accountancy as a victim/beneficiary of nepotism but paid for my own studies to become qualified. I deal with the bottom of the barrel type stuff - the sole traders, landlords and partnerships. The profession certainly has its fair share of egoists that look down their nose at us poor sods that aren't chartered.
The January rush and constant chasing of my own tail is stressful - not to mention constantly being fielded questions by clients that I am not qualified to answer. I feel a great many people misunderstand what an accountant can and can't do - just because I fill in your self-assessment tax return it does not mean I can fill in all forms that have a government department logo on the top. Just like a doctor at the family event that gets bombarded with questions about their relative's elbow pain that won't go away, everyone has a weird numbers question that they want my opinion on.

The job requires me to sit in front of a screen a lot and sometimes endlessly chase the missing £30 on a bank reconciliation, I find this part soul destroying - but at the same time, I find great satisfaction in finally balancing it and restoring confidence in myself. I do find myself isolated a lot and sat in front of a screen but I work flexibly, I'm not forced to work 9-5 flat out. I have my workload that needs to be completed and I work at my own pace to get it done - which means I can get away from the file that's causing me nightmares and browse AccountingWeb instead!

To many of my clients it is all just numbers on screens and they still can't wrap their head around the difference between gross and net income but I can transform that. I can take their shoe box stuffed with receipts and explain what it all means. They might hear something from Martin Lewis on TV or their mate Geoff down the pub (that definitely knows what he's talking about when it comes to tax) and put it into words of one syllable. The best part about dealing with the general public is many of them are so very grateful for getting their affairs in order and just simply explaining what they have to pay and when. I get to sit around client's kitchen tables, drinking cups of tea and being greeted by the dog.

I hate my job and I hate all the bother I end up creating for myself but that's only half the story. I get to do something special, and I don't know anybody else my age that gets such a unique job with so much variety. And it's precisely that which makes me realise I'm so glad I'm in this industry full of cynical old farts that love to argue with each other on internet forums.

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Replying to WinterDragon:
John Toon
By John Toon
07th Dec 2023 14:02

LOL

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Replying to WinterDragon:
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By FactChecker
07th Dec 2023 14:06

Brilliant ... you've got a great future ahead of you with those attributes & attitudes.

Not sure how the 'research' would've categorised your responses, but that's their problem!

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Replying to WinterDragon:
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By AdamJones82
07th Dec 2023 14:18

I'm sure your clients would be happy to know they're referred to as bottom of the barrel

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Replying to AdamJones82:
stonks
By WinterDragon
07th Dec 2023 14:26

AdamJones82 wrote:

I'm sure your clients would be happy to know they're referred to as bottom of the barrel

You're right, I wasn't very clear. I certainly would not describe them as this. I would describe them as normal people and many of them self-describe as Mr & Mrs average.

I was referring to how in the profession, these type of clients are not the attractive stuff - see other comments on what accountants find exciting/interesting. I was trying to highlight how many others would not be enamoured with these types of clients and look down on those that almost exclusively deal with them.

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Replying to WinterDragon:
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By AdamJones82
07th Dec 2023 22:52

Others can look down on me if they want, I like this type of work, no hassle, easy to rattle off and here's my invoice thank you very much. Though I'm in my 50s now and like the easy life!

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Replying to WinterDragon:
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By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
12th Dec 2023 09:30

WinterDragon wrote:

AdamJones82 wrote:

I'm sure your clients would be happy to know they're referred to as bottom of the barrel

You're right, I wasn't very clear. I certainly would not describe them as this. I would describe them as normal people and many of them self-describe as Mr & Mrs average.


I'm just wrapping up Mr Average's accounts - a new-to-us tradie who's super-grateful to have £5k left over from the £8k he'd set aside for C.T. / I.T. and thrilled-sick at the prospect of having his first ever winter holiday (does Pontins open over Christmas? I do hope so).
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Replying to WinterDragon:
paddle steamer
By DJKL
12th Dec 2023 12:11

What about calling them "Shiny Happy People" if you like REM

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Replying to WinterDragon:
Tom Herbert
By Tom Herbert
07th Dec 2023 14:28

If sections of this don't make the AWeb quotes of the year article I'm going on strike.

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By More unearned luck
07th Dec 2023 14:19

"Well, er, yes Mr Anchovy, but you see your report here says that you are an extremely dull person. You see, our experts describe you as an appallingly dull fellow, unimaginative, timid, lacking in initiative, spineless, easily dominated, no sense of humour, tedious company and irrepressibly drab and awful. And whereas in most professions these would be considerable drawbacks, in chartered accountancy they are a positive boon."

Has a lot to answer for.

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Replying to More unearned luck:
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By Geoff56
07th Dec 2023 14:38

Was this the (in)famous Monty Python sketch?
Have you memorised it?

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Replying to Geoff56:
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By More unearned luck
11th Dec 2023 20:16

I don't need to memorise anything these days as long as I have my friends; Messrs Google, Copy and Paste.

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Replying to More unearned luck:
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By FactChecker
07th Dec 2023 14:42

Lion-taming ... now there's an area with a shortage of qualified practitioners.
Plenty of applicants (relatively speaking considering the few job opportunities), but not a high conversion rate in becoming a trained employee.

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By Dib
12th Dec 2023 13:31

For some reason my audit colleagues get upset when I describe auditing as going in after the battle to bayonet the wounded!

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Replying to Dib:
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By adam.arca
12th Dec 2023 13:36

And the one about actuaries:

An accountant stares at your shoes when talking to you.

An actuary stares at his own shoes.

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By adam.arca
12th Dec 2023 13:34

"What real impact does audit and accounting have? It’s just numbers."

Seriously, are there people out there who think that?

Yeah, tell you what, let's fly to the moon. We don't need to bother with the numbers.

Your electricity bill? No, we didn't bother reading the numbers on the meter, we just guessed. (That one's probably true, sadly)

We've estimated the tax deduction from your wages. At the end of the day, it's just a number, after all.

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Replying to adam.arca:
stonks
By WinterDragon
12th Dec 2023 13:52

adam.arca wrote:

"What real impact does audit and accounting have? It’s just numbers."

Seriously, are there people out there who think that?

I suppose the point is a little simplified but the sentiment is likely accurate for many.

I can just picture the university open days and careers fairs in which a student asks varying professionals what they do on a day-to-day basis.
The doctor says they save lives and treat sickness.
The teacher says they inspire the next generation to tackle the world's challenges.
The engineer says they design ground-breaking technologies to fight the climate crises.
... and the auditor says they mark other people's homework to make sure they've got their sums right.

On the outside, it's not the most glamorous career.

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Replying to WinterDragon:
paddle steamer
By DJKL
12th Dec 2023 14:27

Its just marketing, auditors should talk with the teams in marketing they come across( Of course they maybe have burnt their bridges with them already (as everyone knows, the most iffy expense claims come from the marketing team))

So, we sex it up; Auditors are like detectives searching for fraud and other malfeasance. Sell them the image of Phillip Marlowe , trench coat, trilby pulled over eyes, cynical world weary attitude. Of course it does not give a True and Fair image of an auditor, but by the time they find out it is too late, they have been snared in a web of ticking.

The sexiest thing about auditing was the use of different colour pens or one of those ones that had a few different colours all in one pen (that and inventing one's own tick system) , and then there was the flowcharting template where one could avidly draw the schematic of the five copy documents (of various hues) and where they then travelled within the "System" so one could follow them and check them- riveting stuff.

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By Paul Crowley
28th Feb 2024 17:39

Accounting is just numbers, not rocket science.
BUT
Rocket science is just numbers that do not create a tax liability and thereby fund each and every country. No tax means that people die and there is no foreign aid.

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