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Accountancy - Love It or Hate It?

22nd May 2013
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A chilling survey, admittedly from the United States, suggests that people working as accountants or tax specialists would love to be doing something else. Indeed almost anything else would be an improvement., a career website, ranked 200 jobs from best to worst based on five criteria: physical demands, work environment, income, stress, and hiring outlook. To compile its list, the firm primarily used data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and other government agencies. Its findings would send any self-respecting accountant or tax consultant into therapy.

Over a long career, your columnist has generally come to the conclusion that there are very few careers that would have been more enjoyable than advising on tax. That remains the case even as the tax industry gets daily lashings, both deserved an undeserved, from politicians.

The combination of dealing with usually grateful clients, tussling with the Revenue and doing bits of numerical and legal analysis is unbeatable. Even the joys of auditing cannot compete.

Most of us might well feel that this is a far better way to spend our lives than sweeping the streets, driving articulated lorries or possibly even working as a golf professional, out teaching no hopers right through the winter. Regrettably, this new survey by the American website seemingly gives this theory the lie.

While the life of an actuary is reputedly stunningly boring, if well remunerated, those that are obsessive about numbers have pushed it to the top of the list of jobs to die for and who are we to argue?

Our distant cousins, financial advisers are happy with their lot too, making it into the top five.

It is therefore chastening to discover that the dear old accountant only comes in at number 47, one place above the management consultant. If that wasn't bad enough, tax preparer is at 186 nestling uncomfortably between waiter/waitress and dishwasher!

The obvious question is what we might be doing instead? Maybe we should all be looking for a career change after discovering that we hate what we have been doing perfectly happily for the last umpteen years.

While disc jockey and photojournalist both sound glamorous, neither makes it into the top 175, and both are below auto assemblers and more than 100 places beneath that glamorous (and rather worrying) occupation of nuclear decontamination technician.

It has to be said that not too many of the top 10 jobs sounds all that tempting to this writer, although it might help to know what an audiologist actually is and does.

There are a number of different conclusions that we can reach as a result of studying the survey.

This could be a good time to ask a question as to whether we really are doing something worthwhile and enjoyable. Having answered with a resounding yes, it might at least be interesting to consider switching to the jobs that Americans love most. However, if every accountant became an actuary or dental hygienist (number 6), they would almost certainly hate that just as much as they do their current work.

Things are even worse for your dedicated columnist, since if he were to choose the obvious alternative career, that of journalist, he would dive from the giddy heights of number 186 to least popular job of all at 200 and almost disappear from the list completely.

Perhaps the truth of the matter is that this survey has come to the kind of conclusion that none of us can imagine. Even if we go through ups and downs in our daily lives, I doubt that very many of us are currently considering jacking it all in to try something completely different, which is unlikely to make as much happier anyway.

Alternatively, perhaps we should look to the British equivalent survey identified by Robert Lovell in his blog published last week. It suggested that "accountants are amongst the happiest workers in Britain", while cautioning that despite all of this jollity, there has been "a surge of accountants seeking help to deal with things like depression and anxiety"

The one big concern about writing an article of this type is that if people read and act on it, the profession could be denuded and AccountingWEB suddenly find itself without customers or income. Perish the thought.


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Replies (5)

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By ACDWebb
23rd May 2013 09:12

So Philip

not looking for the easy path to lion taming then?

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By Satwaki Chanda
23rd May 2013 10:07

What do you care what other people think? Richard Feynman


The most important thing is that you enjoy what you're doing. If other people think its a boring job, that's their problem.

A lot of glamorous sounding jobs aren't glamorous at all. Corporate dealmaker? Spends all his/her time shuffling documents. Catwalk model? Ever seen how worn out they look like when they go backstage to change into the next outfit?

And you don't need all these surveys/reports to tell you that you ought to be deeply unhappy because your job happens to be on the boring list. If you believe what the press the summer of 2003 I read that Britain would be out of fuel by the following winter. I'm still waiting for the news story to confirm it...

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Man of Kent
By Kent accountant
23rd May 2013 11:19

Sitting here my home office, looking at my bank statement to see all the clients paying by monthly SO, scheduling my work for the next few months, thinking about whether to spend the afternoon cutting the grass...

...I have to say I'm very happy with my choice of profession 

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By A mum and an accountant
23rd May 2013 23:43

It depends
I suppose it depends on why you do it and at what stage of your career you are at.

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By Carpenter Box
04th Jun 2013 11:03

Its all in your head

Realistically, unless you get a buzz out of paper work you will not enjoy the role. you have to find positives in many negatives in order to be able to cope with life as an accountant!

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