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Unravelling AccountingWEB Accountants unravel misconceptions about the accounting profession
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Accountants unravel misconceptions about the accounting profession

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Numbers don’t lie but myths do. Misconceptions about accounting and auditing are driving young talent away, causing recruitment challenges and adding to the skills shortage. 

18th Dec 2023
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Research from FreeAgent has identified that there are barriers deterring potential accountants from entering the profession.

40% of participants felt that negative stereotypes associated with accountants and the accounting profession was the main barrier preventing them from pursuing an accounting career.

Similarly, a study by EDHEC’s NewGen Talent Centre showed a large discrepancy between the perception and reality of careers in accounting. Students with no knowledge of accounting held negative stereotypes and misconceptions about the profession. 

Some of these myths identified were: 

  • 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 accountants think?

Despite these negative perceptions, EDHEC’s study found that “93% of young professionals who actually work in the industry say they would recommend it to a friend or family member”. But what does the Any Answer community think about the accounting profession and these myths?

Most members did agree that their jobs were stressful and sometimes tedious. AWEB reader WinterDragon said: “The January rush and constant chasing of my own tail is stressful - not to mention constantly being fielded with questions by clients that I am not qualified to answer.” 

They added, “The profession certainly has its fair share of egotists that look down their nose at us poor sods that aren't chartered.”

Despite the agreement that accounting comes with its fair share of pressures and hard work, there was a collective disagreement over the idea that the profession doesn't have any impact. 

“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. We've estimated the tax deduction from your wages. At the end of the day, it's just a number, after all,” AccountingWEB member Adam.arca wrote. 

Overall, most of the community shared their enjoyment of working in accounting. “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,” WinterDragon said. 

This sentiment was echoed by AdamJones82: “I like this type of work, no hassle, easy to rattle off and here's my invoice thank you very much.”

Where do these myths come from?

Geneviève Houriet Segard, assistant director of the EDHEC NewGen Talent Centre, shared her insights into why there is such a difference in perceptions. 

“The audit and accounting industry has evolved in recent years, and the changes that it has undergone are not well-known to recent graduates and young job seekers,” Segard said. 

She added, “The industry's current challenge is educating the public about the new opportunities that audit and accounting offer. For example, working with cutting-edge digital tools and projects that impact society and the environment.”

Emily Coltman, chief accountant at FreeAgent also offered another important perspective. “Historically, the accountancy profession hasn’t always had the best reputation for gender diversity and is dominated by male counterparts. For young people approaching accountancy today, this might hinder willingness to enter the profession - even though the reality is very different.”

How is the profession responding?

Segard spoke about the steps being taken to push the narrative away from negative stereotypes, shedding light on the positive aspects of an accounting career. “These include work driven by a ‘collective purpose’ and workplaces filled with people of diverse educational backgrounds, not just accounting or finance,” she said. 

Coltman shared how they are utilising the current shift the profession is seeing towards virtual finance services to encourage young professionals. 

“This strategic shift is incredibly empowering: not just for the small business owner who’s being taught to manage their day-to-day admin more effectively, but also for the accountant who gets to delve deeper into their client’s data, talk to them on a human level, become a trusted adviser and really help them run their business,” Coltman said. 

She continued to mention that the developments of technology in the profession as a result of this shift are another desirable factor. 

“We’re not diving into massive, Victorian-style, leather-bound ledgers any more - instead you can collaborate with your clients through technology and keep in touch while you’re on the move,” said Coltman.

What still needs to be done?

With the continued skills shortage, Manuelle Malot, the director of careers at the EDHEC NewGen Talent Centre, highlighted that a lot of work still needs to be done in terms of recruitment. 

“For example, if an auditing firm wants to recruit engineers, they may need to rethink starting wages because engineering students have a lot of options when it comes to first jobs out of university,” Malot said. 

She concluded: “They will need to do a better job of selling the profession to young people who are looking to be challenged, to have access to training and mentoring, and to have opportunities to work with interesting people and on projects with real-world impact. The industry offers these opportunities but needs to communicate them to its target audiences better.”

Replies (19)

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the sea otter
By memyself-eye
18th Dec 2023 10:54

Maybe if the phrase 'bean counter' was banned on pain of death?
No-one calls surgeons 'organ thief's' do they?

Thanks (2)
Replying to memyself-eye:
paddle steamer
By DJKL
18th Dec 2023 20:41

Tricky if one works as a barista.

Thanks (4)
Replying to DJKL:
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By johnjenkins
19th Dec 2023 11:29

You for coffee.

Thanks (0)
Replying to memyself-eye:
By Duggimon
19th Dec 2023 10:24

I'm not sure surgeons have ever been organ thieves, but I'm pretty sure the roots of accountancy are in counting actual literal beans.

That said, I'd agree with what I think is your general point, that the misconceptions about accountants and accounting don't come from accountants and accounting but from popular culture.

I don't see that there's a great deal we can do but to live by example, as dynamic and exciting individuals who happen to be accountants.

Thanks (1)
Replying to Duggimon:
the sea otter
By memyself-eye
19th Dec 2023 12:45

Like Michael O'leary!

Ryanair's combative chief exec....

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By bendybod
19th Dec 2023 10:45

My other half frequently refers to me as a taxman's nark. I presume if he does then others also have this misconception that we're in cahoots with HMRC. Chance would be a fine thing, given we can never get hold of them any more than the public can.

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By johnjenkins
19th Dec 2023 11:34

It's not just Accountancy it's in any industry. It would appear many of our youngsters don't want to do the donkey work but just mozey on in and get loads a dosh.
I could say a lot more but this is a family show.

Thanks (1)
Replying to johnjenkins:
stonks
By WinterDragon
19th Dec 2023 12:48

johnjenkins wrote:

It's not just Accountancy it's in any industry. It would appear many of our youngsters don't want to do the donkey work but just mozey on in and get loads a dosh.
I could say a lot more but this is a family show.

Watch it, I'll start banging on about wealth inequality and how the State pension triple lock is hogwash.

Thanks (1)
Replying to WinterDragon:
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By johnjenkins
19th Dec 2023 14:19

Never mind the inept politicians (now perhaps they should have a politicians apprenticeship) and you can pay £1000 per month to rent but can't get a mortgage for £1000 per month to buy.
Everything is so upside down (broken as my IP friend says) it is little wonder the kids of today aren't interested.

Thanks (1)
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By SuperAccountingSteve
19th Dec 2023 12:45

People still say when I say I drive an Alfa Romeo, "Oh does it rust?" so muck sticks that's for sure (The rust problem was cured more than 30 yrs ago), and people say things without engaging their noodles (i.e. the technologies in car manufacturing are shared by many brands), and it doesn't help there is less and less noodle out there.

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Replying to SuperAccountingSteve:
the sea otter
By memyself-eye
19th Dec 2023 12:46

So, DOES it rust?

Thanks (3)
Replying to memyself-eye:
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By SuperAccountingSteve
19th Dec 2023 12:47

There is only a tiny bit if you know where to look.

Thanks (1)
Replying to SuperAccountingSteve:
the sea otter
By memyself-eye
19th Dec 2023 13:09

I used to own a HA Viva (1964-the car not me!) which only had a tiny bit of rust.

unfortunately it was between the front wheels and the back.....

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Replying to SuperAccountingSteve:
By Husbandofstinky
19th Dec 2023 13:47

Have always wanted an Alfa. Last change I did look at the Giulia. Bottled it re electrics and ended up with an A6. Mr Boring.

Anyhow, turning back to the article. I would turn it on its head and say, would I recommend the industry (practice) to anyone? The way it has gone the last 20 years, not a chance.

LLAP

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By tonyaustin
19th Dec 2023 15:38

It's a pity lion tamers no longer exist! Back in the 70s in the Monty Python era, a Chartered Accountant was boring by comparison but was actually generally more financially rewarding.

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Replying to tonyaustin:
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By johnjenkins
19th Dec 2023 16:06

You can say that again.

Thanks (0)
By tonyaustin
19th Dec 2023 15:38

It's a pity lion tamers no longer exist! Back in the 70s in the Monty Python era, a Chartered Accountant was boring by comparison but was actually generally more financially rewarding.

Thanks (0)
Replying to tonyaustin:
the sea otter
By memyself-eye
19th Dec 2023 18:03

touche..
or 2-shay!

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By Darryl F Gibson
19th Dec 2023 20:13

I was asked what I did for a job and replied I was an accountant
The restaurantuer replied. I didn’t know you were one of the living dead!

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