Emily Stephenson

There are many myths and common misconceptions surrounding the world of the quiet, calculator-carrying, green visor-wearing professionals that you walk past on the street, see on the train, or may even live with. However, here we breakdown the most common accounting myths and outline what it is really like to start a career in accountancy.

  1. You need an accounting degree

This is one of the biggest myths when starting an accounting career. The truth is, you can study anything you like and still become an accountant and for some accountancy programmes you don’t even need a degree.

Many chartered accountants didn’t know what their career would ultimately be when making the choice of what to study at university and read a vast array of subjects from English Literature to Biology. The great thing about accountancy is that you learn on the job. Whether you go into industry or practice, audit or tax, you will gain far more experience and knowledge out in the working world than you ever would in a classroom.

There are many great programmes available such as the ACA qualification, ACCA, or AAT for post-graduates, graduates, career changers, and school leavers to make the move over to accountancy.

2. Accountants spend their life looking at spreadsheets

Completely false.

The truth is there is a lot more to accountancy than just spreadsheets, invoices, and bank statements and it is far from being a boring profession. Your day will involve frequent interactions with clients and colleagues as you solve problems, answer and debate queries, and investigate transactions.

A significant part of an accountant’s day will involve Excel and spreadsheets. However, there are many different ways that you will approach spreadsheets, invoices, and client information depending on your chosen specialty. You may be reviewing transactions for VAT or potential tax relief opportunities if you decide to go into VAT or tax, digging for missing or unusual transactions should you choose audit, or putting the spreadsheets together to prepare accounts as part of business services.

You will also pick up on some nifty Excel shortcuts that are always useful.

3. Accountants are boring

It is a cruel world where all accountants are painted with the same dull brush and deemed boring and uninteresting. We are actually quite a fun bunch! (If you know what we’re talking about).

Accountants are only boring to the outside world. Within the office walls (and office parties) it is a completely different story. Cringeworthy accounting puns and amusing memes are just precursors to fantastic Christmas parties and socials. We also cannot forget to mention the team building days out where everyone ends the day in laughter, with the exception of perhaps that one colleague who does fit the bill of the typical “accountant” and has taken the Lego building activity far too seriously.

4. You need to be a Maths genius to work in accounting

This is one of the most common accounting myths. Accounting is far more about problem solving and logical thinking than reciting pi to 100 places and being able to solve an equation mentally in 10 seconds. Most of us do still use a calculator to check that 10 + 4 is 14. Just in case.

Problem solving, logical and practical thinking are traits that lend themselves well to Maths prodigies but can be learned and developed through other subjects and non-academic experiences. It is those transferrable skills that are essential to a career in accounting which involves a great amount of analysing and investigating, rather than quick maths.

5. Big 4 or Bust

It is true that many job adverts do identify working for one of the Big 4 accountancy firms as an being advantage or desirable experience. However, many of these companies do not realise the advantages gained from having worked for smaller/medium sized firms.

Non-Big 4 firms are by no means small fish. There is plenty of opportunity, if not more, to get your feet wet in various areas of accountancy within smaller firms where there can be greater flexibility in transferring between departments to gain experience.

If you are industrious and proactive, you will also be able to take on more responsibility sooner as with smaller clients there is more scope for you to take on various aspects of an audit, or accounts preparation, and cement your experience and knowledge sooner than your peers in the Big 4. You will also have a greater chance of being noticed, pushed forward and encouraged throughout your career, and be able to develop good relationships with a wide range colleagues and build your network.

If you would like to find out more and apply for our early careers ACA or ATT-CTA training programmes, visit: pkf-francisclarkcareers.co.uk/early-careers