7 myths about accountancy careers that need destroying

Posted in Employers

Posted by Jo Howell
Published on 24 July, 2018

There are lazy stereotypes. Then there are really lazy stereotypes. Many folk would have you believe that a career in accountancy is about as exciting as the hum of a fridge. But the tired cliché that accountancy is boring is just plain wrong - and a view that’s rarely shared by people who actually work in the profession.

You know how it is. Drop the A-word and - whoosh - you can almost see people’s eyelids droop. Yet modern accountancy is exciting, dynamic and varied, with fantastic career opportunities and huge earning potential. Yes, accountants are the perennial punchline of unimaginative jokes. But you shouldn’t let two-bit comedians dull your interest in a career that you might just love.

Accountancy is plain misunderstood. It’s time to grasp the reality pin and pop some annoyingly tenacious myth-bubbles.

Who do we think we are?

Before we begin, you may be wondering what makes us qualified to comment. Why should you believe what we say? Well, since 1988 we have specialised in accountancy recruitment. And in that time we have picked up a thing or two about this profession’s pace of change. Today we hire for some of the most dynamic accountancy positions in the Westcountry. Get in touch if you would like to know more.

Okay, let’s get to it.

Myth #1: Numbers, numbers and nothing else

Become an accountant and your life will be recast as one unending spreadsheet. Hmm, not quite. Once you have learnt your discipline you can expect to become an invaluable member of your chosen organisation, providing input on procurement decisions, informing business strategy, managing compliance and more.

As for the projects? Take your pick! Accountants are essential to crack complicated fraud cases, analyse the feasibility of life-changing business investments and facilitate world tours for the planet’s most popular musicians. A rock star profession? It sure can be if that’s the direction you want to take. And you thought it was just tax returns...

Myth #2: There are limited career opportunities 

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Get ready for acronym overload. From a starting point with a Level 4 qualification from the AAT, there’s a clear path ahead if you want to progress to membership of one of the major accounting bodies - such as the ACA, ACCA or CIMA.

Once you’re fully qualified, the sky really is the limit. You could start your own business or work on a freelance basis, cherry-picking clients as you wish. Or, if you’d rather stay on the payroll, there’s a good chance you can work your way right to the top of your chosen organisation. Senior accountants often become financial directors and CEOs. There’s no reason to suggest your career trajectory should be any different.

If you’re ambitious, accountancy might be the perfect fit.

Myth #3: It’s too competitive

Sure, there are lots of accountants. But look at it another way. All businesses - legitimate ones at least - need to keep accounts. There’s a lot of work out there.

Myth #4: It’s too hard and too expensive to become qualified

Let’s not beat around the bush. You need to be prepared to work hard to make it in accountancy. But that doesn’t mean kissing goodbye to your social life or burying yourself in debt. Your studies and qualifications are normally completed on a part-time basis over a three-to-five year period while you work. Flexible payment options are available. Your employer may even fund your studies - or at least make a contribution. You don’t even need a degree to begin your career in accountancy.

>> What skills do you need to become a senior accountant?

Myth #5: The salaries stagnate

Wrong again. The median average salary for accountants in the UK is around £28,000. But that doesn’t tell the full story of accountants’ earning potential. Starting salaries are between £20,000 and £25,000 depending on your entry level. That will jump to the £40,000 to £50,000 mark once you become chartered. Then if you focus on becoming an expert in a specific vertical, you can command anything from £60,000 to £250,000 per year.

Myth #6: Accountancy is uncreative

Next time your marketing and PR friends are deriding the accountancy profession for its lack of creativity, allow yourself to graciously take the upper hand. Your friends are wrong. Of course accountancy is primarily concerned with crunching numbers. Lots of them. But a glorified calculator you are not. 

Accountants are problem-solvers. And it’s impossible to solve problems without creative thought. Accountants are detectives that piece together narratives when there are pages missing. And accountants are visionaries who must stare into a hypothesised future and solve problems that don’t yet exist, testing the viability of projects that will stand or fall based on your judgement.

Creativity is about more than designing a logo.

Myth #7: Accountants have no people skills

Nobody wants to get stuck talking to the accountant at parties. Their loss. Accountancy demands brawny soft skills. You will meet all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds, both inside and outside your organisation. You will develop the eloquence to talk about complex issues in language that resonates with people who don’t know their P&L from their VAT. You will learn to address business leaders and push the case for change where necessary. Knowing how to engage different people on different topics will become one of your specialist skills.

Over to you...

Some stereotypes are annoyingly sticky. Perhaps none more so than the whole accountancy = boredom thing. Ho hum. The longer the stereotype remains the status quo, the more enjoyable and less competitive the accountancy industry will be for you.

Keen to get started on your career but not sure how? We can help you. Get in touch.


Recruitment Manager - Accountancy and Financial Services

Jo joined Cathedral Appointments in 2012 after over 20 years in recruitment spanning the whole of the UK - Aberdeen, Home Counties, Greater Manchester and the South West! She recruits for both Financial Services and Accountancy professionals and is known in the office for finding the needle in the haystack candidate where no one else can!

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7 myths about accountancy careers that need destroying

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