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Read about eight common accountancy myths
There are plenty of misconceptions about accountants out there - if you’ve watched popular sitcoms like The Office or Parks and Recreation, you’ve probably seen them portrayed as a little bit dull! Fact is much more interesting than fiction in this case - read on as we debunk the top 8 myths about accountancy...
What do Eddie Izzard (famed British comedian), Mick Jagger (Rolling Stones singer) and Robert Plant (a legendary musician) have in common? Answer: They all trained to become accountants before stepping into the spotlight. Hardly fitting the stereotypical image of an accountant, Jagger studied accounting and finance at the London School of Economics, going on to form the Rolling Stones in 1962.
There’s more to accounting than preparing and interpreting financial statements. Accountants can work on projects for all kinds of clients, from retailers to A-listers. This, and the global nature of the industry, means that accountants can travel widely.
Accountants need to be numerate and have a head for figures; but they don't need to have studied maths to a high level or starred at the International Maths Olympiad. Much of the big number-crunching is now done by accounting software, while the ‘Big Four’ accountancy firms look for candidates with strong commercial awareness.
There’s a thriving market of accountancy software that can help to simplify routine bookkeeping actions for small businesses - but they can’t replace the effectiveness of a human’s understanding of accountancy principles, which can provide vital insights into a business.
Accountants perform a wide variety of roles in the public and private sectors. They can work in-house, advising companies on auditing, financial management and regulatory matters, and thinking strategically about the business. Alternatively, accountants also play a vital role in delivering public services and helping not-for-profit organisations. And because accountancy firms are global organisations, it’s a career that opens up international opportunities.
Accountancy is generally seen as a profession that’s dominated by men. In 2015, however, two of the Big Four accountancy firms appointed women as CEO, with Lynne Doughtie taking the reins at KPMG and Cathy Engelbert at Deloitte. And at PwC, they’ve launched a ‘Back to Business’ programme designed to make it easier for women to re-enter the workforce after a career break.
Stories like the Wall Street Journal’s ‘The New Bookkeeper Is a Robot’ paint a picture of a future in which large parts of the accountant’s role will be taken over by robotic process automation - computer software that’s capable of controlling a range of applications. But technical and financial expertise is always going to be required for higher level analysis, strategy and compliance issues.
Accountancy is a diverse profession and firms are always looking for ways of recruiting the best talent, regardless of candidates’ education and background. Many firms have special apprenticeships designed to attract school leavers, and some have removed academic qualifications from their entry criteria to create more opportunities for bright students and broaden access. In a similar vein, Deloitte recently changed its selection process to stop recruiters knowing where candidates went to university in an attempt to remove any potential bias.
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