Accountant Stereotypes are Just Plain Wrong—Or, What a Career in Accounting is Really Like

By Fred Sroka, Dean of the GGU School of Accounting & Bruce F. Braden School of Taxation

When most people hear the word accountant, they think of the guy in the corner adding up numbers and not talking to anyone. Perhaps the way accountants are portrayed in movies is part of it. Consider the neurotic nerd Gene Wilder in the Producers (1968) or the completely unsocial Ben Affleck in the Accountant (2016). Like most stereotypes, they are just plain wrong. Let’s help bust some myths.

Myth #1: Accountants are antisocial.

Because accounting is a service business, we need to stay close to the needs and ultimate goals of our clients or employers. This kind of interpersonal connection is vital to doing a good job and part of the satisfaction. Anyone who’s worked in a public accounting firm knows that it’s a team sport. There are simply too many rules for anyone to do it all themselves.

The nerdy stereotype of a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is simply not the image desired and held by the accounting profession. The typical stereotype depicts accountants as cold, aloof, and impersonal. In contrast, CPAs consider themselves skilled in the interpersonal abilities necessary to maintain successful client relationships. Large public accounting firms are increasing their investments in “emotional intelligence” training to better connect their people with one another and with their clients. If you want to hide behind a computer screen all day, your value to your clients won’t be much higher than QuickBooks™ or TurboTax™ .

Myth #2: Accountants are “math people” and “bean counters.”

Whereas the field was largely computational in the past, changes in technology have made this just one component in what happens. Nowadays, computers do most of the computational work, while accountants synthesize massive amounts of data into a simple picture of a company’s financial position. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a chart is worth a thousand numbers.

CPAs consider themselves skilled in the interpersonal abilities necessary to maintain successful client relationships. Large public accounting firms are increasing their investments in “emotional intelligence” training to better connect their people with one another and with their clients.

Myth #3: Accountants are not creative.

Many of our successful accounting alumni have a background in liberal arts. We have many music majors that have thrived in the GGU Master of Accountancy program, because musical literacy rests on an understanding of patterns and structures, along with a strong creative streak!

In the related field of Taxation, laws are always changing and are subject to interpretation. Our graduates describe how they enjoy collaborating with executives to analyze situations and decide what moves to make.

Myth #4: Accounting is not fun.

Accountants love solving puzzles. They live for those exciting “AHA moments” when you figure out a pattern or insight behind the numbers, much like finishing a New York Times Sunday crossword or even “finding Waldo.” That’s an accountant’s moment to celebrate.

At GGU, we create problem solvers who are proud to call themselves accountants. Our alumni are active at the best tech companies, accounting firms, governments, and non-profits, smashing stereotypes along the way.

Myth#5: Accountants do not serve the public good.

Many of our graduates are in the forensic accounting field and can use these gaming skills to nail the bad guys who cook the books or embezzle funds. Accountants also believe in giving back to the communities they serve. For example, CPA firms challenge their staff to work with Habitat for Humanity, Food Banks, and schools with financial literacy programs.

Myth #6: Accountants are all the same type of person.

Not all of us look like Gene Wilder or Ben Affleck. GGU’s diverse student body shows that accounting attracts people from all walks of life, ethnicities, and countries of origin. We have extroverts as well as introverts, those just out of college and those with many years of experience starting a new career or adding to their skills.

Myth #7: Accounting isn’t relevant to business goals.

Think of an accountant like a FitBit® for management and investors. Accountants give a quick, easy-to-understand picture of the company’s current financial health, clear guidance on how to improve this health, and solid metrics as the company develops.

At GGU, we create problem solvers who are proud to call themselves accountants. Our alumni are active at the best tech companies, accounting firms, governments, and non-profits, smashing stereotypes along the way.


About Fred Sroka

Fred Sroka, JD is the Dean of the GGU School of Accounting & Bruce F. Braden School of Taxation. Fred Sroka received his JD from UCLA, practiced as a tax lawyer for 18 years, worked as a tax accountant for 18 years, and managed a couple of years as a management consultant! He has been a member of the GGU adjunct tax faculty since 1983, and a member of the tax advisory board. Fred retired from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in 2014 and has served as the Dean of the Bruce F. Braden School of Tax since October 2014.

He holds an active CPA license in California and Colorado and is an inactive member of the California State Bar. Fred and his wife Ronda have two kids (both off in grad school), who provide constant coaching on the world from a millennial student’s perspective. Fred loves to play tennis and golf and is constantly puttering around the house with his tools.


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