Many of us grew up with a certain stereotype of accountants. It’s usually a quiet, meek person of diminutive stature, in a dimly lit back off, crunching numbers on his/her own. Depending on your age, you may even envision this person hunched over an old-school adding machine, or scratching numbers into an oversized ledger book in pencil.
But these days, nothing could be further from the truth. Accounting really is so much more than just number crunching, and accountants who love their work will tell you that the stereotypes never really were accurate. But apart from the numbers, what is there really about accounting?
Accounting is about categorizing financial transactions.
If you ask accountants what they really do, many will tell you that much of their work involves analyzing financial transactions. The next step is figuring out which accounts to enter those transactions into. These days, most of the real number crunching is done by computer hardware and software, leaving the account to do the analysis and interpretation of those numbers.
Technology has really changed accounting.
It’s not just that the old stereotype isn’t accurate. There’s a reason that you don’t see that old guy in the back room working on the books by himself. He doesn’t have to any more. Technology has dramatically changed almost every aspect of our lives, and accounting is no exception. When it comes to data entry and calculations, nowadays computers do most of the heavy lifting. It’s not that they’ve replaced accountants. It’s more that they’ve taken on enough of the drudgery of accounting, and made life easier for those who have to do the work. Computers free up accountants’ time so that they can do more strategic work, of the type that computers still (as of today) can’t do.
Accounting is more about auditing and analysis.
With computers to do most of the number crunching, accountants themselves are freed up to do more advanced, high-level work with the data that the software produces. An accountant will review and audit your financial records, as well as your bank accounts. They’ll produce reports, to analyze and show the health of your company, and do projections as to where things are heading.
Accountants are involved in lots of other activities, even law enforcement.
Within the world of accounting, there are a number of sub-fields. One of the more interesting ones, that many people don’t even know exists, is the field of forensic accounting. This type of accounting work focuses on developing financial profiles of people who are suspected of being involved in illegal activities. Did you know that when the FBI was started, more than a third of its employees were accountants? It was actually accountants who gathered the evidence which was ultimately used to arrest and convict Al Capone. So if anyone tells you that accounting is not glamorous or exciting, don’t believe it!