OK, perhaps I was a bit harsh yesterday when I compared life as a CPA to serving hard time. For fear that I may have dissuaded any impressionable readers from pursuing a potentially rewarding career in the field, allow me to highlight some of the advantages to becoming an accountant, starting with the undeniable fact that — much like midget wrestlers and left-handed relief pitchers — accountants will always be in demand.
If you don’t believe me, check out this list of the 6 Jobs to Watch in 2012, on which accounting is firmly entrenched at #1. Take that, computer systems analysts!
Accountants are in especially high demand in April. But throughout the year, large firms require the assistance of public accountants to prepare, analyze, and verify financial documents. The Labor Department projects that more than 279,000 accounting positions will become available between 2008 and 2018.
As gratifying as that ranking may be, the accounting industry still has a bit of a “public perception” problem to overcome before it will ever be embraced for reasons other than its consistent demand. CPAs, it has long been my contention, are subject to more scorn and ridicule than any other profession in America, save for perhaps male nurses. We’re seen as Bob Cratchitt-types; complete with pale skin, thick glasses, and a healthy fear of our own shadow, conventional and tedious to the core, with the only thing less impressive than our sense of humor our aerobic capacity. While some may argue that this stereotype is too firmly entrenched in the collective conscience of the American public to ever be undone, I’d beg to differ.
As with most stereotypes, the one of the “geeky accountant” can be shattered simply through closer inspection. Throughout history, CPAs have run the gamut of the coolness meter. Consider these examples:
- Accountants are timid book worms? Say that to former UFC light-heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell — who was an accountant before he started kicking ass for a living — and he’s likely to rip your head clean off.
- Accountants are conservative and boring? Then how do you explain these 150 CPAs breaking into spontaneous dance on a crowded NYC subway car, an act far more likely to draw a round of bullets than a cheer.
- Accountants are pasty dorks? Jazz saxophonist Kenny G was an accountant before he…OK, that’s probably not helping our cause.
- Accountants are desk-bound weaklings? Then just try to keep up with the Marolt brothers, two CPAs from Aspen, Colorado who climbed and skied from near the summit of Mt. Everest, officially marking the first — and likely last — time the words “CPA” and “death zone” were used in the same sentence.
Clearly, being an accountant is not mutually exclusive with being a badass, regardless of popular opinion. There’s no reason you can’t crunch numbers, train for an Ironman, interpret the tax code, and lay down some hot licks on your guitar all in the same day. And while that race car driver gig you’ve always day-dreamed about might play better with the ladies, good luck finding a race car driver with a solid 401(k).
Of course, you could always just be a race car driver AND a CPA, like WS+B’s very own Rebecca Machinga: