An Exploration of Accountants, Accounting Work, and Creativity


In two studies, we explore whether creativity is essential—or antithetical—to professional accounting work. In Study 1, archival analysis of U.S. Department of Labor data indicates that: (1) professional accounting work requires no less creativity than do three competing professions and a diverse sample of U.S. occupations, and (2) greater creativity may be required in financial than in auditing and taxation accounting work. In Study 2, a survey contrasts the self-assessed and number-of-uses creativity of governmental accounting professionals and Master’s of Accountancy (M.Acc.) students with that of M.B.A. students. Results indicate lower creativity among accountants and M.Acc. students compared with M.B.A. students, and no systematic relationship between ethics and creativity. We conclude that while creativity matters to accounting work—more to some areas of accounting practice than others—accountancy education and work may attract or reward entrants with less than desirable levels of creativity, perhaps due to the common belief that creativity is unneeded in, or even deleterious to, professional accountancy work.

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Behavioral Research in Accounting