Every business needs an accountant. It is a career someone may recommended it to you to take because it is secured or because you are good with numbers. After asking many of my colleagues, there is much more depth than just that in the industry.
Accounting is a flexible career to pursue. It demands attention to details, and willingness to learn theoretical and practical skillsets. This career is a starting point for many opportunities within and outside the accounting field.
My goal in this post is to help you have a full idea about what to expect from studying and working in the accounting field.
Let us get started.
5 Pros of an Accounting Career
Work in any Industry/Region
Any business around the use accounting one way or another. I would be surprised if I ever found a company operate without having at least one accountant. Not only that, regulators in majority of countries demand tax accounting, while other authorities like securities exchange require public accounting reporting.
The good thing for you is this means you can be an accountant in any industry you like and any region. You like the clothing brands industry? there is an accounting job for it.
Accounting has a standard language which means you can work in whichever country you want. Unlike for example marketing or sales where you must know the culture of the country and the norms in order to deliver the best value to the employer.
Flexible Career Progression
The career direction you can take from being an accountant is diverse. Because it is generically important for many business aspects, it allows you to be able to choose the direction and specialisation you want to be in.
Here are three choices you can take with some tips.
- Climb career ladder to be a CFO/CEO
Ok here is the simple equation to get promoted, work harder (and smarter) than anyone else. Keep getting higher education not just universities, attend courses and certifications like ACCA CIMA, ACA, CPA..etc. and be connected with the community.
The combination of education, experience, and connection makes it hard to not be promoted over time. All you have to do is be patient and keep developing these three areas.
- Become a freelancer/consultant (until you eventually turn it into a business)
Spend time on finding an accounting software that could get you started, learn to use it and then you can offer your service to clients offline and even online.
If you want to try out an accounting software, checkout Wave Accounting which is 100% free. I recommend trying it, who knows maybe you get an opportunity very soon and you would like to take on clients. Why not be ready with having knowledge of using the software early on?
Source: Wave Accounting
For a larger scale (small to medium size businesses) you could go for Quickbooks it is a well-known software. I recommend using this software if you prefer to have everything sorted out and you are ready to provide services at a larger scale. Here is a link for it in amazon. That would could also be a place where you can start serving clients
To get clients, you will definitely have to work on a full marketing strategy specially at the beginning until you build your reputation. For online services I would suggest you checkout upwork as a freelancing website.
- Start a business in the same industry you are in
After you work in an organisation you will know how the industry work, what are the costs and how the management is dealing with inventory, salaries, and commission. Well, you will learn a big chunk of the financial side of the business and you may realise you want to make a business in the same industry you are in.
Of course there will be an additional layer of effort to know the ins and outs of that business in terms of production, marketing, and dealing with customers in order for you to start your own.
It is easier said than done, but the idea here accounting is one of the career paths that could make you achieve this type of goal.
Clear Education Path
Unlike other majors accounting has a clear path, you know what you will study is very close to what you will work on. Practically, there will be difference because most likely you will end up using a software or Microsoft excel most of your time which is not related to the education. But still accounting fundamentals are the same and are important to properly work in your job.
The ideas you will learn are all relevant. In fact, you can further specialise in the accounting path you prefer. If you focus on data entries in your education your job in data entry will be much easier and so is if you focus on different ways of financial reporting.
You may wonder “how can I specialise?”. I suggest to check out accounting certifications like ACCA, CPA, and CIMA as a starting point. You will notice how each differ. I am planning to prepare a post for you with each certificate with its pros and cons.
For now.. keep searching!
Highly Demanded Stable Job
Because every organisation needs to have an accountant, then this means as long as you are getting better and becoming above average you should get a job more easily compared to other majors.
Below is number of accountants and auditors employed in the US from 2012 to 2019.
Historically it was stable and when it comes to future forecast, quoted from BLS they say the:
Employment of accountants and auditors is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Globalization, a growing economy, and a complex tax and regulatory environment are expected to continue to lead to strong demand for accountants and auditors.
I think the numbers spoke by itself, it is a highly demanded job and it is fundamentally important for any organisation to have an accountant.
Ability to Travel
Here is another unique advantage of accounting, certain accounting jobs require their employees to travel to audit/consult their clients. It may not happen all the time but the accounting job can be exciting and not repetitive if you wanted it to.
Choosing right direction could take you there.
In summary, accounting can be whatever you wanted it to be.
5 Cons of an Accounting Career
The Auditor/Accountant Relationship
The auditor accounting relation can sometimes be viewed negatively. The auditors job is to make sure that the company information is fairly presented. While the accountant want to get his work done and focus on what is important to grow the business.
Here is the thing.
An accountant may not want an auditor to keep questioning his work. Specially if he is in a conservative organisation that pressure him to not reveal everything, that is a challenging situation.
Depending on the work environment, if you are in a transparent company you may think “What is wrong with this auditor? Why is he wasting our time with this nonsense discussion acting all smart?”
or on the other hand if you are in a conservative/delusive organisation you may think “I hope he doesn’t talk to me about this. Am I working with integrity?”
I am not encouraging that you lie at your job or hide information from auditors. Unfortunately reality is tough and some people do it because they need to keep their job.
The accountant career workload depends on the job position, seniority, and the organisation. I know many accountants that do not have enough time in their life.
Take a moment and recall, you may notice accountants always go out in groups with their work colleagues. It is usually Because they do not have much time to mingle with different groups. Here is a link to reddit to have idea on how other auditors discuss time of an accounting employee.
Expect Workload Spikes
Certain accounting occupation may not require you to work beyond the 40 hours, but still due to the nature of the job you may end up having work fluctuations in some periods particularly when it is time to reconciliation of financials and preparing month end work. Just be prepared for that. The weekly hours could jump to 60 or more!
You Must Keep Learning
This could be a pro or a con, it depends if you are a person who prefer learning all the time or just do your 9 to 5.
For some of you, you may want to finish your university degree, get a job and never study anymore. Accounting requires you to be up to date with latest accounting standards, and following the laws in the jurisdiction you work in.
For certain jobs it may not be much, but let us say for reporting it will be significant and you may end up having to constantly reading about the latest GAAP and IFRS recording rules which are not usually are not about dealing with numbers but it discusses classification of transactions.
Strong Management Impact on your Career
Accounting can have differentiated recording point of views from one organisation to other. It also have different software.
Entry level accountants usually end up constantly ask your colleagues/manager for help. Other jobs may not require you to ask as much. Accounting will require much attention to details and not miss out on anything .
Asking question to an unprofessional manager can be tiring, and it can be worst if there were colleagues that are whistleblowers who complain about a mistake you make or a question you ask.
Every job has its advantages and disadvantages, I hope you had an idea that can set your expectation when taking accounting on as a career.
Let us carry on.
Skills Required to be an Accountant
Ok. So now after you went through the pros and cons, you might be interested in being an accountant and wonder, what skills do I need?
Well, it can be the way you like it to be. Accounting could be an auto pilot job if you will do your daily routine. But it still require attention to details and balancing the figures.
It will also require patience with numbers with numbers and using software effectively can make you standout. For accountants in general here are the list of skills required by popularity
Source: Payscale.com (2020)
Just incase you still feel that studying and taking on accounting is restrictive. Here are list of some accounting paths that you can take and it is not all about record keeping. Here is an example of an accounting manager path skillsets.
Source: Payscale.com (2020)
Most of the accounting jobs start from working on journal entries, and then transition to managerial reporting aspect. Some say accountants do not have to communicate much. But I think they in-fact have to communicate as much if not more than other jobs explaining the figures to the management and also the figures to the auditors.
Expectation vs. Reality
The transition from academic to real life practical job could be surprising for some. At university you may have spent most of your time studying the general ledger, debt and credit, and accounting principles.
Then on your first day of job they will be demanding you to start using excel proficiently and input data fast while everything is automated. Certain aspects when it comes to adjusting your sheets and softwares will allow your education differentiate you compared to ones who didn’t study well.
Source: Wave Accounting
Are you Worried that Technology may Replace Accountants?
Usually certain industries gets disrupted when a new innovation/technology replace individual workforce. For accounting some of this risk already took place, due to new software. For example data entry processing has been faster and more efficient. But for senior jobs like auditing or financial reporting it will definitely take time as there is much human element in this job than most people expect.
I don’t think we reached the stage yet where companies will just auto generate their annual reports and all the supplementary notes without a human behind the document.
Below is an interesting chart about the probability of automation of finance roles.
Source: Deloitte as referenced in PWC
Every job is at risk when it comes to technology, if you like accounting just go for it.
Choosing a career is subjective, it depends on you as a person and how much you want to develop yourself. It also depend on the field you work in. Accounting is in high demand and a broad subject it can give you the flexibility and has many positives. But it also has it negatives with it.
Just remember as long as you are young, you can always switch careers.
Choosing a career path can be one of the most important decisions you will ever take.it will determine how many hours you will be spending on what you may like or may not like.
But it is ok..
Deciding to join a university education or getting a job is not the end. As long as you are willing to develop yourself, you can learn almost anything from the internet nowadays. It allows you to change your career direction whenever you want. I like the quote from Jack ma founder of Ali Baba he said something in the lines of :
When you are 20 to 30 years old, you should follow a good boss [and] join a good company to learn how to do things properly. When you are 30 to 40 years old, if you want to do something yourself, just do it. You still can afford to lose, to fail. When you are 50 to 60 years old, spend time training and developing young people, the next generation.
You can basically spend your whole twenties learning and still be fine so enjoy your experience.
I hope this post was a good starting point for you to consider accounting as a career. Please let me know what is you opinion, and if you feel I missed one aspect that you wish I talked about.
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