What’s it really like to be an accountant?
When it comes to occupation stereotypes, accounting often gets a raw deal. At some point or another you’ve probably heard that being an accountant is downright boring – that the job is mundane and monotonous and involves little more than doing tax returns and mathematics equations.
There’s also been talk that the accounting industry might be on the decline thanks to the advancement in technology. But in fact, according to Australian Government website Job Outlook, over the past two years employment growth in this area has been almost three times higher compared with all occupations, and it’s estimated that the number of accountants in Australia will surge to almost 220 000 by 2020.
To get a real insight into the accounting industry – and find out whether you really need to be a superstar at maths to succeed – we asked Matt Boundy, Senior Financial Accountant at a prominent real estate company, about his experience as (more than just) a number cruncher.
What study is required to become an accountant?
‘To become a fully qualified accountant you need to be CA (Chartered Accountant) or CPA (Certified Practising Accountant) qualified. To be eligible to undertake the CA or CPA study you first need to have a degree in business or commerce that is accepted by either organisation. Whilst you can commence working in an accounting role with just a relevant undergraduate degree, without a CA or CPA qualification this role will remain quite junior, particularly in public practices. Having a CA or CPA qualification further develops the skills and knowledge to become a business leader.’
Do you have to be good at maths to succeed as an accountant?
‘Whilst it’s handy to be good with numbers, I don’t believe you have to be a genius at maths to be a successful accountant. You need to be able to analyse numbers but your proficiency at adding and subtracting does not necessarily need to be higher than the average person. At school, if you’re interested in subjects such as accounting, economics and other business-related subjects, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy accounting as a career.’
What skills should you have to be a good accountant?
‘To be a good accountant I believe you need to be adaptable, diligent, committed and have a great attention to detail. Working in high stress situations and meeting tight and demanding deadlines requires you to be resilient and to have good organisational skills. Accountants deal with a broad range of people so you also need to be personable, which helps establish trust with clients and other stakeholders.’
'To be a good accountant I believe you need to be adaptable, diligent, committed and have a great attention to detail.'
Senior Financial Accountant
Do accountants just do tax returns?
‘No, there are many types of accountants – those that prepare individuals’ tax returns are just one. For example, auditors express an opinion as to the accuracy of a company’s financial statements; tax/business services accountants look after the compliance obligations of client businesses and groups; and consultants provide businesses with advice to assist them with their decision making, including in relation to large transactions, mergers and acquisitions. Other accounting roles include forensic accountants, cost accountants, project accountants and analysts.’
Is the stereotype of accounting being boring and monotonous true?
‘Although a lot of people think accountants sit behind their computers in old offices, doing the same thing over and over, accounting actually offers great diversity day to day. A typical day for me varies based on what is required at any given point in time. One day I will be preparing various reports and analysis for the board as to the financial position and performance of the company, the next I may be assessing the tax impact of high level transactions proposed by the business. I’m always working closely with the finance team and other key stakeholders within the business to ensure that our balance sheet is as accurate as possible to assist with decision making.’
Once you’ve become an accountant, is there scope for growth and diversity?
‘There is huge potential for career growth in the accounting field. Most individuals and every company in every industry needs an accountant, so there’s no shortage of roles. And you don’t have to work in an accounting firm – if you have an interest in sport, for example, you could pursue a career as an accountant working for a sporting organisation. There’s also various levels of accountants that are required – a graduate could aspire to work towards one day becoming a partner in a practice or a Chief Financial Officer of a company, which are very important and powerful roles.’
Will technology eliminate the need for accountants?
‘Technology has progressed rapidly in recent years making transaction processing in particular much simpler and more efficient. But technology won’t eliminate the need for accountants because there are integral human elements of the job. In fact it’s the progression in technology that has emphasised the need for practices to further develop the consulting side of their business and provide meaningful advice to clients. Another key role in accounting that computers can’t take over is the interpretation and application of regulations. Legislation is constantly changing, which effects your reporting and tax obligations and requires you to always be learning and developing your skills.’
What do you like most about being an accountant?
‘I enjoy the variety of work that being an accountant allows me to be involved in. In my current role, I enjoy being able to get involved in the business and understand its strategy and how it operates, whilst being able to provide useful information and analysis to assist with the decision making of the business. The most satisfying part of my current role has been being able to bring across the skills I developed in my previous public practice role to streamline processes within the business and create efficiencies within the finance team. This has improved the accuracy of our reporting and freed up time for myself in particular to focus on other areas.’
Interested in pursuing a career in accounting? Visit Deakin’s course and career search tool Explore to find out more about the courses you could undertake to lead to a career in accounting.
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