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The introduction of sophisticated technology has brought monumental changes to most professions – and accounting is no exception. Many of the manual, routine-based accounting tasks of the past are now undertaken by non-human support.
If you’re thinking of starting a career in accounting, many of these changes are positive for you, says Dr Christine Contessotto, Director of Teaching in the Department of Accounting in Deakin Business School.
Technological change means accountants are increasingly involving themselves in higher-level work, taking on important decision-making and management responsibilities within organisations.
‘The introduction of technology has made some major changes to the role of accountants. A lot of repetitious accounting tasks are now computerised,’ Dr Contessotto says. ‘Accountants are able to work with a lot less paper, relying on spreadsheets and software packages for much of their work.’
With technology bringing closer links with our international neighbours, accounting procedures around the world have aligned. ‘Globalisation has increased the standardisation of accounting practices around the world,’ Dr Contessotto says. ‘There are also increasing levels of regulation affecting the work of accountants. Things like cloud computing also has had an impact: accounting records are available anytime and anywhere.’
There has also been an increase in accountability across the profession. ‘The number of accounting, ethical and auditing standards have grown considerably over the years and have become increasingly more complex.’
The changes of recent decades are set to continue into the future. ‘The introduction of artificial intelligence will cause further disruption to the field of accountancy. Rather than having humans checking transactions, machines will do this.’
Dr Contessotto says there are likely upcoming changes where the potential outcomes are unknown. One such area is blockchain technology, where a digital ledger records transactions chronologically and publicly.
‘The introduction of blockchain is expected to affect the work of accountants but just how this will happen is not clear. Accounting standards will continue to change and address new and complex transactions. This will change not the nature of the work but how certain transactions are reported and disclosed.’
As the ability for accountants to capture big data increases, so does the need for appropriately qualified professionals who can interpret, analyse and advise based on this data. ‘The management and analysis of data analytics is growing in importance in the accountants’ role.’ The ability to work with this data creates opportunities for accountants to be integral in managing the direction of corporations large and small.
‘Accountants’ work has changed from one of compliance to one of consultation and advice. Technology will undertake the compliance work and accountants will analyse, interpret and communicate information to various stakeholders.’
While technological advances have made some careers obsolete, the core elements of accounting remain the same and the role is as vital as ever before. ‘Accountants have always provided information to stakeholders, predominately management but also to shareholders and others. This has not changed but the way this information is generated and communicated has changed.’
'The introduction of artificial intelligence will cause further disruption to the field of accountancy.'
Dr Christine Contessotto,
Department of Accounting, Deakin Business School.
For students entering the field, the future is exciting and the skills required are shifting. ‘Graduates need to have computer skills and be prepared to remain up-to-date in accounting, software and regulatory requirements. They need to be prepared for the challenges of dealing with constant technological change and have the ability to adapt to new IT.’
In addition to the technical skills, it’s now more important than ever that accountants focus on the development of soft skills that will help them to fulfil the advisory aspects of prospective roles. ‘Communication, critical thinking and problem solving skills are vitally important, as is a customer service focus.’
Dr Contessotto also advises graduates to join a professional accounting body and undertake their professional studies. ‘This is not needed for an initial job but is extremely important for future employability.’
The successful accountant of the future is equipped with technical, analytical, leadership and consulting skills. ‘Graduates can find a range of employment opportunities in accounting practices, in large corporates, banks and regulators such as ASIC and ATO,’ Dr Contessotto says. ‘Accounting graduates can work as financial accountants, tax accountants, management accountants and auditors plus many more.’
For many, the initial accounting qualification is a launching pad for other careers. ‘Accounting is an exciting area as it leads to many initial careers but also allows graduates to branch into many areas of management, once experience is gained. Accounting graduates can also undertake teaching qualifications and teach in secondary schools.’
As the accounting profession evolves, so do the opportunities for accountants to find exciting and fulfilling careers that embrace the changing technology.
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