To many people, accounting doesn't seem like an exciting choice to study, but working as an accountant actually has many benefits that most people don't realise. From flexible working hours to rewarding salaries, and an easier path to getting started than a years long degree, this career path has a lot to offer to Australian students who choose to study it.
In this article we shall take a look at what qualifications you need to become an accountant in Australia, the different areas of expertise in accounting, and the types of jobs and careers you might go into once you have completed your studies.
First of all, we'll discuss what education and skills you would need to start a successful life as a professional accountant.
What Do You Need To Become a Certified Accountant in Australia?
Qualifications aside, working as an accountant or bookkeeper initially requires a good standard of numeracy skills and organisation. This is essential as you shall be working with numbers and data that it is important to keep track of effectively.
There are also certain regulations you need to follow when working as an accountant, so you need to understand these and be able to put them into practice.
To become an accredited accountant in Australia you have a couple of options:
- Take a bachelor degree at university
- Take a masters degree after an undergraduate course in another subject
- Get accredited with a course from CPA Australia
If you want to work as a freelance bookkeeper or an accountant for small businesses, you could get certified by taking a course with CPA (Certified Practising Accountant) Australia.
With CPA you can take an online course that provides you with all the skills you need to start working in the field. The CPA course requires you to pass some foundation exams and also provides information sessions for those wanting to learn more about this option.
CPA Australia gives Australian students an option to become accredited without spending thousands of dollars and 3 years at university, a huge bonus for many people.
However, if you wish to work in one of the three professional accounting bodies in Australia, which accredit and regulate the accounting industry, you need to complete at least a bachelor degree. These are three or four years long and teach you all you need to know to become a professional accountant yourself.
Getting qualified to work as an accountant in Australia will leave you with reliable and well-paid job options that can take you anywhere in Australia, from Sydney to Darwin.
If you want to get a head start or take additional classes throughout your course, take a look at the lessons you can find with a tutor on Superprof.
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The Basics of Accounting
Although accountants' work in companies is often done away from the limelight, it is some of the most essential work that needs to be done to keep things running smoothly.
The job of an accountant is mainly organising wages and tax for staff in a company, balancing profit and losses, and analysing financial data and records to provide unbiased information and forecasts to the Australian government or CEO's.
Of course, your responsibilities at work depend on the job you have, and there are many areas you can work in as an accountant:
- Forensic Accounting
- Tax and Auditing
- Corporate Finance Accounting
- Financial Reporting
Wherever you work in Australia, there are principles that everyone working in the sector needs to adhere to throughout their professional life. Some of these include:
- Accrual Principle
- Full Disclosure Principle
- Economic Entity Principle
- Consistency Principle
If you wish to learn more about these principles and others, you can try taking online classes.
Now we'll take a quick look at the two main types of accounting, namely financial accountancy and management accountancy, and what responsibilities people in these fields have.
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In this field, accountants would be providing valuable internal financial information to managers of business's both big and small. They would check profit forecasts, and weigh up investments to help in decision-making processes.
Management accounting aims to ensure the future security of a business's finances, helping them to keep within budgets as well as predict and plan for the future market.
In this field, accountants work with external parties within a company, such as partners or investors. The information provided to these parties is focused on the current state of a company, such as the profit margins and stability.
Financial accounting is something that businesses are legally obliged to do in Australia, as this information is used as a basis for the Australian Tax Office (ATO) to make decisions concerning the company.
Australian students often start their accounting journey working in the finance sector, if you do the same you can expect to be taking on some of the following responsibilities:
- Recovery and Insolvency
- Corporate Finances
Being a chartered accountant simply means that you have specialised in an area of accounting during your studies. In Australia and New Zealand, you can become a member of the Chartered Accountants body, which currently has over 120,000 members.
Accounting in Business
Accountants play an important role in many areas of businesses; From wages and income reports to predicting financial forecasts on sales and expenditures, as well as preparing revised budgets. One career path to consider in this area is as an internal auditor.
Internal auditors perform audits on companies and businesses to see how well they are operating and managing their funds and to ensure that there is no embezzlement occurring. Once audited successfully, businesses have easier access to government and bank support payments.
You can also work as a bookkeeper and balance the books at a small company, or several, making sure they are up to standard and adhere to accounting principles.
Accounting departments completely organise the funds of the company, keeping track of money when it comes in as well as when it goes out. This means that they are responsible for knowing where all the money and assets the company owns is and what it's being used for at all times, accountants in Australia also need to follow a set of rules at all times.
The Rules Every Accountant Needs to Follow
As well as the principles of accounting, there are three important rules that you need to remember when practising as an accountant in Australia; Although by the time you complete your studies at university or CPA Australia they should already be second nature:
- Personal account: Debit goes to the receiver, credit goes to the sender.
- Real Account: Debit incoming funds and credit outgoing funds.
- Nominal Account: Debit expenditures and credit profit and income.
These are often known as the golden rules of accounting, and can be researched further in textbooks and online.
Institutes of Accounting
Once you have become an accountant through one of the study pathways available to you, you might consider joining an accounting institute. This is a good indicator that you are a trusted professional, and can lead to many work opportunities for you.
In Australia, there are several institutes that you can become a member of, giving you international recognition in the finance sector.
Here are some examples of Australian accounting institutes that you can join to further your professional development.
Institute of Public Accountants
This institute of accounting has over 35,000 members and is suited for those who work within small businesses or have their own.
Over 75% of the members from this institute provide their services to small businesses in Australia, their passion for this sector leads them to state on their website that their reason for being an institute is:
"To improve the quality of life of small business."
"We recognise the vital contribution that small businesses make to the economy globally. As trusted advisers, IPA members play a pivotal role in the lives of their small business clients and are in an ideal position to support the productivity, growth and prosperity of small businesses; thus making a genuine economic contribution."
Chartered Accountants ANZ
Boasting more than 128,000 members, this institute aims to help specialised accountants use their skills to make a difference in their places of work and communities. A quote from their website tells us more about what membership can get you:
"Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand is committed to advancing the accounting profession through upholding ethical standards, delivering world-class member services, educating and advocating for the public good.
We provide value to members at every stage of their careers by promoting, recognising and protecting their designations as well as keeping them connected with other members and supporting the next generation of talent to enter the profession."
With over 168,000 members from 100 different countries, CPA Australia is one of the largest accounting institutes in the world. If you commence membership with them, they aim to provide you with education, training, technical support, and advocacy throughout your career. A look at their website tells you more about them and what they stand for, for example:
"The organisation was founded in 1886 and to this day we’re still energised by the same purpose - to be partners for progress"
Taking Accounting Classes
If you think that you would like to pursue a career in accounting, and want to learn more about the theory and practises behind it, then you should consider your options of training programs and undergraduate courses that can get you started.
Accounting is a profession that is always in demand, so you shouldn't struggle to find well-established courses to study in every city of Australia. The content of each course may vary slightly depending on which academic establishment you choose to study at, but every course teaches you the foundations of accounting and leave you with the skills you need to start working in the financial sector.
You can also consider working with a private tutor to learn more about accounting, and to supplement the knowledge you gain from your course at university or with an online provider.
However you want to get started, take your first step today towards starting an exciting and well-paid career as an accountant.
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