Are you naturally good with numbers? Are you quick at solving problems or identifying patterns in numbers?
Maybe you should consider becoming an accountant.
The majority of people think about accountant's as middle-aged men with tiny glasses hanging over their noses, calculating numbers and figures from nine till five on an old calculator and filing tax reports all year round.
OK, so this stereotype might go on for a while more, but it could not be further from reality. In modern business, accountants are closer to consultants than they are to bookkeepers.
While bookkeeping is still a part of the job description, it only makes up a fraction of what an accounting firm does (and bill big companies for).
The modern developments of accounting software have simplified the normal bookkeeping tasks: issuing invoices, tracking payments and costs and so on.
This meant that the accountant spends less time actually calculating numbers and now has more time to analyse the performance of a company and to potentially find methods to make the company more profitable.
The largest accounting firm in the world, Deloitte Ltd., has a whopping 285,000 employees spread around the world and generated more than $43 billion for the 2017-2018 fiscal year.
It has increased its revenue for the past nine years and, as the biggest of the Big Four accounting firm, demonstrates that highly skilled accountants are in demand.
If you are interested in the idea of working as an accountant you probably want to know what you're getting into and how long it will take until you reap the rewards of your hard work.
Let's look at how long it would take you to become a Certified Accountant.
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Obtaining a Bachelor Degree or a Master
By far the most common pathway to becoming an accountant in Australia is to get yourself a tertiary level qualification.
Of the three major accounting bodies in Australia, only IPA will accept you as a member without a degree or master.
So in order to increase your chances of getting work in Australia, it is advisable to look into getting a degree in accounting, or a business degree with a major in accounting.
Obtaining an undergraduate degree in Australia requires three years of full-time study.
You can find courses all across the country under names such as Bachelor of Accounting, Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting), Bachelor of Business (Accounting). All the courses are three years long.
As these courses are offered in pretty much every university in the country, take your time to see which uni would be the best fit for you.
You can consider location, cost, reputation, and facilities when choosing which place you want to go.
Furthering your studies and gaining a competitive edge is becoming more and more essential in today's education climate. Holding a bachelor’s degree in accounting, commerce, or equivalent is mandatory for admissions in masters of accounting in Australia.
Moreover, international students must also submit proof of English proficiency as the curriculum of Australian universities is taught in English.
Duration for master's programs in Australia is usually two years of full-time study or four years of part-time study.
Following the CPA Program
CPA Australia is one of the world's largest accounting bodies with a global membership of 166,166 members (as at 31 December 2019) in more than 100 countries around the world.
"Our core services to members include education, training, technical support and advocacy. Employees and members work together with local and international bodies to represent the views and concerns of the profession to governments, regulators, industries, academia and the general public."
Becoming a member and furthering your training with CPA is a common pathway once you already have your degree or master in accounting.
The CPA program is an 18 month part-time process in which you will study alongside working, so it will be a very busy period! They have online study options though to make it easier if you are working long hours.
The program intergrates education and experience, and the program uses contemporary and internationally relevant material to provide you with an understanding of dynamic issues facing organisations today. Becoming a member with CPA will give you an excellent introduction into the industry and provide you with contacts in professional settings which will no doubt help kick start your career.
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Following The CA ANZ Program
Chartered Accountants of Australia and New Zealand is an option similar to CPA, as it is also one of the three accounting bodies in Australia.
"The CA program will develop your technical knowledge and professional skills through applied postgraduate learning and mentored practical experience."
The CA Program includes two parts:
- the accredited Graduate Diploma of Chartered Accounting (GradDipCA)
- three years of mentored practical experience.
The accredited Graduate Diploma of Chartered Accounting comprises five modules: four technical modules and a final Capstone module. Most of the modules are done online.
As you can see, the pathway to becoming an accountant or auditor is a long one. But with the guidance that these organisations offer, you will find it easier to get a job!
The AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) Pathway
If you you want to persue the Association Of Accounting Technicians pathway courses you will have to pick amongst different programs, basing your choice on your situation. The great thing about AAT is that they do not require a bachelor degree, unlike other accounting bodies.
The AAT was established in Australia in 2002. Three professional accounting bodies support it: 1) The Institue of Public Accountants, 2) The Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, and 3) CPA Australia. These professional bodies have more than 3,800 members and recognised students who obtain AAT qualifications in the field of accountancy.
In Australia AAT offer Certificate IV level Diplomas, which have a duration of 24 months.
Certificate IV in Accounting and Bookkeeping is the first step in your accounting career. This course prepares you for any entry-level accountant job. You will be taught the fundamental accounting principles, how finance administration works and the rudiment of bookkeeping and costing. You will also learn to master professional accounting software. The course is two years long.
Potential career outcomes include:
- Accounts Administrator
- Accounts Clerk
- Accounts Payable Officer
- Accounts Receivable Officer
- Debtors Clerk
- Payroll Officer
Certificate IV Diploma of Payroll Services is a recognised Australia wide and will teach you how to establish, maintain, and manage a payroll system. You will gain vital knowledge about the Australian taxation system, industrial regulations, superannuation, and cloud computing. The average duration for this course is also two years.
Potential career outcomes include:
- Payroll Officer
With further studies:
- Tax accountant
- Accounting Manager
- Financial Controller
Overall, if you follow the AAT path to the end, it will take you 2 to 4 years to be able to join the ranks of the AAT members. If you have any university degree, you might be eligible to skip some exams and reduce your study time by one or two years.
The AAT also requires that you complete a certain amount of work experience, but most students work and study at the same time.
The ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) Pathway
The ACCA was founded in 1904 and is now known across the globe. This association teaches accounting in 179 countries around the world and has more than 500,000 students.
The ACCA curriculum is split into four groups and three different levels.
The Knowledge group includes Business Accountancy, Management Accounting, and Financial Accounting.
The Applied Skills group includes six different exams: Corporate and Business Law, Performance Management, Taxation, Financial Reporting, Audit and Assurance and Financial Management.
The Essentials Level group includes three exams: Governance, Risk and Ethics, Corporate Reporting (International) and Business Analysis.
Finally, each student has to choose two optional subjects between four options which are advanced Financial Management, Advanced Performance Management, Advanced Taxation or Advanced Audit & Assurance.
Because all ACCA modules need to be sat in order and since you can not take more than four exams per sitting it means that in practice, it will take you three to four years to become an ACCA Chartered Accountant.
It used to be that you had ten years to complete all your exams but this rule recently changed as the ACCA found that Accounting laws, procedures and regulations were changing too much in that ten year period. Today you have seven years from the first exam you sit to take and pass all the required tests, failing to do so will mean that all the reviews you sat will be invalidated.
ACCA members and students living in the Australia and New Zealand have indeed found many pathways to success, but it is one of the more difficult markets for members to break into.
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Following The CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants) Courses
The CIMA was founded in 1919 when the world had the need for a new kind of accounting.
The qualifications are recognised worldwide, so if you're in another country and you plan on working in Australia this could be an option for you!
For over a century this institute has been focused on training Management Accountants, who focus on managing a company's budget, taxes, strategic planning and financial security.
CIMA is divided into three different levels: Operational, Management and Strategic.
The operational level is about the implementation of a strategy.
The management level focuses on the midterm. It translates the strategy decided at higher levels and communicates it to lower levels for implementation.
The strategic level focuses on the long term. It concentrates on making strategic decisions and providing the context in which those decisions will be implemented.
This qualification is also divided into three pillars covering nine different subjects.
The Enterprise Pillar manages the formulation of strategy, as well as its effective implementation. It emphasises how change management, project management, relationship management and the structuring of organisations can help to successfully implement a strategy.
The Performance Pillar uses the tools and techniques of management accounting and risk management to ensure that a strategy is realistic and to monitor its implementation. It shows students how to use their understanding of costs to construct budgets, make decisions about prices and capital expenditure, manage costs and manage performance. It develops the ability of students to progressively identify, classify, evaluate and manage risk.
The Financial Pillar focuses on the financial accounting and reporting obligations of a company. This includes an understanding of the regulatory framework and external reporting requirements, and the ability to construct and evaluate complex financial statements to show the financial position and performance of any commercial organisation. The fundamentals of business tax are covered, as are the tax implications of financing decisions.
In total it will take you three to four years to become a Chartered Management Accountant.
All of these accounting fields are similar and take roughly three years after you already have a degree, but you should choose the kind of accountant you would like to become, as some of these qualifications lead more easily to certain specialities than others.
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