What skills and qualifications do you need to become an accountant?
Accountancy is a popular career choice. If you think it’s right for you, find out how to get there.
Accountants are critical to the operation of any business. Whether they work in-house or are employed by an accountancy firm, they provide a valuable service in the financial operations of all businesses.
Additionally, just about every individual needs an accountant at some point in their life, if not every year when it comes time to file a tax return. If you’re looking to become an accountant, you’ve chosen a reliable career option.
What does an Accountant do?
Accountants provide accounting services to businesses and individuals. Usually, these services revolve around taxation and other financial matters. Accountants are responsible for a wide range of the financial operations of businesses. Their day to day tasks usually involve record-keeping and ensuring compliance with financial legislation and regulations.
What does an Accountant earn?
In Australia, accountants earn an average salary of just under $90,000 ($89,646). The minimum average salary falls just under $80,000 and the maximum average salary hovers around $100,000. It may not be counted among the top paying industries, but accountancy certainly pays very well.
It’s a well-paying career choice, and most accountants are rarely out of work. The job market is growing well above the average rate, with projections indicating a 16% increase in roles between 2015 and 2020.
What Skills do you need to become an Accountant?
Accountants have a diverse role, and as a result require a wide range of skills in order to carry out their daily tasks.
Good communication skills are paramount if you want a successful career in accounting. You’ll need to be able to communicate with others within your team, third parties, and sometimes government agencies.
If you’re thinking of becoming an accountant, a great place to start your education is by developing your Microsoft Excel skills. Most accountancy roles require you to use some kind of database or financial analytics program, and Microsoft Excel will provide you with a great foundation for understanding the types of formulas and interlinking of information and data that you’ll encounter in your role.
Additionally, you may be required to present financial reports or findings to superiors. Familiarising yourself with a range of presentation tools, such as Powerpoint, will help you on your journey.
Critical Analysis and Problem Solving
The ability to analyse a situation (or series of numbers) and come to a verifiable conclusion is an essential skill for accountants. Once you’re in your role and chasing a promotion, you’ll have a far better chance of moving up if you can use your accountancy skills to solve problems for the business.
Solid organisation skills will help you considerably during your career as an accountant. You’ll need to juggle competing demands on your limited resources and be able to produce responses to complex requests in a short time frame. Staying on top of things will ensure you lead a far less stressful life, and will also reduce the number of mistakes you make in your job.
When you become an accountant, you’ll find yourself dealing with a large amount of confidential information. For many accountants, literally everything they deal with on a daily basis is confidential to some degree.
Your organisation will trust you with valuable data, and you have a responsibility to ensure that data is protected at all times. If you’re the kind of person that likes to share intimate details about their day at work, this may not be the career for you.
Discretion feeds into ethics. Accountants cannot knowingly break the law, even if their boss asks them to. As an accountant, your loyalty is not to your organisation, but to society. You must carry out all reporting and other work in an ethical manner. This will be one of the first things you learn while studying to become an accountant.
In most medium to large organisations, accountants work within a team. It’s important that you’re able to get along with coworkers and not cause any significant issues. This will go a long way towards your longevity in any role.
Do you need a Bachelor’s Degree to become an Accountant?
In Australia, there are three professional bodies that regulate the accounting industry. These are the Institute of Charted Accountants of Australia (ICAA), the Institute of Public Accountants (IPA) and CPA Australia (CPA).
In order to qualify for entry into the CPA or ICAA you will need a Bachelor of Accounting or a similar degree, such as a Bachelor of Business (Majoring in Accounting). To gain entry into the IPA, you’ll need a FNS50215 Diploma of Accounting.
However, you don’t need a Bachelor’s Degree to work in an accounting role. In order to produce certain financial reports, particularly any that will be analysed externally, you need to be accredited by one of the above bodies.
What are the First Steps to becoming an Accountant?
The very first step you need to take to become an accountant is to familiarise yourself with the industry and gain an understanding of what you’ll be doing in the role. If you’re not ready to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree, there are a few paths you can take:
The Certificate IV in Accounting will help you apply basic principles of accounting to your role. These include preparing high-level budgets, financial reports, and monitoring ledgers. Additionally, you’ll learn how to carry out tasks relating to business activity statements and learn a number of transferrable skills, such as maintaining a payroll system and preparing a range of business documents and presentations.
This qualification will prepare you for a role as a Bookkeeper or Accounting Support Officer, and is a great first step towards becoming an accountant.
The Certificate IV in Bookkeeping is designed to equip you with a broad knowledge base relating to financial record keeping and basic business financials. It’s a great qualification if you’re looking to establish your own small business, but can also easily be used to break into an accounting career.
Courses focus on payroll and accounting systems, preparing financial statements and interim reports, and ensuring that you use best practices relating to bookkeeping procedures.
The Diploma of Accounting is more advanced than Certificate IV-level courses, and will equip you with higher level skills. You’ll learn how to provide a range of business and financial performance information, prepare tax documents and manage budgets and financial forecasts.
This is a great first step to a serious accounting career, and will equip you with the right qualifications to become an Assistant Account or take on a supervisory role in the finance sector.
Are you ready to become an accountant? Get in touch with us to chat about the qualifications you need. We’ll help you develop a career plan that will get you where you want to be.