7 things to know before you start an accounting career

New opportunities for accountants

Accounting careers have long been considered a safe choice for the mathematically minded. But it’s not the dusty profession it once was. Today, accountants work with everything from managing businesses to block-chain data analysis.

Job Outlook predicts moderate growth for accountants over the next five years.

It’s a dynamic profession needed by businesses of all sizes. Accountants provide financial information on business performance, financial positions and cash flow that business leaders need to make good decisions. As such, it plays a central role in solving complex business problems.

The field of accounting encompasses many different career paths, including:

  • Financial accounting
  • Public accounting
  • Government
  • Forensic accounting
  • Management
  • Tax accounting

Accountants can also branch off into related fields such as auditing, data and information systems as well as business.

Accountant salaries in Australia

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Accounting salaries vary depending on whether you’re in the public or private sector.

Most accounting graduates start at $50,000 and the sky is the limit for earning potential.

Mid-level accountants can make $100,000 to $150,000 within 10 years as they move into managerial roles.

How far your accounting salary rises depends on variables such as seniority, the number of hours you work and whether you’re in government, business or private practice.

What is accounting?

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, accountants:

  • Offer services relating to financial reporting, taxation, auditing, insolvency, accounting information systems, budgeting, cost management, planning and decision-making.
  • Provide advice on compliance and performance requirements to ensure statutory and strategic governance.

While each role will have a different focus, all accountants need a strong understanding of how businesses work, from auditing to payroll, taxes and profit and loss.

Training required for accounting jobs

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In addition to a Bachelor degree, you’ll need some experience to get a job.

Entry-level accounting roles require a Bachelor degree. If you want to progress to higher-level roles, you’ll need a Graduate Certificate, Graduate Diploma or Master degree.

Most higher-level management roles require a Certified Practicing Accountant (CPA), Chartered Accountant (CA) or Institute of Public Accounting (IPA) accreditation.

One of the biggest attractions in gaining CPA or CA status is that they are increasingly internationally recognised. This makes it easy to have your skills and employment recognised if you want to travel and work overseas.

Practical experience helps

Getting your dream accounting job requires much more than just a qualification though. Employers value hands-on experience. Plus, having a diverse range of experiences lets you test out different roles and see which one suits you best.

Start out in junior roles while you study — as an accounting clerk, payroll officer or even administration in a finance department. This is a great way to build your skills, learn how businesses work from the ground up and build your resume.

Choose from a wide variety of settings

Accountants work across all industries, and in both regional and city areas, so there’s no need to limit yourself. If you love horses and you love numbers, you could work for a horse racing company or a veterinary hospital even.

Like fashion? Work for a major fashion house or department store as part of their in-house finance team.

If you prefer working one-on-one with clients, you might choose to work as a personal accountant. Personal accountants help individuals or small businesses with their bookkeeping, taxes and personal finances.

What about work-life balance?

Although most (80 percent+) accountants work full-time, it is becoming an increasingly family-friendly profession. Huge companies like Deloitte, KPMG and Ernst & Young lead the way with gender equality and family-friendly workplace policies. Smaller companies are also starting to follow suit.

The option to work from home

Accounting is a profession that is relatively easy to conduct as a home-based business. Set your office up in a spare room or your garage, meeting with clients via programs such as Skype or Zoom. You never have to worry about commuting again!

With the ability to securely share sensitive files online, it’s never been easier to set up a home-based bookkeeping or accounting practice. As a bonus, you might even be able to claim all those home-office expenses yourself for a change.

The traits of a good accountant

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Successful accountants have a keen sense for both finance and business.

Good accountants not only understand numbers, but they also have:

  • Strong business and financial sense.
  • The ability to analyse risks and inform business strategies that help companies grow.
  • A good understanding of economics, computer systems and the English language.

While not essential, having the communication skills to build strong business relationships, work collaboratively and express complex mathematical ideas in simple terms would help you succeed too.

Accounting careers remain a solid choice

With an increasing number of Baby Boomer accountants retiring from the upper levels of the profession, the future is looking rosy for new accountants.

Strong income earning potential, family-friendly workplace conditions and opportunities to work in pretty much any industry you choose make accounting a great option. If you’re looking for a career with stability and security, it’s a perfect choice.

Tanya Abdul Jalil
Tanya Abdul Jalil is the effervescent and straight-talking owner of Your Business Wife, a small business consultancy for copywriting and content creation. She helps overwhelmed small business owners get better quality sleep by taking the stress out of creating and maintaining their online content. She’s passionate about helping women reach their full potential, make bold career moves and live their dreams.