A career in accounting demands the right qualifications, the necessary skills, sufficient experience and oodles of patience and perseverance to keep at it, despite the many challenges. Now that you have decided to take up accounting as your career, you've realized that it is a lot more than stereotypical math geeks crunching numbers and punching keys on fancy calculators. The field has evolved with time, and there are many things that you need to be aware of, in order to land that dream job in the accounting field.
The very first step should be to have those degrees and certifications in place.
- Obtain a Bachelors Degree - To begin with, choose the right college that promises you sufficient exposure to the varied subjects in accounting. When you take up a full time accounting course, make sure you opt for the right electives that will further your knowledge and prepare you for the career path you wish to pursue.
- Take up Accounting Internships - Internships while at college are good opportunities that will help you gain the necessary experience that a professional life demands. It also gives you insights into the nature of work.
Take up Certification Exams - Certifications can give you that extra edge over your counterparts in bagging the job offer that you are looking at. Depending on the country you are studying in / you will be working in, the Certification exams will vary. For accountancy in Singapore, ISCA (Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants), CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants) and CPA (Certified Public Accountant), Australia are some of the sought after certifications.
- Enrol for a Master's programme - After sufficient work experience, when you wish to scale up your work, you can consider a master's degree in accounting. This will make you adept at the specialization you want to pursue, and of course, improve your salary and job prospects. Be sure to sign up for a programme of international repute, like the MSc in Accountancy from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
Over and above the accountancy degrees, having the relevant skill set is extremely crucial to become an accountant of repute. Practical skills are the most crucial factor that determines how successful you can be in this profession.
- Organizational skills - An accountant has to deal with multiple responsibilities, and this requires good organizational capabilities. Use of tools like calendars, day planners, colour coded post-its and folders help being meticulous and keeping track of information and deadlines.
- Time management skills - Handling competing priorities and shuttling between various tasks demands the immense skill of managing time, and this is a huge determinant that makes or breaks an accountant's success.
- Versatility - The field demands that an accountant be adaptable and versatile to changes. As an accountant, you should view each change as an opportunity to learn and grow.
Leadership skills - Be proactive, take charge and plan for long-terms, irrespective of which stratum of the hierarchy you belong to. Demonstrating your leadership skills will take you a long way in building a thriving career.
Communication skills - Irrespective of careers, job roles and companies, the one skill, which every individual needs to possess, is the ability to communicate effectively. The story is no different with accountants. Professional communication, interpersonal skills and networking are important for succeeding in the field.
It isn't always a rosy picture in the field of accounting, despite the great jobs and the fancy pay. Getting to the top takes a lot of hard work, and having to undergo the test of time amidst a lot of challenges. The limitations include:
- Continuing educational requirements - Even after completing the degrees, internships and certifications, accountants have to undergo the mandatory renewing of licenses and passing compliance regulations.
Little or no work-life balance - At least in the initial stages, it would be rather difficult to balance work and play. Deadlines, commitments, and long hours are characteristics of the accountant's life, and you may find yourself with no time left for family or hobbies.
- Stressful lifestyle - The tight deadlines, and absolutely no scope for mistakes make this profession a rather challenging and stressful one. One can be incriminated for fraud if caught in malpractice and so, a lot is at stake.
Once you have chosen to become an Accountant, it is imperative to put your heart and soul into building up your portfolio and emerging as a successful one. Choose the right school, take the right electives, work for a number of years, do a post-graduation and consider starting your own practice. Good Luck!