Formal accounting qualifications - are they necessary?
There is no doubt you can arrive at a job in the accounting industry in different ways. Perhaps you have a formal qualification, but you may also have started in a clerical role and received on-the-job training. We take a look at 5 benefits of completing a formal accounting qualification.
As with many industries, arriving at a job in the accounting profession can happen in different ways. Whilst many people choose to study accounting at university then secure a graduate or entry level position, others 'fall into' the career by starting in a related position such as payroll, then receive on-the-job training. There is no doubt that there are multiple avenues in which to start working in either a private accounting practice or the accounts department of a large organisation, but are there differences in the opportunities and salaries? Are the degree qualified students better off or does on-the-job experience count for more?
For those considering whether it's worth the time and effort to study a formal qualification accounting, here are some considerations:
- Enhanced employability - In the highly competitive world in which we now operate, there's a big difference between being good and being great. To stand out amongst your competitors it's vital you do everything possible, including ticking all the minimum requirement boxes. Most employers will require a formal accounting qualification before they even look at what other experience you have or what your personality is like. In other words, you usually won't get past the gatekeeper if you don't have a formal qualification, as it proves that you have a base level of understanding and a tested knowledge in key areas. Studying accounting also shows that you're focused and dedicated to learning the job.
- Improved career opportunities - A formal qualification opens the doors to many different roles within the accounting profession. If you wish to work in a small suburban accounting firm, you can. If you wish to secure a role as an in-house advisor within a large global corporation, you can. However, if you don't have a formal qualification it is likely you will be restricted to entry-level or clerical roles, or to working within small businesses without the same regulatory requirements. You are more likely to be overlooked for promotion too, versus a colleague who has a formal qualification and similar experience.
- Well-rounded knowledge - Learning 'on-the-job' is great when you have to complete a specific task. You'll typically learn what you need to get the job in front of you done...which is great if that's the only type of work you're ever going to do. Undertaking years or months of study however, simply gives you a much broader and deeper knowledge of the subject matter. By studying a formal accounting qualification you'll understand how to approach a range of different situations, you'll develop critical thinking and research skills, and you'll better understand why things work the way they do. Sustained periods of study also give you excellent planning and study skills which will be beneficial for work and future professional development.
- Professional network development - Professional industry associations are a great way to expand your career. You'll mix with and learn from people in the same or related industries, you'll benefit from ongoing professional development, and you'll become aware of new opportunities. If you run your own practice, professional association membership also adds a level of credibility to your offering and therefore builds confidence in your potential clients. Most professional associations require a minimum level of education for membership, with higher levels of membership requiring further qualifications.
- Global employment - If you're keen to work and live overseas, a formal accounting qualification will stand you in good stead. Most countries require a formal qualification to qualify for a skilled worker visa, and it's certainly easier for potential employers to check off your qualification than it is to contact multiple former employers to assess suitability. Whilst different countries may require some upskilling to comply with particular local laws or regulations, an accounting degree or diploma from Australia will be an excellent foundation upon which to start building your international accounting career.
If you're not ready to stop everything and spend 3 years or more pouring over books at university, consider gaining your formal accounting qualification in a more accessible and flexible way. Our range of online courses are designed to help professionals gain the knowledge they need whilst still working and having life!