I am in second year in university studying a Bachelor of Business majoring in Accounting. I am thinking of going on to train as an accountant and wondered if you could give me some advice.
You may not be aware that there are five different accounting qualifications: ACA, ACCA, CPA, CIMA and IATI. Each qualification has its own advantages and disadvantages and needs to be researched thoroughly to determine which option is better for an individual graduate.
Practice versus industry?
The decision of which qualification to pursue may well be decided for you if you go down the accountancy practice route. Generally candidates within practices are pursuing ACA, ACCA or CPA depending on the type and size of practice they are working for. Practice is seen as an excellent start to an accountancy career as it gives a well rounded training base in account preparation.
Things to consider when researching practices include understanding the profile of their clients and what range of services are on offer. As a rule of thumb, if you see yourself ultimately working in a multinational then you should aim for the practices that service the multinational client base.
On the other hand, if you see yourself ultimately as a financial controller in an SME (small to medium-sized company) then you should look for well-rounded experience in a smaller practice where you will gain practical experience in accounts preparation and tax. The smaller the company, the less significance will be role of auditor.
Other areas you should consider include the practice’s policies in relation to study leave and payment towards exam fees and memberships. Given that you will start on a relatively low base, it is important to find out what the policy is on pay reviews as exams are passed and experience gained. More generally, find out what is it like to work in that practice – staff turnover is often a good reflection of the culture of the business.
It is important to note that while you will feel the pain in your pocket in the short term, you will benefit in the longer term with excellent opportunities for qualified accountants across the country.
Industry versus practice?
Industry is another option that may be considered by those primarily studying CIMA or CPA. Over the past few years, it has proven to be slightly more difficult to enter at the trainee level within industry around the South East. This has led to many candidates making the more traditional choice of training in practice and then making the coveted move into industry once qualified.
If you are planning on securing a finance training contract in industry straight from university, make sure you aim for minimum HSC results of 450 points and a 2.1 degree in Accounting and Finance. There are a few well-known local companies taht have set a high threshold for their graduates.
CIMA qualified accountants are always in short supply in the South East and tend to get paid more than their financial accounting counterparts. It’s something to think about if you are motivated by money!
So, to conclude, it is most definitely worth doing the research before you decide which route you want to take. Ask all the questions you can think of at interview time and ensure that you feel comfortable with the environment you are going into. I know you are not graduating for a while but it is never too early to get a start on preparing for your career.
Tanya Thomas is a recruitment manager with Morgan McKinley. She is based in offices in Kilkenny and Waterford. Readers can submit questions to her at JobDoctor@morganmckinley.ie.