There are many myths about a career in accounting – with one of the most common being that it’s boring and predictable.
Earning more money, building a career and improving their quality of life are usually the main reasons students at AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) list when asked why they’ve chosen a career in accounting. But what many young people don’t realise, is that there are a number of lesser-known perks to a career in accounting. Here’s the top five:
1. Going into management
“There are very good opportunities for career advancement and promotion in accounting,” says Andrew Williamson, Director of Marketing and Commercial at AAT, the UK’s leading qualification and professional body for technical accountants. The organisation has been working in Botswana for nearly 30 years and helps teach financial and accounting skills to over 4,000 people in the country each year.
“By beginning with an AAT qualification and continuing to train, you can work your way up from being an accounts assistant, for example to a finance director or a CEO,” says Williamson. That’s what happened to Calvin Thololwane, 25, who was working part-time as a salesman in a cinema in Gaborone until he decided to study accounting – and he’s not looked back since. He now leads an accounting team of four at supermarket chain Choppies. He says, “I want to stand out from the rest whenever I apply for job opportunities and my qualification definitely gives me an advantage.”
2. Joining multinational corporations
“Accountants are always in demand,” says Justin Kyriakou, AAT’s International Development Manager. “Every business needs an accountant and that means you should be able to find a job, anywhere in the world.” You can join a local firm - or a big international corporation with offices around the world - and enjoy plenty of benefits and package options.
Pyoka Mfuni, 35, admits that he wanted to work for big companies and that his studies as a chartered accountant, after completing AAT’s qualifications, helped him to get a job at Grant Thornton in Botswana, the 6th largest US accounting company with over 59 offices worldwide. “Having the AAT certificate means that companies trust me,” he adds.
3. Learn about new industries
“The financial industry is one of the most versatile sectors to work in,” says Williamson. “You are just as likely to work in the travel or entertainment industry as you are a bank or specialist accountancy firm.”
If you’re a sports fan, you may want to think about becoming a sports accountant – yes, there is something like that! Melvyn Gandz, a UK chartered accountant, tells of his work on a multi-million dollar deal involving the transfer of a major European football star from one team to another. “Of course it’s the clubs and the agents who make these deals happen, but once the transfer fee and basic salary rights are agreed, we get involved with the lawyers to structure the transaction… then looking at the international dimension and the tax affairs of the player.”
For senior employees, travel is also on the cards. On job site Career Village in a forum giving advice to trainee accountants, accountant R. Scott Sanders says both he and his wife, who is also an accountant, fly all over the world. Even though they are executives, he adds, “If you go into audit for a global company or Big 6, you will likely travel globally at a very early age.”
Another employee of PwC, Nicole Cooperrider on the same forum, says team members of their internal audit practice sometimes travel between 50% and 75% of the time. She says, “Travelling is definitely possible within public accounting and is a great start to anyone who is just graduating!”
5. Starting your own business
AAT research shows that more students are interested in starting their own business than ever before. A survey of over 2,400 AAT members (including over 1,500 students) compiled in 2018 showed that interest in owning a business has increased by 22% compared from 2011.
Maths teacher Paul Buzzard had been working with children for 30 years when he decided it was time for a change and a new job that offered more flexibility. “The best advice I received was to go for the AAT qualifications,” he says. “They gave me a really broad background and are so widely recognised.” He founded an accountancy business, Cedar Accountancy in the UK and enjoys the independence and control he now has over his job.
But it is Josh McNeely, a CPA from the US, who really sums it up (on Quora), “Accounting is the best kept secret in the world. It offers some very interesting and rewarding career paths and there are thousands of people that do, in fact, say, ‘Gee, I love being an accountant.’”