It may not seem like the most glamorous industry and accountants do have a bit of a stigma for being an introverted or dull lot. But away from the stereotypes, what is the accounting and finance industry really like?
Kristy O’Gorman is a Senior Financial Consultant for Colonial First State Retail Trust in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. She gives us a little insight into what is involved in her successful (and not so boring) career in accountancy.
What is Accounting?
- Accounting is defined as the preparation and maintenance of an entity’s financial records. The principles and procedures of accounting includes the systematic analysis, verification and reporting of those records.
- Accountancy refers to the occupation or profession of an accountant. It is defined as a professional person who performs accounting functions such as audits or financial statement analysis.
A Typical Day
Contrary to popular belief, an accountant does not only sit for hours on end, staring at numbers on a computer screen. There’s a bit more to it than that. Accounting is crucial to the financial success of every type of business. So, as an accountant, there is potential to work in almost any industry you want. Although her job does contain a large amount of number crunching, Kristy’ role is also filled with:
- system operation meetings with various departments
- direct report updates
- spreadsheet building and maintenance
- reconciliation and treasury reviews
- multitude of other financial adhoc projects
Wondering how to get into Accounting?
There are a number of educational institutes offering studies in finance and most, like Ms O’Gorman, start with a Bachelor of Commerce choosing to major in accountancy. With a bachelor degree under the belt, many go on to obtain accreditation in Chartered Accountancy or other specialist accreditation. Once you have landed a job, there will be training and opportunities for promotion through the ranks. O’Gorman sees herself as an accounting team manager in time to come.
What does the future of accountancy look like?
Accounting and finance used to be one of the safest industries in terms of rate of employment. However, in recent years Australia has seen an increase in foreign accounting graduates. This has lead to more competition for employment positions. There is still a demand in banking and general business operations in Australia and New Zealand, although many junior roles are now taken offshore. It is for this reason that O’Gorman recommends engaging in an internship or having a part-time job during your study. Not only will it help to pay the bills, it will also mean you can potentially network yourself into a career after graduation.
What should you Consider?
Like many career paths, there are ups and downs with the role. O’Gorman works a bit of overtime, especially over the strict end-of-financial-year period. But she mentions that overall, she has a good work/life balance. “I can take annual leave when I want it and leave early or start late when I need to. I socialize with some co-workers outside of work and (of course) there’s always Friday night drinks.”
Accounting – and the finance sector generally – needs to meet strict policies and stringent requirements. The laws that govern financial procedures are many. People interested in a career in this field should have good communication skills and work well in a team to make decisions and meet deadlines. This career values those who are honest, trustworthy, flexible and willing to problem solve.
A Few Words of Advice?
It is key to plan ahead in your accounting career. After deciding on your initial degree, make sure you plan courses during your study that will help you with future accreditation (ie. Chartered Accountancy). O’Gorman mentions: as far as putting yourself ahead of other candidates, a little life experience such as travel or practical work can go a long way to gaining graduate and first-time roles. With the competitive nature of entry-level roles, it may pay to take a ‘gap year’ prior to or during study.