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Career tips for accounting graduates

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Young accountants

The new year welcomes a fresh batch of accounting graduates into the workforce. If you’re one of them, congratulations – you’re about to embark on an exciting, rewarding, and challenging journey.

Your accounting qualification is just the start. Now is when you’ll kick your self-development into high gear and discover the business skills you need to thrive in this competitive marketplace.

Now is when you’ll learn how to:

  • Engage with clients authentically;
  • Use industry software and tools to automate much of what you’ve learnt;
  • Become an advisor and strategic consultant to clients; and
  • Nurture a willingness to learn and collaborate.

Sounds exciting, right?

The best way to learn is through an internship at a reputable accounting firm. But there’s a challenge: there are a lot of accounting graduates competing for few internship opportunities.

Don’t sit around waiting for a job opportunity that might never come. Give yourself a head start by taking control of your own education and improve your chances of attracting the right opportunities.

Here are a few places to start:

Take online accounting courses

We’re not always taught how to use digital and cloud-based accounting software at university. But because they’re widely used in industry, this should be at the top of your list of skills to learn. The good news is that modern accounting software is easy to learn and use. And, once you know how to automate the mundane accounting functions, you’ll free up your time to focus on becoming a business consultant.

Start here: Sage’s official training courses show you how to use one of the most popular software toolsets used by companies in all industries, all over the world.

Get good at Excel and admin

Most accounting software extracts data from Excel. Considered an essential accounting tool, you need to know how to use the mathematical tools, formulas, and equations to get the right data, when you need it.

You also need basic – but important – administration skills, like knowing how to file documents correctly, how to access information, and how to write a cheque.

Start here: Sign up for official Excel courses or explore free training options here, here, and here. Access free manuals here and hundreds of free video tutorials here.

Know tax laws inside-out

South Africa has its own standards, laws, and procedures for accounting and financial reporting and local businesses must also comply with international standards, like IFRS 9.

Start here: Learn how to use SARS’s eFiling service and understand the requirements for submitting VAT, PAYE, and corporate tax.

Get certified

Supplement your qualification with a globally-recognised professional accountants’ certification, or CPA.

Entry-level CPAs usually earn more, depending on their experience and education. You can start out as an accounts assistant and work your way up to senior accountant and, one day, finance director.

Start here: Find CPA courses in your area here.

Join a professional association

Professional accounting bodies, like the South African Institute of Professional Accountants (SAIPA), seek to regulate the profession in the country.

Membership benefits include:

  • Access to exclusive industry networking events;
  • International recognition, enabling you to practise in affiliate countries;
  • Level 8 NQF qualification; and
  • Professional indemnity insurance.

Start here: Find the right SAIPA membership for you. Or check out other industry bodies, like the Institute of Accounting and Commerce, the Southern African Institute for Business Accountants, the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants, the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers and Accountants, and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.

It’s not just banks and accounting firms that need accountants. You’re in demand in all industries, including marketing, hospitality, IT, and property. Every business needs to manage its finances – that’s where you come in.

Whether your dream is to become an accountant, auditor, bookkeeper, teacher, or entrepreneur, these basic skills and certifications will set you on the path to a long and successful career.

Good luck.