How to become an Accountant

Accounting is one of Australia’s fastest-growing occupations, but there’s definitely a lot more to being an Accountant than knowing your way around a calculator. In order to work as an Accountant in Australia, there is a certain level of experience and study you’ll need to become qualified and nationally recognised.

As an Accountant, you'll provide accounting services to organisations and individuals, generally relating to taxation and financial dealings and advising on associated record-keeping and compliance requirements. Read more about the job description of an Accountant.

What technical & professional skills do I need to become an Accountant?

The professional skills necessary to work as an Accountant will depend on the area you choose to work in, however most roles will prefer you to have experience using accounting software and spreadsheets.

There are also strict requirements when it comes to accounting code of practice.

Australia’s accounting industry is regulated and accredited by three professional accounting bodies - the Institute of Public Accountants (IPA), CPA Australia (CPA) and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Australia (ICAA).

Dr Tony Whitefield, Director of Swinburne Online’s Business & Accounting Programs, explains that in order to be eligible for entry into any of the three professional bodies you will need to hold a tertiary qualification. 

The minimum qualification for entry into CPA and ICAA is a Bachelor degree in Accounting, such as a Bachelor of Business With a Major in Accounting. The IPA requires at least a Diploma or Advanced Diploma of Accounting.

“Without a tertiary qualification you may be able to work in accounting, but will not be qualified to produce financial reports  as any financial reporting requires sign off by an Accountant accredited by one of the three professional bodies,” adds Dr Whitefield.

Employers also highly regard accounting graduates (or those with little experience) who have entered into a CA or CPA program, or expressed a desire to. Read more about the difference between a CPA and a CA.

I’m just starting out. What’s my first step?

If you haven’t studied for a while or don’t feel ready to commit to a Bachelor degree, there are many career paths you can take in accounting that only require a certificate or diploma to get your foot in the door.

Those with little to no experience in the industry can gain exposure to light bookkeeping responsibilities, accounts payable, and payroll processing with the below courses:

  • Certificate III in Accounts Administration (FNS30315)
  • Certificate IV in Accounting (FNS40615)

These certificates will equip you with the skills necessary to work as Payroll Clerk or Accounts Payable Clerk, and give you the foundation to work your way up to an Accountant role with regular professional development. 

Should I become an Accountant?

To be a successful Accountant, you will need to have:

  • an aptitude for working with numbers
  • a strategic mind
  • excellent organisational skills
  • an eye for detail
  • a strong sense of ethics

“You need to be good at solving problems, as well as knowing how to deal with confidential information that comes your way,” SEEK Learning Consultant Andy McDonnell explains. “Being able to communicate and work with a range of clients is also important, so good communication skills are a must.”

As Australia’s second biggest industry, it’s not just young starters who are finding their feet as Accountants. Andy says he speaks with many people over 35 who have been in the same industry since leaving school but who are keen to start something new.  

With 21,000 new accounting jobs projected to be advertised in 2017, it’s an industry with enormous opportunity too.