So you’ve spent the past few years studying accounting, but realised that you don’t want to work as an accountant? Or you’ve been agonising over what to study, and you can’t decide whether accounting is the right choice for you?
You may be glad to know that financial skills, and accounting skills in particular, give you a solid foundation on which to build a career, not only in the financial field, but also in a variety of related fields. Therefore, whether you want to work as an accountant or not, your accounting skills will always come in useful.
Have a look at all these career options you could consider if you have a background in accounting:
1. Benefits Administrator
As a benefits administrator, you could combine your accounting skills with knowledge of business administration and HR to help develop benefit schemes (such as medical aid contribution schemes and retirement funds) for an organisation, to advise employees regarding their options in relation to the benefit schemes, to analyse the cost and performance of the benefit schemes, to evaluate the tax implications, and to make payments in terms of the benefit schemes.
In particular, your accounting knowledge will enable you to evaluate the financial implications of benefit schemes, and to make relevant recommendations both to the organisation and to its employees.
2. Company Secretary
Company secretaries are not secretaries in the traditional sense — instead, they are advisors to the board of directors of a company. They are responsible for ensuring compliance with the principles of good corporate governance, communicating with members/shareholders, and filing company reports. They may also be responsible for managing employee share schemes, maintaining share registers, and performing both advisory and administrative tasks in relation to fundamental transactions such as mergers and acquisitions.
Your accounting background will serve you well when working as a company secretary, as it will help you to understand the complex financial documents you may be required to work with. Good knowledge of accounting will also help you to give better advice to the board of directors in relation to the financial implications of proposed fundamental transactions, employee share schemes, and distributions of dividends. Keep in mind, though, that you will need additional qualifications to work in this role.
As an economist, you will use your numerical and analytical skills, combined with strong research and statistical skills, to collect data, analyse economic trends, make economic forecasts, and give economic advice to government departments, companies, and other organisations.
With an accounting qualification, becoming an economist may be a viable career option, as your accounting background will generally ensure that you have strong analytical skills, and will also help you to understand the financial environment within the field of economics. Your accounting background will therefore give you the basic foundation that you need to work as an economist.
4. Financial Manager
As a financial manager, you will be able to use your accounting knowledge and skills to assist with budgeting, planning, and strategic decision-making, as well as to provide financial advice, manage financial risk, and ensure compliance with finance rules and regulations. Financial management roles are available in a wide variety of organisations within both the public and the private sectors, which means that you would be able to rely on your accounting background to find work in almost any type of organisation.
5. Management Consultant
As a management consultant, you will be required to combine your accounting skills and your knowledge of the financial sector with a sound understanding of business strategy, organisational structure, and statistical analysis to give advice and make recommendations to organisations. The recommendations that you make might relate to financial controls, risk management, HR management, business strategy, or any other aspect of business management.
An accounting qualification will help you in the role of management consultant by giving you both the analytical skills and the financial background that you need to perform this role effectively. However, you will also need skills, qualifications, and experience in related fields, such as business management, economics, and/or HR.
6. Purchasing Manager
As a purchasing manager, your job will be to purchase goods or services on behalf of your organisation, either for internal use or for resale. Your aim will be to purchase the right quality and quantity of goods and services at the right price and at the right time. To achieve this, you will need to understand the relevant market forces, the levels of supply and demand, and the price trends in the industry. Your accounting background and skills will assist you in managing the purchasing budget, developing accurate forecasts, and managing the financial risks in relation to purchasing management. Other tasks that you will be required to perform include contract negotiation and inventory management.
With an accounting qualification, you will be well equipped to enter the field of purchasing management, as you will be familiar with important financial concepts, data analysis, budgeting and forecasting, and elements of financial control. Depending on the type of accounting qualification that you have, you may also have some knowledge of inventory management systems, which will be very helpful in this line of work. However, you may need additional training in supply chain management to succeed in this role.
7. Small Business Manager/Entrepreneur
As a small business manager or entrepreneur, you will be responsible for all aspects, including the financial aspects, of managing a business. While it may be possible to outsource the bookkeeping and accounting function to someone else, it may save you money if you are able to perform this role yourself, at least initially. And even if you do hire someone else to manage the financial side of the business, it will always be to your advantage to understand the basic accounting and other financial principles involved. Not only will it help you to develop effective business strategies, and to make sound business decisions, but it will also help you to notice any financial irregularities within the business.
8. Tax Advisor
As a tax advisor, you will combine your accounting skills with knowledge of tax law to assist either corporate or individual taxpayers with the preparation of their tax returns, to give advice to taxpayers regarding how they can reduce their tax liability, and to help taxpayers ensure that they do not contravene any tax laws. You may also be able to assist clients with financial planning.
In addition to an accounting qualification, you may also need to complete a qualification in tax law or tax compliance in order to become a tax advisor.
As you can see from the above, an accounting qualification will not only prepare you for a career in accounting, but will also equip you with essential knowledge and skills that will enable you to build a career in a whole range of other directions.
Here are a few more examples of career options that you could consider once you have a qualification in accounting:
9. Accounting Lecturer
10. Budget Analyst
11. Business Manager
12. Claims Administrator
13. Financial Advisor
14. Financial Analyst
15. Insurance Consultant
16. Investment Consultant
17. Loan Administrator
18. Market Researcher
19. Retail Banker
Careers where accounting isn’t a necessarily a requirement, but might give you a competitive advantage
While a qualification in accounting is not a prerequisite for working in the following roles, it may help you to stand out from other candidates, and may help you to be more successful in your work:
20. Project Manager
As a project manager, you will be responsible for managing project budgets, and for making sure that projects are completed within the allocated budget. While there are many other skills that you will need in order to be a successful project manager, knowledge of basic accounting and financial principles will go a long way in helping you to manage the financial aspects of a project successfully.
As a lawyer or attorney, you may want to open your own practice, in which case it would be useful if you are able to handle your own bookkeeping and financial planning. And if you specialise in an area such as company law, tax law, insolvency law, or law of succession (estate planning), you may find that a background in accounting and finance will give you a more comprehensive understanding of your area of specialisation, and will enable you to deliver a better, more efficient service to your clients.
22. Non-Financial Manager
Even if you are not directly responsible for managing the financial aspects of an organisation — for example if you are working as an IT manager, marketing manager, or HR manager — you may still benefit from having essential financial and accounting skills. In most cases, you will be allocated a budget, and be expected to manage your department’s expenses in such a manner that they do not exceed the budget. You will also need to know how any decisions taken within your department might affect the financial situation of the organisation as a whole. Therefore, basic financial skills are often a requirement for all types of managerial positions.