Accounting & Advisory industry overview

An enormously popular profession with grads, the sky’s the limit if you have good problem-solving abilities.
Erin Delaney
Team GradAustralia
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The phrase ‘taking care of business’ was never more suited to a profession.

While frontline employees take centre stage, accountants are back in their office pulling strings to make sure the CEO’s just-announced dollar-for-dollar charitable initiative on The Today Show can be supported, while in an office building nearby a team of forensic accountants burn the midnight oil combing through the numbers to catch out a crook in action. Unsung heroes? We think so.

Accountants can be found across companies of every size, from sole traders and small businesses to multinationals. And, of course, personal income tax specialists can be found in every suburb.

Accountants provide a range of professional services, including assurance, auditing, tax, insolvency, business and financial advice. Management accountants provide income forecasts, analysing how a business is performing and advising managers on how it could improve. Forensic accountants look through company accounts, searching for discrepancies. This can lead to legal proceedings, so grads set to tread this path need to have the aptitude to develop a detailed understanding of both accounting and law.

The ‘Big Four’ accountancy firms — EY, KPMG, Deloitte and PwC — hire a very large number of accountancy grads each year, and an opportunity with one of these behemoths can set you on the fast-track to the executive lounge.

The average entry-level package is $56,000, and the average industry hours are 46 per week, making this the hardest-working subset of graduates on a dollar-per-hour basis.

Accounting sector overview for graduates

Job market outlook

Accounting and advisory is expected to grow strongly overall in response to the continuing recovery efforts from the global financial crisis, the increasing globalisation of big business, and a renewed focus on corporate scandal avoidance.

Companies are engaging more accountants in-house and through the services of firms for advice on trimming fat from the bottom line in the new, more competitive global economy. An increase in private capital expenditure has given a shot in the arm to firms as well, thanks to the boosted need for audit and due diligence services ahead of expenditure.

Data analytics offerings have become a new revenue stream for accountancy firms, particularly for small businesses who are better placed to pay for a product than an accountancy firm’s retainer. Grads with strong technology skills will be well-placed to work across both products and services, increasing their employability.

How to get hired

Larger firms tend to hire graduates who have already taken part in vacation or ‘taster’ programs, so landing a spot is a crucial way to get your foot in the door and get noticed.

Having in-depth knowledge about an employer will not only impress recruiters, it will provide you the opportunity to find out whether you genuinely would enjoy working at an organisation. There are lots of ways to find out more about employers to get a more realistic understanding of what their working life is really like. One easy way is to log on to www.gradaustralia.com.au and check out our graduate reviews, and set up a Google News alert to send you a notification when your preferred employers are mentioned in the news so you can stay abreast of movements and issues.

All types of organisations recruit graduates as accountants, and many degree disciplines are accepted (though having a finance background can mean exemption from some exams down the track). If you’d prefer to work for a smaller organisation, set out on your own or simply missed out on an opportunity with a large firm there are still plenty of opportunities through networking on LinkedIn, applying directly to businesses of your choosing, or getting yourself set up as a sole trader.

Key skills you need

Love of learning

Graduates with a focus on excellence in continuing professional development will thrive in the new economy, as the accounting industry experiences a strong push to converge accounting standards on a global level. New practices, techniques and standards are released on an almost daily basis.

Problem-solving ability

Having problem-solving abilities is useful in most professions, but especially in accounting — particularly management and forensic accounting, when you need to be able to provide practical advice to organisations relying on your skills to keep themselves from getting into murky waters.

Well-rounded interests

A key recruitment metric employers tell us they utilise time and again is extracurricular activity. Employers favour candidates who not only perform well academically, but have diverse interests in sports or community service initiatives, seeing it as a marker of a well-rounded personality and healthy approach to work and play.

Alternatives to accounting and advisory

If you’re considering accounting and advisory, you might also like to consider…