If you’re studying accounting, you might feel like your career path is already predetermined for you – a stuffy office, a small desk and predictable work. But that’s far from the truth. Every business needs accountants, which means the range of accounting job opportunities available to you is only limited by your own passion, curiosity and perseverance. Here are some examples of careers in accounting that defy the stereotypes.
If you love to travel and can juggle finances in multiple currencies and locations at once, international accountancy is a speciality that opens up the world to you. With so much international exchange between countries and companies, international firms need accountants who are willing to become global citizens and manage company finances across different countries.
An international accountant might have to manage taxes in multiple countries, convert in and out of foreign currencies, create trade treaties that might need to be negotiated in more than one language, and take on many more fascinating and challenging projects. As it is a specialised accounting role you’ll need extra qualifications (such as specialising in International Financial Reporting Standards), and it would help if you spoke at least one foreign language. In return, your career could take you all over the world. Companies like FTI Consulting look for accountants who can handle finances on a global level.
For accountants who are passionate about supporting a cause, working for a non-profit is a great way to do your part for organisations which are changing communities on local and international levels. From local organisations, such as The Man Cave, to global organisations like The Red Cross or Oxfam, there is always a need for qualified accountants who can take care of the financial details. You’ll help manage all aspects of their finances, making sure that the funds they have are put to the best use.
If you have a passion for sustainability, many large organisations have made commitments to ‘go green’ and they need creative and practical environmental accountants to support the transition. Environmental accountants assess sustainability efforts, suggest new measures to reduce environmental impact and calculate the profit for the company as a result of environmentally conscious decisions.
Environmental accountants might be given responsibilities such as creating recommendations to make a profit out of environmentally positive actions. Environmental accountants need to be experts in public policy, environmental science, the financial workings of their client and be creative in merging their passion for the environment with the goals of the organisation.
Accounting software is a vital tool, and creating it requires a mix of IT, accounting and fresh ideas. Organisations such as BGL Corporate Solutions specialise in designing and helping to complement accounting solutions for businesses. As a designer of accounting software, you’ll create tools for general use, or specialise in software specifically designed for industries with unique needs, such as real estate or retail stores. Some accounting software remains industry-specific, while solutions like Xero have become hugely successful across a wide range of businesses. Having experience in IT and accounting helps you understand both worlds and enables you to design effective programs that can directly contribute to company efficiency.
Become a merger and acquisitions accountant and enter the corporate big leagues, delivering recommendations that could be the determining factor in million-dollar decisions. When organisations consider merging or acquiring new assets, you could be the person who analyses a potential target’s financial statements, compiles an analysis of strengths and weaknesses, and provides a strategic recommendation based on your analysis.
A merger and acquisitions deal at the right time can make or break a company. Lyft has been competing with Uber for rideshare services for some time, and they’ve made a move to diversify by acquiring bike sharing companies CitiBikes and Ford GoBikes. Before the acquisition was finalised, merger and acquisitions accountants would have been consulted at every stage to decide how much to offer, how it would likely impact their revenues, and to forecast the success of the acquisition. These deals are happening constantly, providing plenty of opportunities for a dedicated merger and acquisitions accountant. If you have an ability to consider the big picture but also have an eye for financial details, specialising in mergers and acquisitions could be the right career path for you.
If the entertainment industry appeals to you - but you’d rather work with numbers than cameras - you might consider looking after finances instead. The entertainment accountant is often one of the first people hired for a film, to create and oversee the budget for the whole project. As accountant to the stars, you would be required to handle daily bookkeeping, look after taxes, negotiate royalty payments, produce financial statements, pay actors and production crew.
Some accountants work directly for entertainers, managing their finances, or specialise in fashion accounting or the music industry. You’ll need to have a good understanding of the entertainment industry to do well. In return, you’ll get a fascinating career, in a dynamic and exciting industry.
If you have a passion for justice, becoming a forensic accountant will see you digging up details that lead to the conviction of lawbreakers. Forensic investigation is all about looking for clues – but instead of physical pieces of evidence, you will be hunting for incriminating information.
You’ll need to have an outstanding knowledge of how correct accounting transactions should go, so you can identify any suspicious anomalies. You’ll also need patience and exceptional analytical skills. As a forensic accountant, your work could be vital in deciding criminal charges for people and organisations engaging in illegal activities – you could even be called to testify. In Australian, a forensic investigator was the last witness called in a case in which the general manager of a fresh produce business was accused of siphoning off $1.6 million from the organisation. He was convicted - a single example of how accounting can see criminals brought to justice.
The world of sport involves considerable numbers and a sports accountant can be part of keeping an athlete, team, or club stay on track. Sports accountants negotiate salaries, forecast events, work with payroll, create budgets and make sure the team is profitable. If you’ve ever had an opinion on player transfers, this could be your chance to get involved. Sports accountants can even be called on to offer advice about the potential impact of team decisions, such as how trading players might impact the team financially. Sports accountants will need to learn specialised accounting procedures and be able to plan for influencing factors, such as how fans’ reactions might impact the team financially.
Accountants work with entrepreneurs and startups to provide advice and manage finances. Supporting new start-ups is a fast-moving responsibility, with a work environment often full of passion, energy and innovation. Business growth specialist Paul Sweeney knows how valuable an accountant can be for small businesses, right from the beginning. ‘When you start a business you don’t just start a business, you actually take on close to 20 different roles… so getting advice on how to actually manage those roles and how to run your business in a better, more efficient way, right from the beginning, that’s essential.’
Accountants for entrepreneurs can act as a go-between for their clients and other financial services such as banks, providing information that could help a startup become a mature business. You’ll also need to get on board with risk assessment, financial planning, budgeting, and helping your clients manage their money, so you can help give their new business the best chance of success.
Being an auditor takes some high-quality detective work and the ability to make sure everything measures up. Auditing is a specialty branch of accounting, requiring specific training. Some auditors work in-house to make sure that the company never has to worry about external auditors who come in to check the business is keeping its nose clean, financially speaking. You could even be employed to watch the government - the Australian National Audit Office makes sure public finances are being used appropriately.
Auditors make sure record-keeping is effective and efficient, check that records are accurate, reconcile any errors, and communicate with clients about financial records. You could work as an independent contractor or be hired full-time as a member of the accounting department so you have the option of a stable job environment or lots of change.
As a graduate with an accounting degree, you’ll have the ability to follow your passion and pursue diverse career opportunities. It is possible to use your qualifications to secure an accounting job that makes you excited to go to work in the morning.