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All Articles / Accounting and Bookkeeping

How To Become An Accountant

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These days, a lot of people are rethinking their career path, and looking for something a bit more rewarding and stable. If you’re thinking of a career change (or starting your first ‘proper job’), and you’re considering accounting, you’re not alone. And for good reason. According to the latest stats:

  • There are over 203,000 accountants employed in Australia  
  • That number is set to grow by up to 10,000 per year by 2026 
  • The median weekly pay packet for accountants is $1,756 – that’s over 20% higher than the average job! 

Becoming an accountant isn’t something you just do because you’re really good at maths. Or because your mum told you it’s a respectable career. The truth is there are lots of good reasons to get into the accounting game, from steady career prospects and work/life balance to transferable skills you’ll use for life. Bonus – it’s a lot more straightforward to get there than you might think.

Let’s explore what’s involved.

Woman smiling at work

So what’s life like as an accountant?

I think you need to have that interest in people, in people’s business, in people’s affairs

John Deininger – Accounting trainer

Accountants have a variety of tasks, duties and responsibilities to take care of every day. It’s not all just staring at a computer, crunching numbers; there’s lots to do.

Here’s an example of a daily schedule for a public accountant, working at a medium-sized firm, with a variety of clients.

Morning

7:30AM – 8:00AM

  • Arrive at the office, or start the work day remotely (according to some stats, many accountants work from home or on a hybrid basis). 
  • Review emails and prioritise tasks for the day. 
  • Check calendar for scheduled client meetings or deadlines. 

8:00AM – 10:00AM

Begin with client related tasks, such as:

  • Updating accounting records for one client, including recording transactions and reconciling bank statements.
    Reviewing financial statements for another client, to point out any discrepancies or areas needing attention. 
  • Prepare for a morning meeting with a new client. 

10:00AM – 11:00AM

Client meeting:

  • Meet with the new client. Chat and get to understand their business, financial goals, and accounting requirements. 
  • Get necessary information and documents from the client for onboarding. 

11:00AM – 12:00PM

  • Respond to urgent client emails or phone calls as needed. 
  • Allocate time for regular admin jobs, like updating client files and documentation. 

Midday

12:00PM – 1:00PM

  • Lunch break: Either take a break in the office cafeteria (lots of big firms have their own!) or step out for a quick meal. 
  • Use this time to recharge and take a mental break from work-related tasks. 

Afternoon

1:00PM – 3:00PM

Continue with client related tasks:

  • Work on tax preparation for one client, ensuring accuracy and compliance with tax laws and regulations. 
  • Follow up with another client regarding outstanding documentation needed for an ongoing project. 
  • Review recent updates to accounting standards or tax laws (you’ll be reading a lot of accounting magazines, professional association updates, and bulletins from the regulators!). This helps with staying informed and ensuring compliance for clients. 

3:00PM – 5:00PM

  • Have a phone call with a client to discuss their financial performance and address any questions or concerns. 
  • Send follow-up emails to clients providing updates on project status and next steps. 
  • Collaborate with colleagues on a complex accounting issue or project requiring input from multiple team members. Accounting might seem like a solo gig, but there’s a lot of teamwork that goes on! 

Evening:

5:00PM – 6:00PM

Wrap up:

  • Review the day’s accomplishments and ensure all client tasks are up-to-date. 
  • Update time-tracking systems or billing software to record billable hours and expenses accurately. 

Plan for the next day:

  • Review calendar and prioritise tasks for the following day. 
  • Organise work materials and tidy up the workspace for a fresh start. 

6:00PM onwards

  • Leave the office or end the work day remotely. 
  • Attend networking events or industry seminars for professional development (optional). There’s always something on for you to learn more, stay up to date, and get to know other accountants. 
  • Enjoy personal time and recharge for the next day. Or, if you’re like the 20% of Aussie accountants who work part time, get ready for a well-earned day off. 

Types of roles

There are all kinds of specialisations you can pursue as well. Chances are you’ll find something particularly interesting during your initial studies (Cert IV, Diploma or Advanced Diploma), which could lead you to further study (degrees and beyond) and professional development.

In Australia, you’ve got:

  • Chartered accountants (CA): professionals who’ve completed extra study (the Chartered Accountants Program, which is administered by Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CAANZ)). They provide specialised services such as auditing, taxation, financial reporting, and advisory services to businesses and individuals. The CA path may be right for you if you’ve already looked at specific jobs that require this extra designation.
  • Certified Practising Accountants (CPA): similar to CAs, but CPAs are members of CPA Australia, one of the largest accounting bodies in Australia. They offer similar services to chartered accountants and often work in areas such as management accounting and financial reporting. Both CA and CPA designations add a bit of prestige and extra professionalism to the job.
  • Public accountants: provide a range of accounting services to individuals, small businesses, and non-profit organisations. It’s called ‘public’ vs ‘private’ because they serve a variety of clients, instead of just one company. They may assist with tax preparation, bookkeeping, financial planning, and general financial advice. A lot of people choose this path because the variety of work keeps it extra interesting.
  • Management accountants: focus on providing financial information and analysis to help businesses make strategic decisions. They often work within organisations, providing insights on budgeting, cost management, performance evaluation, and forecasting. Management accounting can be a good choice for people who are business minded, but just want to focus on the numbers.
  • Tax accountants: specialise in tax laws and regulations, helping individuals and businesses comply with tax requirements and optimise their tax positions (without breaking the law!). They can help with tax planning, preparation of tax returns, and representation in dealings with tax authorities. Tax accounting can be financially rewarding, and good for people who are detail oriented.
  • Forensic accountants: investigate financial discrepancies and provide expert analysis in legal proceedings. They are often involved in cases of fraud, embezzlement, and financial misconduct, offering litigation support and expert testimony. Forensic accounting could be right for you if you’re interested in the law, criminal investigations, and/or solving a good mystery!
  • Auditors: examine financial records and statements to ensure accuracy, compliance with regulations, and adherence to accounting standards. They may work for public accounting firms, government agencies, or internal audit departments within organisations. Like forensic accounting, this could be the path for you if you have a sense of justice and enjoy working with people (you’ll be doing a lot of talking).
  • Financial accountants: focus on preparing financial statements and reports for external stakeholders, such as investors, creditors, and regulatory bodies. They ensure compliance with accounting standards and provide insights into an organisation’s financial performance. This specialisation is another great one if you’re very business-oriented.
  • Cost accountants: cost accountants specialise in analysing and managing costs within an organisation. They help businesses understand and control their expenses, optimise pricing strategies, and improve profitability. If you get satisfaction from making systems more efficient, this could be the path for you.
  • Government accountants: like the name suggests, government accountants (who are often also CPAs) work within government agencies at various levels (federal, state, or local council). They help manage public funds, ensure compliance with financial regulations, and prepare financial reports for stakeholders.

How do I know if it’s for me?

So how do you know if being an accountant is the right move for you? Like any career path, there are a few pros and cons to consider.

Job satisfaction:

Most accountants are satisfied with their jobs. According to a variety of studies by large employers as well as industry bodies, around 80% of accountants are satisfied with their career. This ‘satisfaction’ includes satisfaction with income, success, progress, balance, and wellbeing. These studies also went into the factors that help with job satisfaction. They identified that accountants often enjoy understanding bosses, flexibility, and strong career development programs (especially for graduates).

Working hours:

According to government stats, about 20% of accountants work part time. Most accountants work full time (40-45 hours a week – about the same as other full-time jobs). Sole practitioners or those working in small firms may have flexibility in their hours. Some accountants have flexibility or are allowed extra time in lieu, in return for working at the convenience of their clients. Hours may be longer at certain times of the year. For example, it’s normal to do a bit of overtime during tax season. 

Growth opportunities:

There are lots of different opportunities to grow your career by specialising in a particular area, or deepening your knowledge with further education (see above). To attract the best candidates, many accounting firms and consultancies also offer career development programs. These programs allow you to explore different opportunities within the organisation, like working temporarily for a different department, or getting to learn from a mentor.

Accounting is a regulated profession, so it’s all about ongoing development. When you become a member of a professional association or peak body, you’ll be expected to do a certain number of hours of ongoing learning per year. This can be made up of formal courses, seminars, webinars, conferences, structured reading/self-education, and more. Each association has a comprehensive PD calendar of events and options for you to choose from, and many employers will pay up front for you to attend.

Alternative careers

Like the sound of some of these benefits, but aren’t sold on accounting? There are a few similar careers that might be right for you.

Bookkeeping is one of them. People who become bookkeepers also like working with numbers and helping people, but they enjoy more flexibility and a lower barrier to entry (i.e. less study time – more on that next). Bookkeepers who’ve been in the game for a while say it’s a family-friendly profession, with opportunity to be your own boss and work independently if you choose.

If you’re not ready to be an entrepreneur or executive, but you like a wider variety of tasks, business administration could be for you. In relation to accounting, administrators are often responsible for gathering a lot of the documents and information that goes to accountants in order for them to do their jobs. For example, an accounts administrator within a company might help with sending and receiving invoices or gathering and recording receipts from employees for reimbursement.

Payroll is another field that’s becoming increasingly professionalised. That means you can get into it without formal learning, but a qualification is the fastest way to get your career started (and to reach those higher positions). A Diploma of Payroll Services could be right for you if you’re looking for a specialised position within a larger organisation, and you have an interest in human resources. 

Shot of an adorable smiling businesswoman using laptop and making notes on a clipboard at home.

Sounds good – how do I become an accountant?

There are a few different ways to kick off your career in this field. Here are the steps they have in common. 

Step 1: Choose a type of course

Accounting is a highly skilled job that requires at least a bit of study. The minimum qualification is a Diploma of Accounting. Most accountants working in the field have a bachelor’s degree, however, a Diploma or Advanced Diploma may also be used as credit towards a full degree. So however far you end up taking your studies, a Diploma of Accounting is a relatively safe starting point.

Step 2: Investigate providers

Choosing a quality training and education provider can have an impact for the rest of your career. And not to toot our own horn, but Monarch Institute is one of Australia’s top rated and reviewed private training organisations for accounting studies. We’ve trained thousands of accountants and bookkeepers. Check out our reviews for yourself.

Step 3: Speak to a course consultant

If you’ve still got questions about studying accounting in Australia (especially online learning), one of our friendly course consultants will be able to help you out. They can also help make sure you’re ready for the self-paced study experience and help you through the enrolment process.

Step 4: Get your qualification

You could have a Diploma of Accounting in a matter of a few months, if you’re an experienced learner with relevant experience and you’re studying full time. However, the average learner takes about 12-18 months to complete their qualification. You have up to 24 months to complete your Diploma at Monarch Institute.

Step 5: Your first job (or further learning)

Once you receive your qualification, you can register with the Institute of Public Accountants (IPA). Then you can start applying for roles! Monarch Institute students also enjoy a range of resources to help kick-start their careers, including free IPA membership and work opportunities posted in our exclusive Facebook group, and of course advice from awesome trainers and assessors.

If you want to become a CPA (or another type of specialist), you’ll need to look into further study at uni. Many universities have fast-track or credit programs for those with a Diploma or Advanced Diploma of Accounting. However, if you’re relying on this pathway, it’s best to check with the uni of your choice before you enrol in the Diploma or Advanced Diploma.

What is the Diploma of Accounting like?

The Diploma of Accounting is made up of 11 smaller units, organised into four modules. What this means is that you do one mini topic at a time, instead of having to concentrate on lots of different things at once. If you haven’t studied for a while, this is probably a bit different to what you’re used to at school or uni! It’s a lot easier to focus and spend the time to really take in the information.

No matter where you do your Diploma of Accounting, there are seven core units that are the same. These are marked with a * in the list below. Then we’ve also added four interesting and challenging elective units, where you’ll get an extra taste for some of the specialisations you’ve read about above.

The units are: 

Module 1: Financial Reporting

FNSACC524 Prepare financial reports for corporate entities*
This unit is about preparing clear and accurate company financial reports, that meet legal requirements.

BSBTEC402 Design and produce complex spreadsheets*
This one’s designed to make you a wiz with all things Excel. You’ll learn (or revise) all the features from formatting to formulae.

Module 2: Budgets, management accounting and economics

FNSACC523 Manage budgets and forecasts*
Ready to get practical? This unit is all about understanding and predicting the flow of money in and out of your organisation.

FNSACC527 Provide management accounting information*
Building on the skills you’ve gained so far, this unit gets into the meaning and implications behind the numbers. You’ll learn to analyse and report on data, including variances from budgets.

FNSACC521 Provide financial and business performance information*
This unit takes you through the end-to-end process of working with a client to determine their needs, look at their data, and prepare advice based on your analysis.

Module 3: Financial performance and internal control

FNSACC526 Implement and maintain internal control procedures*
‘Internal controls’ are the rules an organisation has about how money is brought in, spent, and moved around. This unit shows you what it’s like to work for an organisation with strict internal financial procedures.

FNSINC611 Apply economic principles to work in the financial services industry
Interested in the economy, and how it’s going to impact your work as an accountant? This unit explores economic ideas and rules, and how they make a difference to your clients’ interests.

Module 4: Taxation 

FNSACC522 Prepare tax documentation for individuals*
If you’ve ever wondered how on earth your own tax return ended up the way it did, you’ll love this unit. It’s all about how to prepare tax paperwork for individual people, from getting all the information, through to submitting to the ATO.

FNSACC601 Prepare and administer tax documentation for legal entities
Building on what you’ve learned about tax already, this unit is about doing taxes for legal entities. This usually means companies, but you’ll also learn how to serve trusts, partnerships, and sole traders.

There’s also an optional fifth module –Tax Agent Certification. These three Tax Practitioners Board-approved units are designed to fulfil the education requirements to become a tax agent. They are FNSTPB503 Apply legal principles in contract and consumer law, FNSTPB504 Apply legal principles in corporations and trust law, and FNSTPB505 Apply legal principles in property law.

You get up to two years to do the Diploma at your own pace. It’s generally suggested to do one unit per month. That said, you can take more time on some and less on others, to fit study around your busy schedule.

Is the Diploma of Accounting hard to study?

According to our survey results, most students find the Diploma challenging but not necessarily hard. In other words, it’s a good balance between being manageable and achievable, and not boring! The main thing you’ll need to do is find time for study in your schedule. As long as you chip away at your units regularly, you’ll find it’s simple to stay on track.  

You can also get help from your trainers and assessors whenever you need it. They’re there to help you with any concepts you don’t quite understand after working through the reading, videos and multimedia. We also have a great admin team who love helping with any little technical issues you may be having. So if you’re relatively tech-savvy but you haven’t studied online before, you’re in good hands. 

I received prompt support when I emailed a trainer for help. There was constant follow up and checking in to ensure I was on track with my studies. Course requirements were made very clear. Thanks so much, I learnt a lot and had a great experience.

Prue on Trustpilot

If you’re not quite ready for study at Diploma level, then the Certificate IV in Accounting and Bookkeeping could be for you. The Cert IV is a pathway to the Diploma, but it’s also a great way to break into other career options, like becoming a registered BAS agent. You’ve got the same amount of time to complete this course, but it’s just that bit easier.

You can even start slow (or just boost your current skills) with a skill set course, like the Accounting Principles Skill Set. This nationally recognised set of seven units gives you partial credit towards the Certificate, or the entry requirements for the Diploma. You may also be able to use the units to reduce your study time for another course.

The Advanced Diploma of Accounting sounds fancy, but it’s only seven units on top of the Diploma. It’s a great idea to open up your career pathway options, whilst exploring higher-level topics. Here’s what’s involved:

Module 1: Foundations

BSBPEF501 Manage personal and professional development

BSBFIN501 Manage budgets and financial plans

Module 2: Risk and statistics

BSBOPS504 Manage business risk

FNSINC612 Interpret and use financial statistics and tools

Module 3: Economics and governance

FNSACC634 Monitor corporate governance activities

FNSINC611 Apply economic principles to work in the financial services industry

Module 4: Taxation 

FNSACC601 Prepare and administer tax documentation for legal entities

What other skills are employers looking for in a good accountant? 

Employers tend to look for both hard skills (the technical stuff) and soft skills (personal attributes) when hiring an accountant.  

  • Technical essentials: you’ll need to be competent in accounting principles and practices, tax laws, and financial reporting standards. If you’re working in a particular industry, familiarity with industry-specific financial regulations may also be required. 
  • Analytical skills: the ability to analyse financial data, identify trends, and make informed predictions. This is something you’ll practice and develop throughout your study.  
  • Attention to detail: accuracy is essential in accounting. Employers look for candidates who can manage detailed and complex financial information without errors. 
  • Technology/software proficiency: knowledge of accounting and data analysis tools is often necessary. At Monarch, you’ll learn essential Microsoft Excel skills. You’ll also get access to different accounting tools and software depending on which course you enrol in, such as Sage HandiTax in the Diploma of Accounting, or Xero in the Certificate IV in Accounting and Bookkeeping.  
  • Communication skills: accountants must communicate financial information clearly and concisely to individuals who may not have a financial background. This includes both written and verbal communication skills. Even if you’re not working directly with clients on a regular basis, you’ll need to be able to ask questions to determine what you need to do, as well as explaining your work in plain English. 
  • Ethics and integrity: given the financial responsibilities, employers prioritise candidates who demonstrate high ethical standards and integrity. You’ll learn about the ethical standards in the accounting profession, including the ethics rules put in place by different professional associations.  
  • Problem-solving abilities: it’s critical to be able to identify issues and develop effective solutions. Especially when you’re dealing with complex financial data or regulatory challenges. 
  • Time management and organisation: accountants often juggle multiple deadlines and projects. It’s important to be organised and manage your time effectively. 
  • Adaptability and continuous learning: the accounting field is subject to frequent changes in laws, regulations, and best practices. Employers value professionals who are adaptable and committed to continuous learning and professional development. 
  • Teamwork and collaboration: while accountants may work on individual tasks, they often need to collaborate with other departments or team members. Teamwork skills are important. 

Ready to take the next step towards your career in accounting?

If you’re ready to begin the conversation about studying accounting, get in touch with one of our friendly Course Consultants today. Send us a message through the Study Bot or give us a ring on 1300 738 955 to get started.

-Reviewed by John Deininger

Any questions? Ask away!