Career tips for tomorrow's accountants

14 Jun, 2024
Career tips for tomorrow's accountants
(from L to R) Shailan Patel (MYOB), Brittany Fitzpatrick (Findex), Mark Nicholson (BDO), Muhammad Ali and Georgie Ludbrook (AUT BBus accounting students)

A career in accounting offers a world of possibilities for graduates with strong interpersonal skills – and AI won’t be changing that any time soon.

This was one of the main messages for high school students and parents at the recent accounting careers event held at AUT and sponsored by MYOB, BDO New Zealand and the Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CAANZ).

The event, Counting on Success: How accounting and finance can lead to different career pathways, featured expert panelists who shared their enthusiasm about accounting as a career.

Far from being “old fashioned”, MYOB Education Manager Shailan Patel said accounting careers are richly varied. One third of CAs work for corporates, one third for local authorities, and one third for accounting firms. Chartered Accountants work for environmental agencies, fight crime as forensic accountants, and are involved in cybersecurity.

Noting that employees generally hold 18 different roles in their lifetime, Shailan said accountants are “highly likely to end up in a different environment than the one [they] started in, and accounting provides many opportunities to change”.

And that career growth doesn’t stop once you’re in a professional role. Mark Nicholson, BDO Auckland Audit and Assurance Partner explained that change is fundamental to an accounting career.

“The work is always changing, and there is a lot of professional and personal growth. Clients change, industries change, tools change, your teams change, and you grow with all that.”

Mark also dispelled any fears that AI is taking over the role of the accountant.

“The jobs are still there. We are now dealing with more data, which involves managing complex issues and making judgements based on that data. Technological advances, including AI, is making our work more stimulating and challenging.”

AUT alumna Brittany Fitzpatrick, who has spent the past three years in Accounting and Business Advisory at Findex, says the automation of processes is beneficial for accountants.

“It saves our time and clients’ time because we can do things faster...and translate information into advice for [clients]...It gives us time to get into more complex things.”

The panel also agreed that "soft” skills are key to successful accounting careers, encouraging students to participate in extra-curricular activities as part of their academic journey.

AUT Business School students Georgie Ludbrook and Muhammad Ali described how their involvement with clubs and CAANZ helps build their soft skills including networking, public speaking, and travel.

“Lots of people have good grades; your soft skills help you stand out,” said Muhammad.

The panel also emphasised the advantages of gaining Chartered Accountancy status, which is recognised in over 10 countries.

“It was my CA designation that opened doors within BDO so I could travel. I worked in London for BDO and travelled to other countries and experienced cultures I never would have otherwise,” said Mark.

The panel recommended students start learning about their future options while at university.

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