Offering strong career development opportunities in several different industries, accounting is a popular career path for many ambitious young professionals.
According to data from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), up to 35% of business school applicants plan to pursue a career in accounting or finance after graduation.
To find out what makes accounting an attractive career today – and what you’ll need to succeed – BusinessBecause spoke to two academic professionals from (NBS), part of Nanyang Technological University (NTU ), in Singapore.
Here are five reasons to consider a career in accounting in 2021.
1. It’s a job that adapts
The role of accountants and auditors has changed over the years, but the primary function of these professions – to report, analyze and understand the flow of money through an organization – remains more relevant than ever.
“There have been fears that technology will reduce our need for accountants, but despite automation, we still need humans to make judgements,” says Associate Professor Choo Teck Min (right), academic director of the MACC program at NBS.
In response, he and his team regularly re-evaluate the MACC program to ensure it provides the skills necessary for graduate success – regularly seeking input from the Big 4 accounting firms – PwC, Deloitte, EY and KPMG.
“We continually update the program and try to introduce something new every year,” says Choo.
A recent addition has been a course focused on blockchain technology, which familiarizes students with how the technology could be leveraged in business, accounting, and auditing.
2. You will learn how businesses work
Today’s accounting jobs offer a broad insight into the general workings of businesses, and many different areas of business can be sought from you, giving you great exposure and connections that could benefit you in the long run.
“Previously, auditors and accountants had a weaker understanding of the broader business system, whereas now they need to have this deep knowledge,” observes Goh Kia Hong, accounting lecturer at NBS.
Recognizing these changing attitudes, Goh and Choo integrate the larger business context into their teaching.
“When I teach intermediate financial accounting, for example, I try to integrate finance, economics and law,” says Choo.
3. You will work with state-of-the-art technology
If you’re fascinated by how technological developments are transforming the business world, accounting could prove to be a great career path.
“The accounting profession is going through huge changes, and technologies like artificial intelligence, data analytics and blockchain are key to that,” says Goh.
During your accounting career, you will have the chance to work with these technologies and leverage them to support your team’s goals. One of the most important skills accountants can develop is being able to work with large sets of data.
To prepare students for this landscape, technological developments and data analysis are closely linked to the MACC program. Students have the chance to learn advanced skills in Excel, Python coding and how to work with auditing and visualization software.
They can also extend their studies for a few months to complete the recently introduced data analysis track.
“Some of our students want to go deeper into data analytics, aiming for roles on a data analytics team at a Big 4 accounting firm or a technology consulting firm,” Choo says.
The track will cover topics such as AI in accounting and finance, blockchain, visual and predictive techniques in data analytics, and database design and development.
4. You will find plenty of career advancement opportunities
According to Goh (right), automation is another force at play in the accounting profession that is opening up new opportunities.
With software eliminating many repetitive and time-consuming tasks from the equation, today’s accounting professionals can quickly move into higher-level decision-making and strategic positions.
This advancement is what has kept Goh himself hooked on the profession.
“As I worked my way up from audit assistant to audit associate, things got more and more interesting,” he recalls.
“I was able to interpret data and got involved in strategic planning and decision making.”
To thrive in this environment, your technical skills will need to be bolstered by other strong skill sets, especially communication, critical thinking, and teamwork.
“The way we do things is constantly changing, which means what is perhaps a more permanent requirement for success is developing analytical and critical thinking skills,” Goh says.
Because of this, he and Choo make sure these skills are built into the MACC curriculum.
“There’s a business communication course right from the start, and a lot more soft skills development is done through presentations and collaborative teamwork on multiple topics,” comments Choo.
5. You can work in a wide range of industries
When you graduate from a Masters in Accounting program, you can work in virtually any industry, as every organization needs to track and analyze its finances.
Graduates of NBS’s MACC program typically work in the Big 4 auditors, technology consultants, financial services, and more. Their roles are also varied, ranging from auditor to analyst to forensic accountant.
Whichever path you choose, you can expect a career in accounting to challenge you on a daily basis as you become a focus point within your organization.
“There are logical systems, but you’ll also have the ability to make subjective judgments in many different contexts,” Choo concludes.
“Accounting is both a science and an art!