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According to the Institute of Chartered Accountants, accounting is "the language of business. The discipline of measuring, interpreting and communicating financial activity". Their roles can exist in all specialisations of accounting (e.g. forensic & management) as well as in related areas such as strategic planning, market analysis, compliance, change management, and the use of information technology.
Trainee Accountants are either working towards attaining their accounting degree or have recently graduated. They are employed with the view to develop their technical skills in order to continue working for their employer in a higher-level position. Typically, Trainee Accountants work alongside their more experienced and qualified counterparts and while initially supervised closely, gain increasing independence as their skills develop. The accounting tasks they are required to perform are usually support and lower level in nature. Employers allow time away from work to attend classes and in some cases also provide study and examination leave. Some employers may also contribute to fees associated with study or may ask their employee to enter into an agreement regarding their ongoing commitment to the employer once fully qualified.
A relevant degree (e.g. Business majoring in Accounting or postgraduate studies in Professional Accounting) will allow you to obtain a Trainee Accountant position and become a CA (Chartered Accountant) or CPA (Certified Practicing Accountant).
Chartered Accountant (CA)
Chartered Accountants must gain membership to the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia (ICAA). To do this, graduates are required to undertake postgraduate study and three years of experience. Those who have a recognised Australian university undergraduate or masters degree majoring in accounting may commence employment with a recognised organisation and undertake three years practical experience while completing a Chartered Accountants program, or enrol in the GradDipCA. Graduates of non-accounting degrees may complete a graduate certificate recommended by the ICAA or commence three years practical experience whilst completing the ICAA Chartered Accountants Program.
Certified Practicing Accountant (CPA)
According to CPA Australia, a CPA is a graduate of a degree accredited by the CPA who has completed the CPA program as well as three years mentored or supervised work in finance, business or accounting. CPA's work in the same fields and perform the same type of work as CA's, though some employers may specify which qualification they prefer. There is ongoing debate about the superiority of each program, and while prestige and recognition may differ slightly between the two, they essentially prepare graduates for the same types of employment opportunities.
A Chartered Accountant can specialise in:
- Budget Accounting - developing and maintaining budgeting systems, monitoring budgets, analysing records, determining trends, assisting in managerial control, etc.
- Tax Accounting - performing general accounting duties but specialising in tax through an expert knowledge of tax law, providing tax planning advice to businesses and individuals, lodging tax returns and ensuring clients are complying with all taxation requirements. Job opportunities exist in consultancies and accounting firms and with government agencies such as the Australian Taxation Office.
- Cost Accounting - developing and directing systems to record and analyse costs to work out each unit cost, analysing changes that affect production costs, providing management with reports to assist in decision-making relating to production/manufacturing/distribution etc.
- Liquidating and Receiving - assisting and advising businesses facing financial difficulties, organising company closures, bankruptcies, asset sales etc.
- Forensics Accounting - analysing and preparing documents to be used as evidence e.g. in court cases
- Systems Accounting - analysing financial information needs of organisations, reviewing existing systems and evaluating the best way to meet these needs.
- Auditing - making sure financial statements are true and fair, checking assets and liabilities, analysing samples of work done, interviewing staff, increasingly also audit environmental emission figures.
Principal Employment Sectors and Industry
Chartered Accountants find employment in a variety of settings including government, commercial organisations of all sizes, consultancies and specialist firms.