An accountant is an advisor, a financial planner, an analyst, and a manager. An accountant understands numbers and figures and how they influence business and people, and they have a keen eye for detail and a passion for learning and change.
The role of the accountant has long since evolved from the stereotype of the dusty bean counter in a dusty room with dodgy technology and long pages of numbers.
Yes, numbers will always be part of any accountant role, but the ways in which you can work with these numbers have changed. So have the multitude of career paths that a person studying accountancy can embark on.
To date, there are several different accountancy career paths: Cost Accountants, Financial Accountants, Forensic Accountants, Public Accountants, Management Accountants, Tax Accountants and Internal Auditors.
Each of these career paths offers you even more choices when it comes to refining your role, although there is some crossover in job title and training.
The type of person who would thrive in the accounting profession would ideally be: good with numbers and maths, methodical, accurate, analytical, logical, reliable, hardworking, and have great social and communication skills.
According to Payscale, the average accountant salary is R258, 120 per year.
Boost your skills while at school
For anyone interested in improving their skills and improving their chances of acceptance for an accounting degree, visit Top Dog for extra training from Grades 08-12. They have 31 learning units and educational resources for the accountancy profession.
You can also visit the Vodacom e-school portal for free training and education tailored to every grade – remember to focus on maths, accounting and English for this degree.
Vodacom e-school does ask you to register first but the process is as simple as entering your name, a password of your choosing, and the one-time-pin that they send you. Then select your grade (you can change this at any time) and start learning.
Read our comprehensive breakdown of the accountancy profession below to find out which role best suits you and your career aspirations and to help you choose the right subjects at school.
The accountancy career paths explained
The role of an auditor requires fairly extensive training as you can only start down this path once you’ve completed your accounting degree. An auditor ensures that a company’s financial records are compliant and accurate and adhere to the laws and regulations of the country.
Becoming an auditor requires a high level of accounting sophistication and the ability to work closely with high-level officials and individuals. An auditor will ensure that financial statements are free of fraud or error and their reports will be used by the business to provide stakeholders, investors and government bodies with proof of ethical and honest financial conduct.
If you choose to this career path, you could study to become a general accountant, an audit and assurance manager, chartered accountant, external auditor, financial accountant, lecturer or registered auditor.
Your choice of role will be defined by what interests you and the type of industry you want to work in. An auditor will find roles in accounting and auditing firms, banks, South African Revenue Services, or they can choose to start their own business as a consultant.
- Financial Accounting
The role of financial accountant is unquestionably demanding and asks that you are both meticulous and good with people. A financial accountant focuses on bookkeeping, preparing financial statements and reports, strategy planning, regulation and compliance understanding, taxation, financial forecasts and business planning.
The role is varied and the responsibilities you undertake will depend on which type of financial accountant you would like to be.
There are a lot of job opportunities available for someone in financial accounting. Some of these include:
- General accountant
- Accounting Clerk
- Chartered accountant
- Compliance Officer
- Credit or loans officer
- Finance Manager
- Financial Investment Advisor
- Investment advisor
- Insurance broker
A financial accountant will find roles in accounting firms, banks and other financial institutions, educational institutions, National Treasury or insurance companies, among others.
- Forensic Accountant
A forensic accountant specialises in a type of crime known as white collar crime – financially motivated, non-violent, usually performed by professionals.
As a forensic accountant, you’ll work with insurance companies and government agencies and the police to hunt down fraud and investigate financial records for bad practice or unethical behaviour. You may find yourself in court, representing the evidence you’ve found, and working in some very challenging and exciting environments.
The roles include forensic accountant, forensic auditor, forensic investigator and lecturer. You will find that your expertise will be most sought after by audit companies, banks, insurance companies, law enforcement agencies and government regulators.
- Management Accounting
A management accountant works closely with the financial functions of the business covering elements such as operating and capital budgets, mergers, business valuations, etc.
It is a challenging and exciting role that will allow you to start your own business, become a consultant, work across a variety of different industries and even teach at university.
The job titles that come with this role include: cost accountant, finance manager, financial analyst, financial investment advisor, and management accountant.
- Tax Accountant
If you have a strong head for numbers, analysis, accuracy and detail, then this is the role for you. It focuses, as the name suggests, on tax documentation, tax case law, tax consultancy and more.
In this role you can become a taxation clerk, tax professional, tax technician or start your own tax consultancy business.
Working with tax means you can work with organisations like South Africa Revenue Services or you can start your own company providing tax services. You also have the choice of joining established firms and specialising in tax law or business tax.
Matric requirements (these vary dependent on the education institution and type of degree or diploma):
- Actuarial Science
Degrees and diplomas:
- A Bachelor of Accounting Sciences in Financial Accounting
- Certified Internal Auditor certification
- Each of the professional bodies has a comprehensive breakdown of specific role-related training requirements and their accredited education institutions.
Further information and education institutions:
- The Institute of Internal Auditors South Africa
- The National Career Advice Portal
- Vodacom e-school
- Oxbridge Academy
- University of Witwatersrand
- University of Cape Town
- Stellenbosch University
- University of Pretoria
- Institute of Accounting and Commerce
- South African Institute of Chartered Accountants
- South African Institute of Professional Accountants
- South African Institute for Business Accountants
- The Institute of Certified Bookkeepers and Accountants
- All South African auditors are required to become members of The Institute of Internal Auditors South Africa
- South African Institute of Government Auditors
- Institute of Commercial Forensic Practitioners