Offering strong career development opportunities across several different sectors, accounting is a popular career path for many ambitious young professionals.
According to data from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), as many as 35% of business school candidates plan to pursue a career in accounting or finance when they graduate.
To find out what makes accounting an attractive career today—and what you’ll need to succeed— BusinessBecause spoke to two academic professionals from the MSc Accountancy (MACC) program at Nanyang Business School (NBS), part of Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore.
Here are five reasons to consider a career in accounting in 2021.
1. It’s an adaptable profession
The role of accountants and auditors has changed over the years, but the core function of these professions—reporting, analyzing, and understanding the flow of money through an organization—remains as relevant as ever.
“There have been some fears that tech would reduce our need for accountants, but despite automation we still need humans to make judgements,” explains associate professor Choo Teck Min (right), academic director of the MACC program at NBS.
In response, he and his team regularly reassess the MACC curriculum to ensure it provides the skills needed for grads to succeed—regularly asking for inputs from the Big 4 accounting firms — PwC, Deloitte, EY, and KPMG.
“We continuously update the curriculum and try to introduce something new every year,” says Choo.
One recent addition has been a course focusing on blockchain technology, which familiarizes students with how the tech could be leveraged in business, accounting and audit.
2. You’ll learn how businesses operate
Today’s accounting jobs offer broad insights into how businesses function overall, and many different areas of the business might come to you for guidance, giving you excellent exposure—and connections—that could serve you well in the long run.
“In the past, auditors and accountants had a weaker understanding of the wider business system, whereas now they need to have that in-depth knowledge,” observes Goh Kia Hong, senior lecturer in accounting at NBS.
Recognizing these changing attitudes, both Goh and Choo weave the broader business context into their teaching.
“When I teach intermediate financial accounting for instance, I try to bring in finance, economics, and law,” says Choo.
3. You’ll get to work with cutting edge tech
If you’re fascinated by how tech developments are transforming the world of business, accounting could prove a great career path.
“The accounting profession is going through tremendous change, and technologies like artificial intelligence, data analytics, and blockchain are key to that,” explains Goh.
In your accountancy career, you’ll 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, tech developments and data analytics are tightly woven into the MACC curriculum. Students have the chance to learn advanced Excel skills, Python coding, and how to work with auditing and visualization software.
They can also extend their studies by a few months to complete the recently introduced data analytics track.
“Some of our students want to dive deeper into data analytics, aiming for roles in a data analytics team of a Big 4 accounting firm, or a tech consultancy outfit,” says Choo.
The track will cover topics including AI in accounting and finance, blockchain, visual and predictive techniques in data analytics, and database design and development.
4. You’ll find ample career advancement opportunities
According to Goh (right), automation is another force at play in the accounting profession that’s opening up new opportunities.
With software taking many repetitive and time-consuming tasks out of the equation, today’s accounting professionals can quickly advance into decision-making and higher-level strategic roles.
This advancement is what kept Goh himself hooked on the profession.
“As I climbed the ladder from audit assistant to audit partner, things got more and more interesting,” he recalls.
“I got to interpret data, and became involved with strategic planning and decision-making.”
To thrive in this environment, your technical skills will need to be enhanced by other strong skill sets—particularly in communication, critical thinking, and teamwork.
“The way we do things keeps changing, which means what’s perhaps a more permanent requirement for success is developing capabilities in analysis and critical thinking,” says Goh.
For this reason, he and Choo ensure these skills are hardwired into the MACC program.
“There’s a business communication course early on, and a lot more soft skills development happens through presentations and collaborative teamwork across subjects,” Choo comments.
5. You can work in a wide range of industries
When you graduate from a master in accounting program, you can work in practically any industry—since every organization needs to track and analyze its finances.
Grads from the MACC program at NBS typically go on to work within the Big 4 auditors, technology consultancies, financial services, and more. Their roles are also diverse, ranging from auditor to analyst to forensic accountant.
Whichever path you choose, you can expect an accounting career to challenge you daily, as you become a point of guidance within your organization.
“There are logical systems, but you’ll also have the chance to make subjective judgments in a lot of different contexts,” Choo concludes.
“Accounting is both a science and an art!”