You may be at the end of your Grade 9 year when you need to decide which subjects to choose in order to get the needed credits to study for a certain career field at university. At your school's subject orientation evening, you may be addressed by a successful accountant, doctor, and lawyer. This may be the moment when you decide that you would like to become a chartered accountant. This scenario will happen only if you are lucky enough to be confident as to what career field you would like to pursue beyond school by the end of your Grade 9 year. For many the calling to become an accountant only arises in their Grade 12 year.

Irrespective of when you make the decision that you would like to become an accountant, you will be supported by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) which has over 37 000 chartered accountants under its wings already.

We cannot, however, fault you if you are sitting with your university application form in hand and still are unsure which faculty you would like to put a tick next to. So why would you want to become an accountant?

Many students look at accounting as being synonymous with Mathematics. As per the requirements for the Faculty of Accounting, to grant you admission for an accounting degree, you do need to have done pure mathematics until Grade 12. This does not mean that if you simply hate maths and do not generally do well in the subject, it could affect your performance in accounting. Yes, you do need to know enough maths to do calculations, but nowhere in accounting will you be expected to prove Fermat's last theorem.

"Successful people are not gifted; they just work hard, then succeed on purpose." G.K Nelson

We are all for choosing the career of your dreams, however, in terms of practicality you also need to choose a career path whereby you can quite easily find a job. Accountants are always in demand and big companies like Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) are always on the hunt for freshly qualified accountants to join their firm.

If you are looking for two things in a career namely; money and mobility, you need to look no further than an accounting career. Accountants in the Johannesburg region make on average R 431 174 per annum. There is also a global demand for people who possess a chartered accountancy degree. Pursuing an accounting career could mean globe-trotting for work.

They say that accounting is the only field where you can keep the ball in your court. Basically, you can choose to work for yourself or for someone else. You can structure your year so that you can take a holiday at any time (with the exception of the peak tax times of course). You can also be in control of your workload which is far less than many people believe. Qualified accountants, contradictory to beliefs, have ample relaxation time.

Now that we got all the highlights of becoming a chartered accountant out of the way, of course, you will need time to ponder over the question of to be an accountant or not to be slightly more.

The Requirements to Be an Accountant

There is a difference in the types of jobs that someone who has studied in the field of accountancy gets in comparison to the jobs offered to someone who has followed the pathway of becoming a chartered accountant.

If you want to be successful in the field of accountancy, you have to work for it. But guess what? Many Grade 9 students believe that they will have to take accounting as a subject choice for Grade 10 to 12. Truth be told many universities do not require you to have studied accounting at a school level. This may come as a huge shock, especially for those grade 9 students who were about to take up Business Studies, Economics, and Accounting at a school level.

We do, however, suggest you take Accounting and Economics at a school level if you do want to get a taste of what to expect on the first day of your accountancy studies at university. This suggestion will be handy for those Grade 9 students who are determined to study accounting after school and for students in schools that offer those subject choices.

You do need to have a mathematics background at school to actually get into an accounting degree at university. Mathematic Literacy is not accepted if you want to study accounting. You do need to have acquired a level 5 pass in pure maths to be considered for undergraduate accounting studies. It is also essential to be proficient in English. As much as you may believe that accounting is all about number crunching, this is a big misunderstanding. There is much theory that you need to understand and know by heart. For your degree, you may choose to complete a subject called Auditing. There is an overwhelming amount of theory that needs to be studied for auditing.

Will you meet these requirements? Yes, it will be as easy as pie for you!

If you are struggling with accounting or mathematics at a high school level, perhaps you can ask a Superprof tutor to help.

Calculation is a part of studying accounting
Mathematics is a requirement for students who want to study accounting. Source: Unsplash

The Route to Gaining an Accounting Qualification

For many pursuing the field of accounting studies, this will include;  getting an undergraduate degree from an accredited university. You can choose, however,  to do shorter accounting courses at first to decide if a BCOM Accounting degree is meant for you or not.

For most accounting jobs, the minimal requirement is for you to have a Bachelor's Degree in Accounting. Going the route of gaining a degree in accounting is only a stepping stone towards becoming a chartered accountant. Thereafter, you must study for a postgraduate degree in your fourth year of study. This is called the Certificate in Accounting Theory (CTA) or you can choose to do any other relevant post-graduate degree that is accredited by the University such as Higher Diplomacy in Accountancy (HDipAcc).

The reason the CTA is so important is that this one-year degree comprises of topics such as; accounting, taxation, auditing, and financial management. For many getting a CTA immediately after their degree is not such an easy step. Many undergraduate accounting students do not meet the percentage requirements to delve into the CTA course immediately. Despite this fact, most universities do allow students a second chance at getting into a post-graduate degree even with lower marks. This will mean that undergraduate students will need to complete a year-long bridging course first- BCTA.

So is this all it takes to become a chartered accountant?

Not quite yet!

"Some people dream of success while others wake up and work hard at it," Napolean Hill.

To become a chartered accountant is hard work but it is certainly worth all the effort and pulling your hair out. After studying, you have to complete a learnership programme entitled a training contract. The postgraduate student usually enters a three-year training contract with an accredited training provider.

After completion of training, there are two further examinations to complete. You first complete an Initial Test of Competence (ITC). Once the ITC is completed the final exam is entitled, Assessment of Professional Competence (APC).

Voila! You have now become a chartered account.

Becoming a chartered accountant
You too can become a qualified accountant. Source: Unsplash

What Is an Accounting Internship?

An accounting internship allows students to work within companies like Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC), KPMG, and Ernst & Young so that they can gain valuable insights and grow and develop within the field.

When looking to complete an internship, you usually think that you can complete it only at the abovementioned large accounting firms. The truth is you can complete your accountancy internship almost anywhere provided the firm or small organisation is registered or approved. The type of specialisation you wish to seek will determine what you need to look for. You would need to complete your internship at:

  • A Registered Training Office (RTO) if you want to specialise in auditing
  • An Approved Training Organisation (ATO) if you are interested in specialising in financial management

During this internship, after 18 months you complete a general examination called the Qualifying Examination (QE1) which will enable you to complete a second Qualifying Examination if you want to specialise in either financial management or auditing.

Calculate a better future
Accounting students crunch numbers and focus on theory. Source: Unsplash

There are several benefits of entering the work field of an accountant through an accounting internship.

Benefits of an Accounting Internship

Improvement of performance in the examination is ensured if a student completes an accountancy internship solely because the student is getting hands-on practical experience. Questions in the exam can then be answered from what the student recalls from his or her practical experience in the field.

A student, like you, who is aiming to work as a chartered accountant can identify personal strengths and weaknesses while working. In this way, you will know if you need to improve your time management skills or interpersonal communication skills in order to thrive in the field.

Internships offer you the chance to network and meet people with who you could possibly be interested in working with in the future. During your internship years, you will be able to make your resume look good, and get your name out there to other firms,  and companies.

You will also see how practical the things in your accounting textbook are for working in the accounting field.

So if your calling is to become a chartered accountant, don't let anyone deter you from reaching this goal. All your hard work and years of studying will pay off in the end.

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Laila is an enthusiastic English educator and a fun-filled freelance writer. She has accomplished her dream of getting her first book published and has managed to write over 1 000 000 words since beginning her freelance career. In her free time, she is a travel blogger who explores all South Africa has to offer.