One of our very first blog posts last year was about the highest paying careers in South Africa. To date, it’s still one of our most popular posts and is an indication that our readers are hungry for info about careers. That’s why we have decided to dedicate one blog post every month to different industries and the job prospects and career paths within those industries.
For the second installment of our Career Focus articles, we will take a closer look at the financial sector and, in particular, careers relating to finance and accounting. These are both quite broad disciplines with a number of different career paths available based on your interests and skills. This post will give you an overview of these exciting industries as well as some insight in different jobs and info on relevant Career Wise bursaries.
In our first post for the Career Focus series we explored the world of engineering and looked at the various sub-disciplines and related careers. Take a look at the log post on Career focus engineering if you missed it. This week it’s all about finance and accounting, a sector which had three jobs featured in our post titled highest paying careers.
While finance and accounting are quite conveniently lumped together, they are in fact quite distinct in the role they perform in business and the financial sector. Whereas accounting is more narrow in its focus, finance is a wider-ranging discipline which covers a broad array of specialisations. We don’t have time to go into the real nitty-gritty of each of them, so let’s look at an overview of each discipline, it’s role within the world of business and the associated careers.
The primary focus of accounting is the day-to-day management and analysis of financial records and reports across the business world. Working in this field involves applying professional principles and processes to financial information in order to evaluate an organisation’s financial position. This can range from bookkeeping, which involves the tracking and recording of financial transactions, through to creating and managing financial statements such as balance sheets and income statements, which are complex ‘snapshots’ of a business’ performance and financial position. Although accounting is the ‘narrower’ of the two disciplines, there are still a number of different specialisations including auditing, tax, risk assessment and management accounting.
Unlike the engineering field, where you typically study chemical engineering in order to become and chemical engineer, studying accounting at varsity can take you in any number of directions. One of the most common is the chartered accounting route, which involves becoming certified with a professional accounting body, such as SAICA in South Africa. The Chartered Accounting (CA) certification opens a lot of doors and offers you a number of different career paths including general business management, tax specialist, auditing and management consulting. It’s requires a lot of hard work and dedication but is a good option to consider for anyone interested in accounting and business – many of South Africa’s top CEO’s and CFO’s started out as CA’s. Another common route is to get the CIMA certification, which qualifies you in management accounting. Whereas CA’s focus on financial accounting and financial statements, management accounting has a particular focus on the business processes and financial management of a firm.
As you would expect, the majority of accounting degrees in South Africa are offered by commerce faculties, although some more specialised degrees like forensic accounting and actuarial science can be offered in the science faculty. If you go the B.Com route, you typically have the option to just do accounting or you can add another major such as economics or finance. Some universities also offer accounting as a Business Science degree, which also sits within the commerce faculty.
Whereas accounting looks at the past and current financial information of a business to report on performance, finance uses the same information to project the future growth and longer-term financial strategy of the business. Finance is more dynamic than accounting because it looks at the future and uses complex financial models to develop strategies and predict the trajectory of businesses and financial flows. It has more of a quantitative element than accounting and requires a good grasp of maths and statistics.
As we said before, finance is a broader discipline than accounting. Studying finance at varsity can lead you down a number of career paths including corporate finance, financial evaluation, derivatives, financial modeling, quantitative finance, investment management and financial reporting. And that’s just to name a few. Depending on which route you take, you can find yourself predicting and analysing the potential for future growth of a business, assessing monetary resources and financial flows within financial markets, valuing companies and other investment opportunities, or building complex financial models based on behavioural finance. There are also different certifications within the finance industry, the most prestigious of which is the CFA (Certified Financial Analyst) qualification. This is done through a global institute and is an extremely demanding but very sought after certification to have in the world of finance.
Just like accounting, finance is offered through the commerce faculties of most universities. Unlike accounting, it’s is very rarely studied on its own and is usually combined with another major such as economics, accounting or statistics. The broader scope of finance allows you to focus on a particular area by choosing a relevant discipline to combine it with. For example, taking economics and finance will give you a more macro perspective of financial flows within an economy, whereas combining finance with stats will develop your quantitative skills and financial modeling abilities.
Career Wise Finance and Accounting Bursaries
Now that you have a better grasp of these two exciting industries, here are the funding opportunities available through Career Wise that can help you take the next step towards your dream job (i.e. take a look at our bursaries page for more details).
We hope this blog has given you some useful information about the exciting and dynamic world of accounting and finance and some inspiration to take the next big step towards success. Best of luck!