Accounting is one of the more popular programmes pursued by Malaysian students. This article details the academic pathway and role of an accountant.
Accounting is simply defined as the recording of all financial transactions and data. Every company running a business needs accountants to keep track and report financial activities. This information is necessary to make important decisions on managing a business and its financial planning.
Most undergraduate degrees in Accounting take three years to complete. There are higher education institutions which offer stand-alone Accounting programmes and Accounting programmes fused with related areas such as Banking or Finance. An Accounting degree teaches the fundamentals of accounting, business, marketing, finance and report writing. Some of the main subjects in an Accounting degree are Financial Accounting, Principles of Finance, Introduction to Taxation and Public Sector Accounting.
Some Accounting degrees are combined with professional qualification papers in the final year. Students who decide to pursue professional accounting qualifications after they graduate may be exempted from having to sit for certain papers. Popular professional accounting programmes are carried out by accounting bodies such as the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), CPA Australia and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW).
Individuals who are interested in becoming Chartered Accountants in Malaysia need to possess professional qualifications, gain three years of work experience and apply for a membership at the Malaysian Institute of Accountants (MIA).
Those with accounting qualifications can find employment in many industries. They can work in Financial Accounting, Tax, Audit, Management Consulting and Risk Consulting. Some of the job titles within the realm of accounting are Auditor, Accountant, Business Consultant, Tax Consultant, Financial Advisor and Financial Analyst. In addition, individuals with a background in accounting may find employment in Real Estate, Market Research, Logistics and Entrepreneurship.
The main employers of accountants are accounting firms, private, public and non-profit organisations. Some of the leading accounting firms worldwide are PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Deloitte, Ernst & Young (EY) and KPMG.
The responsibilities of an accountant differ according to their specialised roles. Generally, accountants prepare and analyse accounting records, financial statements and financial reports to make sure they are accurate and adhere to procedural standards. They are in charge of taxation matters such as taxes owed, tax returns and tax payment. Accountants provide advice and help with business decisions by analysing trends, costs and revenues. In addition, accountants use the latest computer systems and software to record financial data and produce reports effectively. Other job responsibilities of accountants are reporting to the management on financial matters, establishing tables of accounts and analysing budgets.
Accountants need to have high proficiency in IT, numeracy and report writing. They have to be motivated and independent as accounting is mainly a one-person job. Skills such as good communication, time management, analytical thinking and problem-solving are important to be a successful accountant. An interest in business and finance is beneficial as well. Accountants also need to have initiative, integrity and trustworthiness as they will be dealing with confidential financial data in their line of work.
The assumption that the accounting profession is boring is wrong. Accounting is an exciting field that allows individuals to work in any industry imaginable. Accountants play an integral part in any company and will always be sought after by employers.