Accounting professionals are always in demand. Wherever money is involved, accountants will flourish. Even in a downturn, accountants can be sure that their jobs are safe. The upshot of all this is that there are any number of opportunities to study accounting in Australia.
Online accounting courses are particularly popular, but you need to be sure that you study through an accredited institution; otherwise you won’t be able to join any of the professional accounting associations that operate in Australia – and that will hurt your career.Many people are unaware just how diverse the field of accounting is. Students can find it quite bewildering when they first sign up for accounting courses and encounter the number of options available.
Of course, most accounting degrees and diploma courses build on the basics that were learnt in high school, but it isn’t long before students have to pick a direction, such as tax accounting, financial accounting, management accounting and forensic accounting. They will also need to choose courses based on their desired work environment, for example, some people prefer to work as accountants for small businesses, managing only one company’s accounts, while others like the idea of chartered accountancy and living the high life in some of Australia’s biggest cities, like Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane or Perth. Either way, there a plenty of decisions to make.
How to Study Accounting in Australia
Accounting qualifications can be obtained in a variety of ways. Many universities in Australia offer a bachelor of accounting degrees as well as postgraduate qualifications, colleges offer accountant diplomas and an increasing number of online learning providers offer accredited accounting certificates and bookkeeping short courses.If you want to take the roundabout route, you can start with TAFE accounting certificates and go on to accounting diplomas.
The nationally accredited TAFE courses form part of the AQF and provide a pathway to accountancy degrees at some of the best universities in Australia. Depending on where you see your career going, you can stop at an undergraduate degree or increase your advancement and earning potential with postgraduate accounting courses.Your other choice is whether you want to study part-time, full-time or online. It doesn’t matter whether you’re going to start with TAFE courses or immediately go into your accounting degree; you still get to pick your format. Online accounting courses are increasingly popular, especially as their quality constantly improves. Hybrid courses are also popular as they provide the best of both worlds.It’s important to remember that learning doesn’t stop once you’ve earned your diploma or degree. Accounting is a field that requires continuous professional development. In fact, it is a non-negotiable requirement if you’re going to join one of the professional accounting associations in Australia.
It’s important to remember that learning doesn’t stop once you’ve earned your diploma or degree. Accounting is a field that requires continuous professional development. In fact, it is a non-negotiable requirement if you’re going to join one of the professional accounting associations in Australia.
Professional Accounting Associations
The Association of Certified Practicing Accountants (CPA) Australia is considered to be one of the largest professional accounting organisations in the world. Members need to complete the study courses in the CPA Australia program and have three years’ experience in finance, accounting or business fields. Furthermore, CPAs need to commit to continued distance (online) learning and have qualified for a Public Practice Certificate. It demands continuing professional development (CPD) from all members, which includes a minimum of 20 hours CPD per year. There are five levels of membership:
- Foundation, which is the lowest level and requires members to complete the CPA’s foundation level exams or to have a recognised qualification from an accredited tertiary institution.
- Associate (ASA), which follows on the foundation level. ASAs can advance to the professional level provided they complete the CPA Course Program.
- CPA, which requires a degree or postgraduate degree, completion of the professional level program, and CPD activities.
- Fellow (FCPA), which requires 15 years’ experience in accounting, finance or business in Australia, at least five of which must be as an executive or public accountant.
- Financial Planning Specialisation.
The Institute of Public Accountants (IPA) is an association for accounting professionals and those still studying accounting in Australia but who have started careers in industry, commerce and government. Accounting students who apply for membership are added to the IPA Student Register. Professional accountants can apply for membership on three levels:
- Associate (AIPA), which requires an advanced diploma in accounting or a university degree.
- Member (MIPA), which requires an advanced diploma in accounting, completion of the IPA Program Stage 1 and Stage 2 (equivalent of a Master of Commerce in Professional Accounting, and participation in the Mentored Experience Programme; or an accounting degree, completion of the four IPA Program Core study units (equivalent to a Graduate Certificate in Professional Accounting in Australia), and participation in the Mentored Experience Program.
- Fellow (FIPA), which requires MIPA status, 10 years professional accounting experience (five in senior positions), and seven years IPA membership.
Members are also required to continue development, but the program is called continuing professional education (CPE) and members have to complete 40 hours of structured CPE per year.The Institute of Certified Management Accountants (ICMA) focuses specifically on management accounting in Australia. It has four levels of membership:
- Management Accounting Affiliate (MAA) for people who are interested in studying management accounting in Australia.
- Graduate Management Accountant (GMA), which requires an accounting degree or other recognised professional accounting qualification (diploma) in Australia or completion of the ICMA’s graduate programme.
- Associate Management Accountant (AMA), which requires an accounting degree or recognised qualification and three years’ experience in management accounting.
- Certified Management Accountant (CMA), which requires a degree or recognised qualification, complete of CMA units and five years’ experience in management accounting.
Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia is for professional chartered accountants in Australia as well as accounting students. Professional members must have three years’ practical experience and must complete the Chartered Accountants Program, which in turn requires an accounting degree. People without an accounting degree can also become members, provided they complete an Institute accredited Graduate Conversion Course, or pass an entrance exam (based on present accounting experience), or obtain a Graduate Certificate of Chartered Accounting Foundations from Deakin University. There are five levels of membership:
- Certificate of Public Practice.
- Teacher of Accountancy.
- Affiliate Membership.
Joining associations such as those listed above will help advance your career because they serve as proof of your qualifications and credentials.