Accounting is an age-old profession that attracts people from all backgrounds. Multiple entry routes are available to Leaving Cert students, graduates and to workers seeking a mid-stream career change.
There are few roles that are as central to a company’s success than accounting. One of the greatest benefits is that the skills are highly transferable. You could work in the financial services industry, banking, retail, government, healthcare, information technology or even in the music industry as practically every business has a need for accountants.
There are several paths open to those wishing to work in the industry and programmes include full-time, part-time, online and apprenticeship options. Prospective accountants should have no difficulty finding a course that suits their personal circumstances.
To become an accountant the path you choose will depend on what area you wish to work in, what type of course you wish to pursue and how long you wish to spend studying.
The profession is regulated in Ireland by the Irish Auditing and Accounting Supervisory Authority (IAASA). The IAASA's register includes the four main accountancy bodies in Ireland.
They are: Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland (ICAI); Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA); Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA); and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA).
Accounting Technicians Ireland (ATI) is the leading body for accounting technician.
All offer different paths to becoming fully qualified and recognised accountants.
What does the work involve?
Accountants generally work with company finances. They are responsible for keeping and preparing financial records and will analyse financial information and create financial statements in the course of their work. They will also ensure the company is in compliance with government and industry standard regulations.
The work is varied and can include preparation of tax returns, financial strategy and provision of guidance on cost reduction, financial forecasting and risk analysis.
Qualified accountants will be members of an accountancy body and will have passed certified examinations. They can work in multiple different roles in organisations and with some specialising areas such as in tax or in compliance.
There are two main types of accountant: financial accountants and management accountants.
Types of roles include auditor – where you need to ensure the accounts are precise, forensic accountant – where you analyse financial records to ensure compliance and cost accountant, where you look at ways to improve cost efficiency.
Financial accountants (Chartered Accountants, Public Accountants and Certified Accountants) are primarily concerned with the financial tasks associated with taxation, company auditing and statutory obligations.
Management accountants on the other hand can take a more strategic and forecasting role. They will prepare reports, budgets and audits but may also have an input into the development of a company’s financial policies.
While there are many ways to study to be an accountant , depending on your level of education to date, it can take between one or two years or up to four years plus a period of experience at a recognised firm before you can qualify to practice.
Accounting technicians work in similar settings to accountants but focus on the more technical requirements of accounting, and will often work under the supervision of an qualified accountant.
They will work with financial transactions and responsibilities may include inputting financial data and producing reports, updating records with payments received and expenses and balancing accounts. A diploma usually takes two years and students are also required to get experience before qualifying.
How to become an accountant
Many students will study a third-level business degree before progressing to accountancy. While becoming an accountant can take up to four years, students already holding university qualifications may be granted exemptions. Thosoe who wish to pursue accounting straight after school should do some groundwork first before deciding on what type of qualification they are interested in before registering with the appropriate body.
Chartered accountant (ACA/FCA): There are two main routes graduates can take to become a chartered accountant. The profession is open to all degree disciplines. Students can study to become a chartered accountant by taking a training contract or taking what is sometimes referred to as the flexible route. Both have the same outcome but are delivered differently.
Certified accountant (ACCA, FCCA): Open to school leavers and graduates. Certified accountants can work in all fields. The ACCA qualification requires students to complete examinations, an ethics module and a period of work experience during which they are required to meet a set number of performance objectives .
Cost and Management Accountants (CIMA/FCMA): Management accountants analyse financial and non-financial information to advise companies on strategy and drive sustainable business success. The CIMA qualification is open to anyone whether they're new to finance and business or an experienced professional.
Accounting Technician route (ATI): A path towards becoming an accountant that is suitable for school leavers involves first qualifying as an accounting technician before continuing your studies elsewhere to become a fully-fledged accountant. Accounting Technicians Ireland is a partner body with Chartered Accountants Ireland and an associate member of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC).
Participants in its work-based apprenticeship learning programme work four days a week and study in a local college (in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Monaghan, Galway, Wicklow or Waterford) one day a week for two years.
The apprenticeship is a funded, work-based learning programme in which locally-placed apprentices earn from €19,700 a year.
The accounting technician apprenticeship is particularly appealing to school leavers who prefer learning by experience to full-time college, says Gillian Doherty, chief operations officer at Accounting Technicians Ireland.
“Our students, when they complete the apprenticeship, gain a much in-demand accountancy QQI Level 6 award and two years of solid work experience, placing them in a strong position to progress in business or to further study.
The programme is described as “pan-sectoral” as it caters to the needs of industry, practice and the public sector. Programme graduates may also avail of exemptions from recognised professional accountancy bodies if they wish to pursue further study.
Upon completion of the course, apprentices can then progress to full accountancy with Chartered Accountants Ireland – or one of the other bodies recognised by the IAASA.
About 30 per cent of those who complete their studies use their qualification as a stepping stone to pursue further studies in the field of accountancy and business.
The application process involves interviews with Accounting Technicians Ireland and the employer, which selects interviewees from candidates in its locality
For more information on becoming an accounting technician, visit Accounting Technicians Ireland's website: accountingtechniciansireland.ie/
For more information on careers in accountancy visit:
The Irish Auditing and Accounting Supervisory Authority (iaasa.ie)
Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ireland.accaglobal.com)
Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (cimaglobal.com)
Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (cipfa.org)
Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland (charteredaccountants.ie)
Institute of Certified Public Accountants in Ireland (cpaireland.ie)