If you have decided that you want to forge a career in accounting then you can look forward to a long-term, stable and rewarding career with a variety of different specialist routes to choose from. Accountancy is a profession that will always be in demand as long as there are businesses around. Businesses will always need help and advice with their business financial plans and accounts.
Getting started in any new career can be challenging at first, especially in one as competitive as accounting. There are a number of steps that you can take during your studies to make sure that once you have graduated you are highly employable and also to prepare yourself for the current job market.
Choose the right route
As with any college course it can be hard to make informed decisions about which route into your chosen career you want to take and what you want to specialise in right from the beginning. I found that it was really helpful to learn about all of the options open to me right from the start, so that I felt like I was focussed on my goal throughout my studies rather than chopping and changing.
There are a number of different types of accounting that you could specialise in; these include management accounts, auditing, tax accounting, payroll accounting, government accounting and many more. Think about where your skills lie, what you’re good at and what you enjoy and then match it up to a couple of different specialist routes in accounting that you’re most interested in. Learn to be as knowledgeable as possible about your chosen career path so that you can get relevant experience in the area that you’re most interested in and want to progress in as early as possible.
Once you feel like you have an idea about which aspect of accounting interests you the most you will need to find out what level of education you need to start out in your chosen accounting career. Accounting is a very flexible career choice because there are many different levels of education to suit different paths, finances and career plans. You can choose to do an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree. Master’s degrees allow you to really go into depth in a specialist area of your choice. There is also an additional CPA examination that you can take to become a Certified Public Accountant. If you want to sit your CPA exam you will need to have a four year degree not a two year one.
Make sure that your course is teaching you to use all of the appropriate modern accounting computer packages that are currently being used in the industry. Check out entry level accounting job vacancies online and see what their requirements are, if there’s anything important that you feel you are not learning on your course then learn it in your own time.
Keep up to date with accounting news
Keep up with industry standards and changes to technologies. Even professional accountants frequently go on training and refresher courses to keep up to date with all of the changes. Set up an accounting RSS feed on the internet and make sure you are always up to date and informed with the latest industry news.
Join professional accounting organisations
There are a number of different accounting organisations that you can join, usually your college’s accounting department will be able to help you to do this. Once you have joined you will be kept up to date with industry news and can attend the organisation’s networking events, it also looks great on your CV!
Some accountancy college programmes offer the chance to work in internships as part of your course. If this is the case then your college will often help you to arrange your internship. This is invaluable first-hand experience in the industry and can look really impressive on your CV. If your college does not support this as part of your course then the long college breaks can be a great time to get yourself into an internship. Your course tutors may be able to put you in contact with some people to help you to arrange it, make sure you are asking well in advance of when you want to do it though as some companies fill up their internship spaces months in advance.
After college I quickly realised that the more people that you’re connected to and speak to then the more opportunities that will come your way. Make sure you maintain strong relationships with as many of your course friends and mentors and lecturers as possible so that you can share contacts and opportunities within the industry with each other when you’re looking for a job.
A brilliant way of networking is using social media like Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook. Use Linkedin to follow companies that you’re interested in working for, connect with hiring managers from these companies and ask for advice or about opportunities. Use Twitter to connect with fellow accountants, follow companies that you’d like to work for and search for job opportunities. Use Facebook to keep in touch with all of your contacts, follow company pages and look for job opportunities on company pages. Remember to make sure that your personal profiles on each platform are professional before you contact people.
When you first graduate from college and start looking for a job don’t be disheartened if it takes a while to get your first break. The current job market is difficult to break into, especially without any relevant work experience. Sometimes it is best to take a junior job just to build up some office experience to put on your CV, it is also said to be easier to find a job if you’re already working than it is if you’re out of work.
Sarah Hewitt is a relatively experienced blogger who has written about most subjects but tends to specialise in Careers, Business and Technology. You can contact her via her Twitter page or <a href="https://plus.google.com/105706700465327149894?rel=author">Google+</a>