Guest blog: Stepping stones; a new path towards a career in accounting

There are plenty of options available to non-business graduates looking for a career in accounting and it’s never too late to change career paths, writes Emma Butler of Accounting Technicians Ireland.

Many students in their leaving cert year, having sifted through college prospectuses, attended university open days and researched courses, have a very clear vision of their future career path and know exactly what they want to get from their degree. Similarly, many students feel overwhelmed by the wide range of choices before them and pick courses based on CAO points, what their friends are applying for, or what parents or teachers suggest they should do.

Making such significant life decisions so early can put students under substantial pressure to make the “right” choice; however, the years following secondary school play a huge role in shaping people’s skills, likes and talents. By the time of graduation, the choice made by students in leaving cert may not be the right one for them.

Regardless of how certain you may have felt embarking on your first year of college that you had chosen the right course, it is common for graduates to finish their degree feeling lost and wanting to change discipline. Some degree programmes can be quite broad, leaving graduates unsure of what to do with the skills they have learned. On the other hand, some degrees have a very narrow career path, which the graduate may no longer wish to pursue. It is important for graduates who feel this way to know that there are options open to them, and that changing direction does not mean going back to scratch.

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Conversion programmes

A conversion programme is usually a one or two year intensive course that provides students with skills in a discipline outside of their primary degree. These courses can often be studied on a part-time basis allowing students to find work, both to support themselves financially throughout the course and gain experience while they study. While conversion courses are not directly related to the degree studies of the student, there will often be transferable skills taken from the primary degree on which the student can build. For example, if a science or engineering graduate converts to a business discipline, their analytical skills will prove valuable. Likewise, a history graduate has a perspective on trends of events and could help a company to see “the big picture” in a business context.

Career options in accountancy

In an uncertain economic environment, accountancy can offer a stable and rewarding career. Often described as “recession proof”, those working in accounting and finance rarely have trouble finding work. Accounting isn’t just all debits and credits either – it can open up a vast range of career paths and provides versatile business skills.

Accounting Technicians Ireland offers a two year professional accounting qualification which can be studied at over 70 different colleges around Ireland. You do not need a business degree to enrol and graduates may even be eligible for exemptions from some of the first year subjects, depending on the modules studied in your degree.

The Accounting Technicians Ireland programme is focused on building practical skills and is highly respected by employers. Qualified accounting technicians work in a vast range of industries and many describe their accounting studies as being the foundation of their career. Having a strong knowledge of financial information can be invaluable in business, even if it is not your primary function. Understanding financial information is crucial in making effective business decisions.

Many qualified accounting technicians move into other functional areas as their careers progress and can be found in senior functions in some of Ireland top companies. In fact the CEO of Microsoft Ireland began her career as an accounting technician. Furthermore, for those with an entrepreneurial spirit, understanding financial issues is highly valuable in setting up and running your own business.

International opportunities

While some areas such as taxation may vary significantly from country to country, most aspects of accountancy travel very well, so if you decide you want to work abroad, an accountancy qualification will help greatly in finding a job.

Having completed the Accounting Technician qualification, graduates may choose to pursue any number of routes, whether in accounting and finance or beyond. Those who wish to become a fully qualified accountant can gain generous exemptions from the examinations of professional accountancy bodies. An accounting qualification offers skills that will transfer to many sectors.

The availability of conversion programmes, such as the accounting technician qualification, means that it is never too late to pursue a new career path.

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