Crunching numbers and pushing pencils hardly seems risky, but there are some potential pitfalls in an accounting career. Accountants are responsible for accurate processing and reporting of a company’s financial information, and mistakes can incur penalties or worse. The job often entails long, stressful hours, and sitting at a desk all day isn’t particularly good for your health. The good news is that attention to detail and lifestyle changes can help mitigate the risks.
Seek Education & Training
A bachelor’s degree in accounting is typically a minimum requirement for the job. While it’s possible to obtain employment without one, your opportunities for advancement and higher pay are severely limited by combining some college work and experience. Even a bachelor’s degree is no guarantee of a good position.
Some employers prefer a master’s degree; if you have one, your advancement opportunities arise. Certified public accountants have the best options, but they must meet continuing education requirements to comply with state licensing regulations.
Consider Potential Penalties
The suspension or revocation of a CPA’s license can occur due to criminal activity or a violation of ethics.
Licenses are issued by a state board of accountancy, which typically can investigate complaints and discipline CPAs. The Securities and Exchange Commission can ban CPAs from working for businesses registered with the SEC, but only state boards can entirely revoke a license to practice.
Many CPAs become members of the American Institute of CPAs, and violation of their code of ethics can lead to membership loss and damage your reputation.
Accounting Can Be Stressful
Many accountants are classified as exempt employees, so they don’t qualify for overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act. It also means they aren’t compensated for long hours at the office during tax season or closing the books at month-end and the end of the fiscal year. Audit deadlines and the potential penalties from inaccurate reporting can cause stress. Because accounting departments don’t generate revenue, staff cuts often occur in economic downturns, leading to overwork and uncertainty for remaining staff.
Staying Active is Important
Accounting isn’t an active career. Most of it is spent sitting at a desk, which is detrimental to health.
According to Beaumont Health Services, long periods of sedentary behaviour led to an increased risk of developing diabetes and heart problems, including death from a cardiovascular event. Sitting all day might not be the primary cause of the increased risk, but the evidence is compelling enough to recommend increased movement and exercise for desk workers.
Look at Pay and Outlook
While the average annual wage for accountants was $71,550 in 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the bottom 10 per cent earned $44,480, so it isn’t always a lucrative career. The BLS projects job growth at four per cent from 2019 to 2019 but notes that the best opportunities will be for advanced degrees holders.
Survey shows younger accountants most stressed.
According to a university survey, accountants who are younger or female or who work for a law or consulting firm suffer the most stress.
- Accountants suffer moderate levels of stress.
- Younger and female accountants suffer the most stress.
- 52% report moderate mental health, 45% flourishing mental health, and 3% is languishing mental health.
Monash Business School conducted a recent study on practising Australian accountants to measure their everyday stress and wellbeing.
Accountants’ role has always been associated with occupational pressures, and the complexity of such parts is likely increasing. The impact of this can lead to high levels of stress, which can impact accountants’ well-being.
Monash surveyed 260 professional Australian accountants who have professional membership and at least five years of accounting experience.
Those working for a consulting or law firm report significantly lower wellbeing scores…and the highest levels of stress.
Wellbeing was measured overall to determine whether the mental health of individuals is flourishing, moderate or languishing. Psychological, social and emotional health were also measured.
The average participant was 43.36 years old with 22.34 years of work experience. In terms of stress, moderate levels of stress were recorded. Further interesting findings are:
- 45% of accountants report flourishing (excellent) mental health, 52% good mental health and a small percentage, 3% languishing mental health (see Table 2).
- Age and stress have a significant negative correlation – the older the participant, the less stress they record. The highest reported stressed age groups are 30 – 50 years old, with those between 30 – 34 years writing the highest stress level. These years are often deemed ‘mid-career and come at a time when family responsibilities are also demanding.
- Work experience and stress are negatively correlated – more work experience results in less perceived stress. Younger, less experienced accountants experience more stress than older, more experienced accountants.
- Women report significantly higher levels of stress.
- Stress and wellbeing are negatively correlated – the higher the perceived stress, the lower the reported wellbeing overall and the lower the psychological, emotional and social wellbeing.
- An accountant’s average stress level is 7.2 out of a possible score of 21; This stress level is considered ‘mild’ and is higher than reported norms for stress that sit at around 5.16 (Crawford et al. 2009).
Monash also examined if wellbeing and stress vary according to the type of company where accountants are employed. Those working for a consulting or law firm report significantly lower wellbeing scores compared to other groups. This group also report the highest levels of stress.
Accountants working for retail companies enjoy the highest well-being and lowest levels of stress, although not to a statistically significant extent.
What are the different types of accountants?
‘Accountant’ is a term that gets thrown around in the business world all the time. And if you have involvement in business, you are probably aware that most companies will need to use one at some point. However, you are not alone if you are unsure about the difference between the many types of financial wizards we call accountants, and a chartered accountant Dublin might be the right one for your needs.
Determining the appropriate type of accountant to match the needs of your business can be confusing. Below is a quick summary of some of the different types of accountants and home service professionals available to you and your business.
They might be the most basic accountant level, but the importance of bookkeepers should not be underestimated.
They enter the financial transactions of your business, including sales, receipts, purchases and payments. All further accounting data relies upon their work’s accuracy, so it’s essential to make sure your bookkeeper is a stickler for detail!
Chartered Accountant (CA)
A Chartered Accountant is a significant step up in terms of expertise. After completing a Bachelor’s degree in accounting and business, they must undertake postgraduate study and a 3-year program under the guidance of a CA approved mentor. Internationally recognised, CA members have high-level skills across various fields of accounting, including tax, auditing, financial reporting and management accounting. If your accountant is CA certified, you are in good hands.
Certified Practicing Accountant (CPA)
A Certified Practicing Accountant has also completed both a bachelor’s degree and post-graduate study in accountancy. Similarly to CA members, they must end three years of practical experience whilst working closely with an approved mentor to develop their high-level accountancy skills. CPA members are also skilled in a wide variety of areas of accounting.
As the title suggests, a tax accountant has specialised skills in the area of tax. If you struggle with the intricate world of tax, do not mess around trying to bash your way through it, a tax accountant is your guy.
A management accountant evaluates valuable accounting information for use in the decision making and planning of a business. This includes the management of company funds, cost analysis and stock keeping. Think about whether you need help with your business management; small and medium businesses usually use them.
In trouble with the law due to missing funds or discrepancies in your accounting? A forensic accountant is who you need. They work with individuals and companies that have allegedly committed crimes regarding their books, including tax evasion, fraud and embezzlement.
Once you have recorded all of your financial transactions, a financial accountant comes along to translate this information into financial reports. They will then analyse the reports to provide you with advice regarding the financial planning of your business. External parties can also use these reports to assess the value of your business.
A tax consultant helps you to make sense of your accounting information. They are used for the management of various aspects of your business. By analysing your financial reports, they can determine your business’s profitability, where your business is making and losing its money, generate forecasts, restructure your business, and more. Pretty good, right?
This is just a brief look at some of the different types of accountants available to you. They are invaluable to the financial side of your business. You probably won’t need all of them, so pick and choose carefully!
Types of Membership
CPA Australia welcomes and supports professionals from all around the world. No matter what industry you’re in or where you’re at in your career, you can apply. To have your qualifications assessed, you will need to complete an online membership application.
Your membership application will determine if you are eligible to begin the CPA Program or if you are required to complete Foundation exams first.
Professionals who are qualified in countries other than Australia can apply for membership. CPA Australia has several pathways with international accounting and finances professional bodies.
There are three types of membership, starting with Associate (ASA) membership and progressing through to Fellow (FCPA). Continued use of any designation is dependent on maintaining membership with CPA Australia and compliance with the obligations in CPA Australia’s Constitution, By-Laws, the Code of Professional Conduct and applicable regulations.
You become an Associate to commence the CPA Program. As an Associate, you have six years to complete the CPA Program, including six education subjects and the Your Experience requirement, to become a CPA.
Depending on your prior study and work experience, you may gain recognition toward Your experience requirement.
As an ASA, you also have access to the many benefits of membership. You will belong to a global network of CPA Australia members and receive special rates on products and services, discounts on professional development and access to valuable resources to enhance your career.
To become a CPA, you must:
- hold a degree recognised by CPA Australia, in any discipline
- have completed the CPA Program, including Your Experience, within six years
To offer public accounting services, a CPA must also hold a general practice certificate by CPA Australia’s By-Laws.
Highly-experienced CPAs can become a Fellow of CPA Australia (FCPA). You must be a CPA with at least 15 years of work experience in accounting, finance or business, including at least five years in an executive position or providing full-time Public Accounting Services as a public accountant.
Joining as a member means you will have access to the many privileges of membership. You will belong to a global network of CPA Australia members and receive special rates on products and services, discounts on professional development and access to valuable resources to enhance your career.
It also means committing to the obligations outlined in CPA Australia’s Constitution and By-Laws, the Code of Professional Conduct and applicable regulations.