Accountants use their numerical, analytical, statistical and management skills to maintain reliable accounting and financial systems and to advise businesses on a variety of financial matters.
An accountant analyses and evaluates the financial information of a business and communicates the findings to management so that management can make informed business decisions. Typically, accountants are required to prepare company budgets and financial statements, monitor cash flow and operational costs, and oversee financial investments, risk management and debt collection. Accountants also ensure that companies comply with industry and legal requirements in financial reporting. Accountants often specialise in a particular field of accountancy such as pure accounting, financial accounting, taxation, internal auditing, and cost and management accounting.
Accountants in the insurance industry report on premium income, claims expenditure paid, taxation and company expenditure so that management may keep track of the company’s financial position. Accountants with higher level qualifications are often members of the senior management team while other accountants oversee the work of accounting technicians and accounting officers.
What employment opportunities are available as an Accountant?
Accountants are employed in all sectors of the economy and fulfil critical roles in most businesses. Many are also self-employed or work for specialised accounting firms that provide advice and financial management services to clients.
Accountants in the insurance sector:
Within the insurance industry, accountants are employed across all the sub-sectors and in organisations such as life insurers, short-term insurers and health insurance companies, brokerages and intermediary firms, pension funds and pension fund administrators, collective investment institutions and health insurance administrators. Accountants enjoy good employment opportunities in South Africa as the demand for their skills often exceeds the supply.
What qualifications does an Accountant need?
Requirements for all undergraduate programs in accounting are set by each of the different universities or private training institutions. As a rule, students require a Senior Certificate with matriculation exemption and English and mathematics, preferably at the higher grade. Accounting, economics and business economics at Grade 12 level is recommended.
Does an Accountant need to belong to a professional body?
Professional body membership is not a legal requirement to practice as an accountant. However, the professional designations listed below are linked to membership of the various professional bodies. Some employers may also require professional body membership.
Chartered Accountant – CA (SA)
How do I become a Chartered Accountant – CA (SA)?
Undergraduate: You will need a B.Com Accounting degree or an equivalent CA(SA) undergraduate qualification. You must also ensure that the university is accredited by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) Post-graduate: You will need a Certificate in the Theory of Accounting (CTA) or honours qualifications at a university that is accredited by SAICA. The course takes a minimum of one year and must be completed at a SAICA accredited university.
Workplace experience:Candidates can now choose to specialise in auditing or in financial management. If you want to specialise in auditing you have to enter into a three year training contract (learnership) with an auditing firm that is a Registered Training Office of SAICA.
If you want to specialise in financial management you can enter into a three year training contract (learnership) with a firm in commerce and industry which is an Accredited Training Office of SAICA.
Professional examinations:All candidates can enter the first Qualifying Examination (QE1) set by SAICA once they have completed the CTA or honours qualifications. The second Qualifying Examination is written after passing QE1 (normally towards the end of the learnership).
Learners in the audit specialisation stream write the qualifying examination (QE2) set by the Independent Registration Board for Auditors (IRBA) while learners who specialise in financial management write the QE2 in financial management set by SAICA.
Undergraduate: A three-year degree in accounting from a South African institute of professional accountants (SAIPA) accredited university or a National Diploma University of Technology. You degree can be in progress when you start your three-year learnership but it needs to be complete by the end of the three-year leanership.
The degree must include the following core subjects:
Financial Accounting 3; Taxation 1;
Auditing 1 or Internal Auditing 2 or Internal Control & Code of Ethics 1;
Corporate law 1 or Commercial Law 2
Workplace experience: You must complete a three-year learnership with a SAIPA accredited workplace
Professional examinations: The SAIPA Professional Evaluation (PE) has to be passed.