Accountancy as a Career: Going Into Public Practice

Accountancy as a Career: Going Into Public Practice

Are you considering accountancy as a career? An Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) membership can be your way in.

You can earn the ACCA professional designation after passing 13 ACCA exams, completing the ACCA ethics and professional skills module, and spending at least three years working in a relevant role. As an ACCA professional, you can practice accountancy in any of the more than 180 countries globally that recognize the ACCA qualification.

Sectors an ACCA Accountant Can Work In

There’s a universal demand for accounting and financial professionals. Any organization that deals with and handles money must do some accounting and financial reporting. These reports need to be inspected and audited; they must also be analyzed to impact business decisions.

These are the sectors an ACCA professional can work in:

  1. Public Practice

Going into public practice means setting up your professional services firm or joining an existing firm. The firm provides accounting and accounting-related advisory services to governments, business organizations, and individuals. Going into public practice means becoming an accounting, finance and business consultant.

  1. Shared Services and Outsourcing

You can set up (or work in) a global business services company that fulfills client organizations’ outsourcing and shared services needs. You can perform accounting tasks for small or medium-sized businesses that have chosen to outsource their accounting functions instead of hiring accountants in-house. Likewise, you can become the shared services provider for larger enterprises that have decided to centralize the administrative and support functions of all their branches and subsidiaries.

  1. Financial Services

Going into the financial services sector means working in personal and private banking or joining an insurance company, an investment firm, or some other financial institution or organization. Accountants in the financial services sector can fulfill many roles, including internal audit and compliance roles.

  1. Corporate

Corporate accountants work for business organizations. You can be the all-around accountant of a small company or one of the members of an accounting department in a medium-sized or large enterprise. As an accounting professional in the corporate setting, your role is to prepare the financial reports and statements that the company leadership needs to make business decisions.

As a corporate accountant, you may be part of the company’s internal compliance and risk assurance function. You may also be involved in the day-to-day tasks of maintaining the company’s books, recording and collecting financial data, and preparing the company payroll.

Going Into Public Practice

Public practice is interesting. Since you’ll be acting as a third-party service provider for individuals, governments, corporations, and other organizations, you may encounter different scenarios and apply your accounting knowledge and accountancy skills to resolve practical issues.

You may need a degree in accounting or finance complemented by a professional qualification like ACCA. Career progression in public practice depends on performance, opportunities for advancement, and the ability to demonstrate your value, especially when aiming for a partnership role.

Going into public practice usually means focusing on audit, tax, and advisory functions.

  1. Audit

Public practice in audit involves a thorough examination of a client company’s financial statements. You will review statements and reports to ensure they accurately reflect the company’s financial position without significant errors or misrepresentations.

As an auditor, you must adhere to Generally Accepted Auditing Standards (GAAS) when performing your tasks. You must meticulously plan and execute an audit to ensure compliance with the profession’s ethical requirements.

Your goal is to provide assurance that a company’s statements are free from material misstatements due to fraud or accounting mistakes. To accomplish this, you will implement appropriate audit procedures that you will select based on your judgment and risk assessment.

While auditing a company, you must focus on understanding the business and its operations, internal controls, and financial risks. This will shape your plan and help pinpoint the areas that require your focus and closer inspection.

As an auditor, you will also evaluate the company’s accounting policies. Given what you know about the business and based on your accounting knowledge, you will decide if the accounting policies are appropriate and assess whether the accounting estimates provided are reasonable.

However, it’s not your job to comment on the effectiveness of a company’s internal controls. Instead, your goal is to determine how these controls impact financial reporting.

  1. Tax

In tax consultancy, you will focus on helping businesses, individuals, and organizations prepare their tax statements. You have two goals:

  • Ensure your client company submits its tax returns in time so it will not incur penalties
  • Use taxation strategically to maximize value and minimize cost (i.e., increase tax savings and reduce tax liabilities)

You will not do your work only during tax-filing season, although that will remain your busiest time of the year. More importantly, you are integral to business transactions. With sufficient experience and expertise, you can offer expert taxation-related guidance in mergers, acquisitions, expansion, and establishing new operations.

Your role as an expert tax consultant is to help your clients navigate the complex tax implications of these business activities. You will ensure that your clients make informed decisions that are both financially sound and tax-compliant.

As a tax consultant, you must stay abreast of constantly evolving tax legislation in your country and overseas, especially in the regions and countries in which your clients operate. You must have advanced analytical skills to identify tax savings opportunities and advise clients on the most effective legal structures and business models that can minimize their liabilities.

  1. Advisory

As an accounting professional in public practice, you may be called on to provide advisory services to clients. Advisory encompasses a broad spectrum of consultative roles.

Small and medium-sized firms often provide general advisory services, including audit and tax. However, larger firms often have distinct tax, audit and business advisory arms, with the latter specializing in non-tax and non-audit advisory services, including the following:

  • Financial planning and analysis: Assisting clients with budgeting, forecasting, and financial analysis
  • Business valuation: Helping clients determine the value of a business for the purposes of a sale, an acquisition, or a merger
  • Financial restructuring: Providing capital or operational restructuring guidance to improve profitability and efficiency
  • Risk management: Helping businesses identify, manage, and mitigate financial risks, including those related to currency, interest rate, and credit
  • Transaction services: Providing due diligence services and post-merger integration support.
  • Management consulting: Providing strategic and management guidance to improve business performance and operational processes
  • Corporate finance advisory: Helping organizations raise capital, finance debts, and liaise with investors
  • Forensic accounting: Offering services related to financial disputes, fraud investigations, and litigation support

Accountancy: A Career With Many Paths

Are you undecided about your future career path? Consider ACCA courses and embark on a career in accountancy.

Many paths await a professional accountant, including the financial services, corporate, shared services and outsourcing, and public practice. If you choose public practice, you can specialize in audit, tax, and business advisory.