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Accounting Graduate Jobs and Programs in Singapore
The job of an accountant is to prepare, maintain and audit financial documents; measuring, recording and presenting the financial position and performance of a variety of businesses and organisations. The information prepared by accountants is then used by stakeholders and management to make decisions about and on behalf of the organisation.
What do you need to know to get a job in accounting?
Areas of Accounting Study
To become recognised as an accountant in Singapore, it is usually required to have either a tertiary degree with at least a major in accounting and/or to have completed the Singapore Qualification Program to become a Chartered Accountant after graduation. A prospective accountant needs a firm grasp of “the language of business”, and a working knowledge of all the main knowledge bases (such as financial accounting, management accounting, auditing, taxation and Singaporean law), as well as a more in-depth expertise in a specific area. The fundamental components of a Singaporean accountant’s knowledge are explored below:
- Financial Accounting
Financial accounting uses the records of a company’s financial transactions to prepare financial statements which can be presented to people outside the company, such as shareholders, lenders and other stakeholders. These statements are prepared in accordance with the accounting standards and generally accepted accounting principles. Stakeholders use the statements to inform their decisions regarding the company (e.g. whether or not to invest).
- Management Accounting
Management accounting, otherwise known as “cost accounting”, prepares historical and predictive financial and non-financial information to internal decision-makers within the company, in order to assist them in the organisation’s future development. They source information from all areas of the company, and have an active strategic role, “creating value” rather than simply reporting. Their job also involves performance evaluation and risk management.
Tax accounting involves working out how much a company earns in tax, preparing their tax returns and other related tax documents. A tax accountant may also work as an advisor, looking towards the company’s future, informing them of their rights, helping them to plan their finances and set themselves up for a successful future.
- Financial Auditing
Financial auditors have one of the most important roles of all in the profession, because their judgements are what stakeholders rely on before investing their money into a business. The auditor’s job is to examine the records and make a judgement that the information contained therein is a “true and fair” representation of the company’s position and performance across the financial period. Auditors act as trusted third-parties, and they are especially crucial in the share-trading markets, because publicly trading companies are required to make available their financial statements to all. The world’s largest financial auditing firms are the “Big Four” (Deloitte’s, PwC, EY and KPMG).
Getting some real-world experience in the field is a very important stage towards becoming a professional account. This is especially true if one is trying to get a graduate position with one of the “Big Four”, since the competition for these programs is especially fierce. Work experience can take many forms, from part-time work preparing financial statements for a small business, to volunteer work for a non-profit, to an internship or vacation program with a major firm.
Professional Membership and Chartered Accounting
Chartered accountancy is a common next step for graduates with a bachelor’s degree intending to become a professional accountant. The Singapore QP provides a professional program consisting of six modules – including four technical courses (financial reporting, taxation, assurance, and business governance & risk), an ethics & professionalism course, and course on “integrative business solutions”. It furthermore requires three years of work experience in the industry, under the eye of a mentor and within an “approved training organisation”. Chartered accountancy is increasingly important to an accountant’s career progression, since it indicates the accountant has gone beyond academic understanding of the discipline, but has also demonstrated professional competence.
Strong communication skills
It’s not enough to simply be able to obtain and prepare financial information – a skilled accountant must also be able to present the information in a way that is contextualised and understandable for the end-user. Unfortunately, a lot of accountants lack communication skills, thinking that the profession only requires numerical fluency. Actually, communication is a skill that sets accountants apart, especially when it comes to hiring. Employers look for people who are comfortable communicating verbally and in writing, and a confident attitude is also advantageous. If you are not confident with your communication skills, there are plenty of options available to improve. Examples include taking classes in writing and public speaking, or joining debating clubs.
Macroeconomic Trends and Accounting Graduate Work Prospects
The Singapore accounting industry is strong, with relatively good job prospects. Increasingly, small to medium businesses have been recognising the importance of accountants to their company’s success, becoming more active in their hiring practices. However the greatest hirers by far continue to be the Big Four, which together comprise 80% of the top 25 accounting firms in terms of employment. KPMG, PwC and EY employ more than 2000 people each, while Deloitte is not far behind. Outside the Big Four, RSM Chio Lim, Foo Kon Tan Grant Thornton and BDO are also very sizeable financial services firms. The last few years have seen significant growth in the industry, and it looks likely to continue, with the government’s “Committee to Develop the Accounting Sector” working towards making Singapore the accountancy hub for the Asia-Pacific region.
Accounting Salary Averages
Entry-level accounting salaries fall within the range of $21 000 to $60 000, with the average salary being $41 000. In addition, entry-level accountants may earn bonuses of up to $7 000 or even more, and some companies may also include profit-sharing in the reimbursement package. Entry-level auditors earn on average ~$35 000, but again the salaries may be increased by bonuses, and will also vary considerably depending on the size of the organisation hiring.
Most companies offer at least some benefits to employees – these often include financial bonuses, profit-sharing, mentoring, professional development and health insurance. Some companies make an effort to make the workplace environment as pleasant and enjoyable as possible, with exercise facilities, food and drink. While the “Big Four” are the most attractive to employees in terms of prestige, other companies may offer better compensation packages, and better quality of life for employees, so it’s worth looking into all options before making a decision about where you want to work.