Getting a Graduate Job in Accounting

If you think you’re fluent in the “language of businesses”, a.k.a. accounting, and are looking for a graduate job in the industry, here are some tips to get you started.
The gradsingapore Team

Regardless of the size of the company, accountants play a vital role in every business organisation. Accountants function in several settings – whether by working in firms that service external clients or by being part of the finance department of either a commercial or public sector organisation. 

A career in accountancy would suit you well if you’re keen on helping business organisations make sound economic decisions through monitoring and reporting a company’s finances. Accountants need to be adept at accumulating the necessary information for businesses to decide on how to effectively manage their finances and plan for the future.

On the other hand, a career in financial management would involve the strategic planning and management of a company’s funds to facilitate efficient operations. Essentially, you will be assisting the company direct the flow of its finances towards achieving the organisation’s objectives.

What skills do I need to work in accounting and financial management?

Besides numeracy and analytical skills, accountants also need to have excellent communication and interpersonal skills to effectively convey reports and act in the capacity of a business advisor. Additionally, having good time management and organisational skills will help you through busy peak periods.

Commercial awareness of the business will also give you a good point of reference when dealing with your clients. And as in all other jobs, being able to work in teams as well as possessing initiative and being motivated are coveted skills in the industry.

How do I get the job?

The most common path to becoming a qualified accountant is to apply for a graduate programme with an accountancy firm.  Public and private companies also recruit graduates for accountancy roles in their finance departments.

One of the most important criteria when choosing a programme or company is whether it offers you the opportunity to undertake courses that will help you qualify as a Chartered Accountant (CA) in Singapore. 

Several factors will affect your decision on which places to apply to; click here to find out more about whether joining one of the Big Four or an SME would be better for you.   

The application process

Depending on the firm, employers either use online application forms or request personalised CVs and cover letters for the preliminary selection process. If you successfully stand out, you will be invited for a first round of interview. 

At some stage in the process, you could be asked to complete various tests, such as general ability, numeric or verbal reasoning tests, aptitude tests and personality tests. Further interviews might follow as employers go through the process of sifting through potential candidates.

Many organisations accept applications all year round, but it’s always worth checking with individual employers – a few do specify early closing dates or advise early applications.

Also, before applying for a position in a firm, doing an internship would help you get a better idea of whether a career in accounting or financial management would play to your strengths.

What are the different areas of work?

There are a wide range of disciplines to choose from and within each area there are different roles on offer. Some firms might ask you to specify which area you’d like to pursue during the application process, while companies with graduate programmes might let you gain experience in different fields to have a better idea of what’s out there.

Here are some fields for your consideration:

  • Assurance
  • Commercial finance
  • Corporate finance
  • Corporate recovery
  • Corporate treasury
  • Financial accounting
  • Forensic accounting
  • Internal audit
  • Management accounting
  • Professional services IT
  • Public sector accounting
  • Risk assessment
  • Tax

What’s working life like?

In an accountancy firm, you can expect to spend a substantial amount of time out of the office visiting and auditing clients on-site. Working in finance departments in commercial or public companies would involve playing an integral role as part of the larger organisation. 

In both instances, there may be off-peak and peak periods – the latter would mean a heightened level of pressure during busier times such as financial quaterlies and closing of accounts at year ends. Such periods aside, however, accountants generally enjoy a reasonable work-life balance.