My World

Accountants eat their own

I know, it's a pretty controversial title but please bear with me and you will see what I mean. In the previous post re:  ‘The Records Management Professional’ I talked about leaving one job to “follow what I do have formal qualifications in”.  You see, I hold postgraduate qualifications in Accounting.  I left the job at a regional council to chase what I thought was a good opportunity to gain practical skills in Accounting.  I took up a position with a small taxation service in the same little town.  At the time, the local business was going through some changes with one of the partners who was also the office manager retiring.  At first, everything seemed okay, it was a very small operation – very local in its approach with me in virtually my own office space. 


The principal remained but seemed a little overwhelmed at running the office as well as the practical accounting.  I was hired as a fresh graduate of accounting, there was a bit of a gap between graduation and taking up the role. I had broad experience in administration, records management and some other accounts-related roles. The principal knew that, however it soon became apparent that their expectations were for a far higher stream in experience and knowledge.  The business had no formal review process, only a casual – “I noticed you did this…” “you were meant to do that…”  This was often said long after the event.    Two weeks before the end of my probationary period, they bought in a consultant friend who finally put in review sheets on each case and this gave me some understanding of my mistakes and some more immediate feedback.   Though here too, it wasn’t always necessarily clear as I would follow instructions given on the review sheets only to have the person reviewing change their mind on small matters of process. This person apparently had 20 years of experience in the industry in various capacities.  Obviously this then reflected on my billable hours and timesheet to my further detriment. 


To Accountants the issue of ‘billable hours’ is very important.  They work out billing issues in 6-minute blocks.  Time is of the essence in the industry especially when the per hourly rate that you get as an employee is much lower than that which is billed to the client.  In fact, it was explained to me as the ‘one-third’ rule… One third is for the employee, one-third for admin and expenses and one third is profit.  This is why as a Graduate you start off quite low in the pay scale and you often work more hours than officially charging just to get the work done.  It is only when fully qualified i.e certified by the professional association and either running your own business or as partner in a firm can you earn the so-called ‘big bucks’.  You can then charge whatever you think is right and/or the price the market is willing to pay. 


At the end of my probationary period, we came to a mutual understanding that I wasn’t right for this particular business.  So, it seemed that my 2 years of full-time postgraduate study was wasted… They told me I didn’t have a passion for the industry.  Seriously, who REALLY has ‘passion’ for tax accounting??? Very few would have in my opinion. Early on in my time with this firm, I was sent on a short training course for BAS/IAS processing but following my return to the house of business I was rarely given any actual activity statements to process.  Accounting, I was told is a ‘transferable’ set of skills and this is what I wanted to learn.  Since leaving this role, I have had to figure out some new directions career-wise and it has left gaps in my employment… my path is still not clear and it has left me a bit ‘once bitten, twice shy’ about the industry… see ‘Woe to be a Jobhopper’…


I would like to say that the postgrad study wasn’t a total waste as it was where I met my loving partner/fiancé.  It was, however, a big financial cost doing the course and to not be in the industry seems like one heck of a waste.  Prior to studying accounting, I had done a certificate in business administration (see ‘lie of life-long learning’) and I was marked at 95% for accounting studies.  That was years prior though but it is part of what made me study accounting further.  I did struggle a lot with accounting theory during my tertiary program but I completed the course and graduated. I had even completed a refresher course in bookkeeping to trial balance and a basic course in MYOB as they don’t really teach these things at university level. While studying I realised that there is soo much more time and cost involved in becoming an accountant. 


It is not just doing the degree but to call yourself an Accountant you have to join a professional association such as CPA or CA and that costs just to join.  Then you have to undergo further study as these associations do not consider the degree to be enough.  The degree is simply part of the entry requirements to become an ‘associate member’.  To become a ‘full member’, you virtually have to do another degree while working full-time in the industry under supervision.  Of course, while you are under supervision, you earn a training wage which is much less than the average wage.  You are on these wages for several years going from Graduate to Intermediate to Senior.  At least there is some progress there I guess.  I suppose you could see it as an apprenticeship though I don’t know any trade apprentices who do a full-time course at university before they enter their standard four-year apprenticeship?  Professions are different, of course.  I know Law is a longer university course but then you work and become qualified by passing an exam.  Engineers do not have to do another full course after they have already done one, they qualify with practical experience.  Law and Engineering have professional associations too.


The professional association courses do not come cheap, neither are the study materials and the prices are always rising… As is usual practice, now paying more for less, but I guess that’s to be expected… see ‘why Australia is a rip-off country’.  Now, I hear some firms are talking about ‘offshoring’ their basic accounting services to India and the Philippines.  If that’s the case, how do they expect fresh graduates to learn the trade here? It’s going the way of all things here. So, call centres, manufacturing, banking operations, troubleshooting and now accounting services outsourced, what’s next??  What will be left in the Australian job market? 


I guess there must be a bunch of management accountants and business consultants wringing their hands with glee and laughing all the way to the bank?  Oh hang on, they’ve offshored the jobs in that industry too… Oops!!  Heres an idea.. How about we just outsource the managers and consultants jobs instead? They’re the ones who really cost business a lot and I’m pretty sure the countries mentioned would do those jobs cheaper too.  Nah, they’d never do that…would they? Management, like politicians, would rarely ever reduce their own salaries for the good of the business but they don’t seem to worry about the employees at the bottom, the ones who are struggling to earn and learn.  Hmmm.. what will I talk about next?? Stay Tuned.

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Latest comments

10.03 | 19:15

I have stood by and watched a with concern and love. I admire the way you have handled yourself and the situation. My love with you. In admiration. Fly

10.03 | 14:07

Well, come back the TOG you old git. We will love you unconditionally there.

Seriously though, this is a good post. I am sorry for your pain mate.

10.03 | 12:26

Spread your wings you dodo, you might be able to fly.

24.06 | 14:03

It's becoming increasingly important for businesses these days. Larger businesses are even employing specialists to run social media campaigns

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