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Should I get an Accountancy degree, or is a diploma enough in Singapore?

The path to becoming a successful accountant in Singapore is not necessarily a straightforward one. It’s a path that forks, winds and even climbs, but it is a path that leads to a rewarding, action-packed career. It’s up to you to decide how far down the path you want to go, and whether you’re willing to commit, if you choose, to go all the way.

In this post, we’ll take a look at the options you have along the way—whether you’ve already begun your journey and are thinking about going further, or figuring out whether this career path is the one for you.

Earning Your Diploma

Taking basic bookkeeping classes or short courses in accounting might be the first steps some take towards becoming a full-fledged accountant. Such classes would enable you to become acquainted with the fundamentals and perform simple tasks such as updating the books with payables and receivables, paying bills and issuing pay cheques.

But even if you can start working with the know-how you gain from short courses alone, there are decided advantages to earning a Diploma in Accountancy. You not only develop the skills you need, but you also gain an understanding of how each accounting task you perform fits into the operations of a business as a whole.

On top of Cost Accounting and Financial Accounting, you’ll also be learning Business Law, Economics, Principles of Management and other essentials for a solid grounding in accountancy. Such a foundation prepares you for further studies should you decide to continue along the accounting career path.

Nine months full or part-time is all it takes to formalise your accountancy education, and to make it that much easier for you to land an entry level job at a good-sized firm. These firms usually require potential candidates to at least have an accountancy diploma to work in invoicing or become a billing executive, or to work as an accounting assistant or accounts officer or executive.

Going For An Advanced Diploma

Now if you would like to move on from matching invoices, entering financial transactions into your firm’s records, or reconciling multiple bank accounts, you might consider building on the foundation you laid while working on your diploma. While the Advanced Diploma in Accountancy might seem similar to a diploma, closer inspection will show more in-depth fields of study.

To earn your advanced diploma, you will need to take up subjects that pertain to larger firms or corporations such as Audit and Assurance, Taxation, Performance Management, and Financial Markets and Institutions. Such subjects give you a better grasp of the role of accountancy in decision making as well as more complex topics such as risk analysis and internal control.

Like the diploma, you will only need nine months to significantly enhance your technical accounting knowledge, which in turn will qualify you for jobs such as finance analyst, business development executive, project accountant or assistant banker. In addition to general accounting tasks such as data entry and payment processing, you could also be performing tasks such as preparing monthly reports.

Because you could also be liaising with a firm’s business associates, it may be a good idea for you to supplement your advanced diploma with Chinese language studies or to acquire proof of Chinese language proficiency. It is also well to note that depending on the articulation arrangement or mapping you made beforehand, an advanced diploma may enable you to progress toward a full Bachelor’s Degree.

Completing Your Degree

Whether you decide to put in four years at the get-go or to top-up your advanced diploma in 12 months, completing your Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Accounting can be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. Not only will it take you so much further down the accounting career path, but it also opens up a range of exciting possibilities.

In completing your degree, you will now be tackling subjects such as Strategic Management,  Advanced Financial Management, Advanced Financial Reporting, and Auditing and Corporate Governance. These subjects arm you with the kind of insight that a firm’s finance director or treasurer needs to have into policy and practices such as investment and navigating regulatory environments.

That said, your bachelor’s degree paves the way for you toward a career not just as an accountant, but also as an internal or external auditor, product controller, or a finance, treasury or tax manager. Banks and multinationals also require a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the likes of their assistant vice presidents, senior and regional managers, and trade and structured finance analysts.

To give yourself an added employability advantage while you’re working on your degree, you might also go in for an internship which will provide invaluable real-world experience. Some firms do require their candidates for accounting positions to have work experience along with their academic qualifications.

Becoming Certified

If you are determined to go all the way as a career accountant, it is advisable to earn certifications from industry authorities such as the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants (ISCA), the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). As a globally recognised accounting qualification, ACCA certification is one of the most popular in Singapore.

ACCA certification holders can be found working in major banks such as UOB, DBS, HSBC and Credit Suisse, and the world’s “Big Four” accounting firms Deloitte, PwC, Ernst & Young, and KPMG. If working at a Big Four firm is your dream job, you might also want to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), a designation you can acquire abroad as well as locally. 

One of the most popular first certifications in Singapore, however, or the first certification many driven accountants go for is the Chartered Accountant of Singapore or CA (Singapore) designation from ISCA. Becoming a CA (Singapore) boosts your chances of becoming a CEO, CFO or Director, and gives you an even greater range of career options such as business valuation, corporate finance or financial advisory.

A bachelor’s degree in accounting with one or more certifications is a powerful combination that can both help you land a plum position and equip you with the skills you need to succeed in it. Many aspiring accountants work toward their certification after completing their degrees, taking about two to four years to become certified.

Following A Progression Pathway

Because the path to becoming a successful accountant has its twists and turns, following a structured programme can help make things clearer for you in terms of where you are and where you want to go. Referring to it can also help you plan in terms of the amount of time you’ll be spending on studying and earning your degrees and certifications.

The Progression Pathway for Accounting at EASB outlines how you might move up from a Diploma to an Advanced Diploma in Accountancy, and top up to a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Accounting. EASB’s BA (Hons) Accounting programme is offered in partnership with the  Cardiff Metropolitan University in the UK.

Established in 1865, Cardiff Met provides practice-focused and professionally oriented education to students worldwide, and boasts a 95% employability rateThe University’s partnership with EASB is its longest-standing overseas and plays a strategic role in its internationalisation strategy.  

Share this post with friends working on enhancing their accounting careers and help them on their way to success. Encourage them with a peek at our brochure on Slideshare, or point them towards our website for programme and registration details.  While an accounting career path may not be the easiest, following it through to the end can be a fulfilling experience and an achievement you can truly be proud of.

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