What do I need to know about choosing a career as an accountant? (First published by me on Quora)

You need to know that accountancy is a big field, with lots of specialisations. In this regard it is like law or medicine and the qualifications available are in some cases no less hard to achieve than in those professions. Some roles and qualifications are relatively easy and don’t require university level studies, like bought ledger clerk in a business with few products and suppliers. In between someone happy in a bought ledger job in a modest business on the one hand to someone who is in charge of forensic investigations in a large international network of Firms on the other there is a huge gulf in terms of the mental challenges involved and the skill sets that have to be developed.

Some roles need very little verbal or presentation skills, others need excellent draftsmanship, precise use of language in addition to mastery of figures, and some roles can require or at least benefit from foreign languages to be spoken and I have lost count of how many I have needed to use in the course of my work. Some roles need little more maths than +/-* and some need you to be able to run Black Scholes or even delve into the arcane realms of industrial mathematics, which I personally would not last five minutes in. Some roles are in public practice, some inside companies. Some roles are forward-looking and involve planning, budgeting, while some are concerned with examining and reporting facts that have already happened. Some roles are static at one desk in one place, while at the other extreme there are roles demand that you practically live out of a suitcase. Accountancy has taken me to more than thirty countries, to well over thirty branches of the economy, to understand as few other than insiders ever can. In some roles you might manage a team of dozens of people, in others you might be practically a lone player. I think this is probably more varied than what you get in many other professions, and it should be attractive to various people to look at this profession, especially at the stage in your career when you don’t want to box your options.

Therefore, I don’t agree with some of your other respondents that the profession per se is boring – anything but! However, for sure there are boring roles and there are definitely boring approaches by boring people to roles which could be fun and interesting. And one man’s boring is another man’s “fascinating, Captain”.

Lion-taming it may not be, but if you have ever had to do due-diligence on an Eastern business only to find out who controls it, and still walk out without being sent to the taiga, just, then you might be as happy with lions,

The immunity from recession, the job security and high salary guarantees we used to talk about are sadly a thing of the past, maybe hopefully also a thing of the not too distant future again as we do have a slight uptick going on right now, but in any event it will put bread on the table, give you a useful skill and assist your overall understanding and analysis of business even if you learn some of it and then move into a totally different business role. And in the end there is the self-respect and the respect accorded from others because in addition to being a player in business, you are a member of a profession and adhering to the high professional standards of ethics and competence which go hand in hand with that.

Your thoughts welcome, by all mean reply also to other community members!