A career in accounting is not the same as a career in finance. As the two are often mistaken to be synonymous, students looking for careers in these two fields often tend to receive confusing advice and information. However related, the two are distinct fields.
An accounting professional monitors and manages the day-to-day finances within organisations. This professional profile involves a range of processes, like double-entry bookkeeping, drafting tax returns etc. On the other hand, finance professionals focus on the business side of numbers. Their job involves management of assets, investments and liabilities. A finance manager focuses more on whole capital markets, than independent units and organisations. His/her job involves taking strategic decision that involve with economics, banking, securities, investment portfolios etc.
Young professionals with a degree in accounting start their careers as junior accountants, tax accountants, inventory analyst, loan administrator etc. With experience and skills, they work as Finance Controller, Chief Financial Officer, Senior Tax Officer and Treasurer in the later stages of their career.
On the other hand, finance professionals with a degree in finance start their career as financial analysts, risk managers, investment officers and loan officers. With the right amount of experience and necessary skills, they get appointed as internal audit directors, investment bankers, senior financial analysts etc.
As it happens in other professions, entering the industry is not a guarantee card for success by itself. Professionals keep on upgrading their skill level with certifications that add value to their CV. While an MBA degree is a popular choice among professionals who aspire for senior management roles in both finance and accounting, there are also those who target specific certification in these fields to prove expertise.
For example, accounting professionals get certifications like CPA (Certified Public Accountant), CMA (Certified Management Accountant) and CIA (Certified Internal Auditor) among others. Whereas finance professionals often chose to study for certifications like CFP (Certified Financial Planner), CCP (Certified Credit Professional), etc.
The agencies that issue these certificates ensure that the qualifying candidate is an expert in the said subject. The qualifying exam for certification can be quite intense and challenging, therefore these certifications are held in high regard and even considered mandatory to practice certain aspects of the profession.
For example, the CPA certification in the United States is a mandatory for offering accounting services to the public. Only a qualified CPA can offer attestation and auditing opinions on financial statements in most American states. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants is the national professional body for CPAs in the US.
Aspiring professionals need to keep in mind that there is a significant expense involved in getting these certifications. Therefore, it is preferable to crack the exam in the first attempt itself. Many private individuals, experts and teaching centres offer preparatory lessons, like CPA review courses, to help candidates clear exams successfully. These programs are available both online and offline. Using latest teaching methods, they help students stay in course of preparation and also provide support reading materials.
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