How To Become an Accountant In Australia: A Complete Guide

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Students want to know how they can become accountants in Australia, including how long it takes.


Accounting is one of Australia's rapidly growing occupations. Still, there is much more to accounting than crunching numbers or learning your way around bookkeeping.


You must achieve a specific qualification and experience to be a certified accountant in Australia. You can enter a CA (Chartered Accountant) or CPA (Certified Practising Accountant) Program after completing your accounting studies and gaining relevant experience.


As an accountant, you can provide valuable services to different businesses regarding accounting and financial operations. Additionally, you will assist individuals with taxation, compliance requirements, or financial record keeping.


This blog will teach you how to become an accountant in Australia, how long it takes, qualifications, skills and subjects needed, what they do, courses, salary, and more.



1. What Does an Accountant Do?


Accountants are financial experts who help businesses or individuals with their accounts. They indulge in various tasks, including reporting and reviewing financial records, preparing tax returns, and other relevant paperwork. 


Besides, accountants not only perform regular financial activities, but they also serve as strategic consultants to help businesses become more profitable. As trusted professionals, accountants act per the highest ethical and professional standards.


A fundamental principle is that the accountant should be impartial and not allow others' undue influence, conflicts of interest, and bias to overrule business or professional judgments. 


Additionally, accountants must practise proper diligence and professional competence, advising their clients correctly, even when they have not sought guidance.



2. Major Tasks and Duties of an Accountant


  • Examine the expenditure and income of institutions.

  • Assist with the formulation of accounting and budgetary policies.

  • Be sensitive to language and cultural influences.

  • Maintain internal control systems.

  • Appraise financial risk and cash flow of investment projects.

  • Provide taxation and financial advice about business plans, structures, and operations.

  • Prepare financial statements and present them to management, the board of directors, management, shareholders, and statutory and governing bodies.

  • Prepare taxation returns for organisations and individuals.

  • Introduce and maintain accounting systems.

  • Advise on the application and selection of computer-based accounting systems.

  • Form a liaison with brokers and bankers to establish arrangements for handling funds.

  • Undertake audits, carry out financial investigations, and prepare advice and reports on matters such as the sale and purchase of businesses, insolvency, financing, taxation, and suspected fraud.

  • Assure the accuracy and authenticity of details found in financial reports per statutory requirements.


Note: Generally, accounting is suitable for highly organised people who are good with numbers. Since accountants have to interact and deal with a lot of people, they must be able to communicate clearly and connect with others.



3. What Are The Qualification Requirements For Accountants In Australia?


To qualify for entry into any of the three professional bodies that accredit and regulate the accounting industry in Australia, you require a bachelor's degree in accounting


A bachelor's degree consists of three-year courses available to anyone above 17 years old who finished year 12 with an appropriate UAI (Universities Admission Index). 


Here are a few educational requirements you need to fulfil to become an accountant in Australia:


  • Pursue a bachelor's degree in accounting, which may include a Bachelor of Accounting and Finance or a Bachelor of Accounting.


  • Alternatively, graduate with a Master's degree. You can pursue a Master of Professional Accounting, a two-year degree for students with prior tertiary qualifications.




4. Pathways To Become an Accountant In Australia


To become an accountant in Australia, you must know the profession, familiarise yourself with the industry, and gain more information about what you will be doing in the role. 


If you are not ready yet to pursue a bachelor's degree in accounting, you can take the following paths:



Path 1: Certificate IV in Accounting


The Certificate IV in Accounting will allow you to apply fundamental accounting principles to your role as an accountant. This further helps you prepare financial reports and high-level budgets and monitor ledgers. 


You can also learn how to perform activities related to business activity statements and even learn different other transferable skills like preparing business presentations and documents and maintaining a payroll system.


This qualification will prepare you for the role of Accounting Support Officer or a Bookkeeper and is an excellent first step to becoming an accountant in Australia.



Path 2: Certificate IV in Bookkeeping


The Certificate IV in Bookkeeping qualification provides you with a strong foundation of knowledge in fundamental business financials and financial record keeping. This qualification is best for those looking to start a small business and enter an accounting profession.


Under this qualification, courses primarily focus on preparing interim reports and financial statements, payroll and accounting systems, and ensuring that you use the best practices relevant to bookkeeping methods.



Path 3: Diploma of Accounting


The diploma of accounting courses is way more advanced and comprehensive than the Certificate IV level courses. You will gain higher-level skills, learn how to provide financial or business performance information, manage budgets, and prepare tax documents and financial forecasts.


A Diploma in Accounting is an excellent step towards having a successful accounting career. It will offer you the right qualifications to undertake a supervisory role in the finance sector or become an assistant accountant.



5. Employment Opportunities For Accountants in Australia


You will work in diverse environments as an accountant, including retail outlets, accountancy firms, finance companies, sporting organisations, real estate firms, government organisations, taxation consultancies, banks and building societies, and community service organisations.


Most often, accountants are self-employed or work in partnership with other accountants. Here are a few accounting roles that you can consider:



You can work in-house as a large organisation's CFO (Chief Financial Officer)Working as a CFO will enable you to dig deeper into the organisation's accounts and make everyday decisions that will positively impact the bottom line. 


Furthermore, you can go for compliance and auditor roles, which will allow you to gain a technical understanding of the legislation to ensure that other firms are fully compliant. You need great attention to detail and quick business knowledge to succeed in these roles. 


After you have been in the industry for a while, you can choose an advisory role as an accounting career path in Australia. It will enable you to learn what businesses do and how they expand, further allowing you to provide advice on the same subject.  


You can grab other opportunities, like stockbrokingbanking, management consulting, and more — endless possibilities. All in all, accountancy provides high job security and several employment prospects. 



6. Skills Required To Become an Accountant In Australia


Accountants have a diverse and complex role to play and thus need a broad range of skills to perform their everyday duties. Here are a few skills required to become a successful accountant in Australia:


  • Communication Skills: It is essential to have good communication skills if you want a successful career in accounting. While working as an accountant, you might be required to communicate with third parties, other people in your team, and sometimes government agencies.


  • Critical Analysis and Problem Solving: Accountants need to attain the ability to analyse or evaluate a series of numbers or a situation and come to a valid conclusion. Once you are working as an accountant, you will have a better chance of getting a promotion if you can utilise your accounting skills to solve business issues.


  • Organisational Skills: Having sold organisational skills can be a great benefit throughout your profession as an accountant. In a short time, you would have to generate quick responses to complex requests and deal with competing demands on limited resources. Always staying ahead will ensure you make fewer mistakes in your job and lead a stress-free life.


  • Presentation Skills: If you want to become an accountant, developing your Microsoft Excel Skills is a great start. In most accounting positions, you must use a financial analytics program or database. Learning everything about Microsoft Excel will provide a solid base to understand the different types of interlinking information formulas and data you will encounter working. 


  • Furthermore, you might have to present findings or financial reports to your superiors. Learning or getting familiar with different presentation tools, like Powerpoint, will help you become a successful accountant.


  • Ethics: Accountants cannot deliberately violate the law, even if their employer asks them to do so. Your loyalty as an accountant is not entirely towards the company but to society as well. Hence, you must perform reporting and all the other work ethically. This is the first thing you will learn when you train to become an accountant.


  • Discretion: As an account, you will find yourself bound with plenty of confidential information. For most accountants, practically everything they work on is confidential to a certain extent.


  • Your company will trust you with almost all valuable information, and you must ensure that the data will always remain protected. If you are an individual who shares every little detail about their day-to-day work with others, this might not be the right job for you.


  • Teamwork: In almost every mid to large corporation, accountants work with a team. Therefore, getting along well with your colleagues is crucial without causing significant issues. This will further determine how long you will last in any position.




7. How Long Does It Take To Become an Accountant In Australia?


For most accounting jobs, you need a bachelor's degree, which generally takes around four years to complete. Once you graduate, you can directly apply for entry-level positions, such as tax staff, staff accountant, or junior internal auditor. 


After obtaining a few years of experience in your job, you can focus on getting entry into a CPA Australia Program.


Once you have completed the CPA Program with enough experience within six years, you can advance to senior roles in your specialisation and then move on to managerial positions.



8. How Much Does A CPA-Qualified Accountant Earn in Australia?


In Australia, an accountant earns an average salary of around AUD 90,000. The average accountant salary in Australia can reach AUD 100,000, and the minimum average accountant salary falls under AUD 80,000. Accountancy may not be the highest-paid job in the industry, but it pays well.


Being a well-paid career choice, most accountants in Australia are never out of work. With a 16% increase in accounting positions from 2015 to 2026, the job market for accountants in Australia is growing way above the average rate.


According to PayScale, the average salary for a Certified Public Accountant in Australia is AU$ 77,664 in 2023. Your experience and work location determine your salary in this profession.



Salary Based on Experience


  • Entry-level (< less than 1-year experience): AU$58,244 per year 

  • Early career (1-4 years of experience): AU$63,444 per year 

  • Mid-career (5-9 years of experience): AU$76,517 per year 

  • Experienced (10-19 years of experience): AU$84,788 per year

  • In their late career (20 years and above): AU$90,154 per year



Highest Paying Cities For CPA in Australia


  • Sydney: AU$150,293 per year

  • Melbourne: AU$142,065 per year

  • Geelong West: AU$118,727 per year

  • Gold Coast: AU$111,619 per year

  • Brisbane: AU$99,282 per year



9. Career Pathways For An Accountant In Australia


Almost every public sector unit, business, or not-for-profit organisation needs accountancy services at some stage. Graduating from an accountancy program opens the door to work in private, public, or third-sector organisations in a wide variety of areas, such as:



Opportunities are also available to set up your accountancy business in Australia.



10. Job Outlook Of Accountants In Australia


Accountants (ANZSCO Code: 221111)


"Accountant" is an in-demand profession with a robust future growth rate of 9.2% in Australia. The government projects the number of workers to rise from 194,900 in 2021 to 212,800 in 2026.



Working Arrangements


Around 80% of employed Accountants work full-time for an average of 43 hours per week.



Main Industries of Employment


Around half of the workers work in Professional, Scientific, And Technical Services. Other areas of employment include:


  • Financial And Insurance Services

  • Public Administration And Safety

  • Manufacturing



Employment Percentage Across Australia


New South Wales has a significant employment share for its population.


  • New South Wales: 38.7%

  • Victoria: 27.2%

  • Queensland: 15.2%

  • South Australia: 5.4%

  • Western Australia: 9.9%

  • Tasmania: 1.2%

  • Northern Territory: 0.5%

  • Australian Capital Territory: 1.9%



Worker's Age and Gender Profile


The average age of Accountants in Australia is 38 years, with most between 25 to 34 years. Females constitute 52% of the workforce, four percentage points above the average of all jobs, i.e., 48%.



11. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)



Can You Become an Accountant Without a Degree in Australia?


You usually don't need a formal qualification in accounting to work in this role.


However, you need a relevant qualification to register with the professional bodies that regulate the Australian accounting industry, such as the CPA, IPA, and ICAA.


You will need a bachelor's degree in accounting to register with the ICAA and CPA or a diploma in accounting to register with the IPA.



How Do I Become a CPA Accountant in Australia?


CPA Australia welcomes applicants with varied educational backgrounds to become certified Certified Practicing Accountants.


Depending on your academic background, CPA Australia offers flexible pathways that may include foundation examinations, the CPA Program subjects, and an experience component to qualify for this role.



Pathway 1:


Most CPA Program candidates follow a conventional entry route, such as completing an accredited accounting degree and taking a CPA exam.


Pathway 2:


Candidates with a degree in a related subject can undertake foundation exams to gain the desired background and showcase the professional competencies required to start the CPA Program.



Highlights of a CPA program:


  • Flexible

  • Self-paced

  • On-demand (Candidates can choose their preferred time and place to take the exam.

  • Worldwide exam locations 

  • Exams conducted twice a year - May and October

  • Written and MCQ

  • Open book exam

  • Avail of high-level support for exam preparation

  • Access professional resources via e-learning platforms

  • Only six papers are to be completed (four compulsory and two electives)



Compulsory Subjects:


  • Strategic Management Accounting

  • Ethics and Governance

  • Global Strategy and Leadership

  • Financial Reporting



Electives [Choose any two electives]:


  • Risk Advice and Insurance

  • Financial Planning Fundamentals

  • Advanced Audit and Assurance

  • Financial Risk Management

  • Advanced Taxation

  • Contemporary Business Issues

  • Investment Strategies


Besides the studies, you also need three years of relevant practical experience.



Steps To Becoming a CPA Accountant:


To begin your journey in the CPA Program, the first step is the membership assessment, during which you will provide information about your previous educational background.


Step 1: Create an account with CPA Australia and log in to the account.


Step 2: Next, complete an online membership application at this link and provide details about your completion certificate, syllabus, letter of completion, and academic transcript for all years of study.


Step 3: Upload digital documents. The next step in the membership process is to upload digital copies of your original documents for verification.


Step 4: Pay the fee


New Members Fee (AUD)
Application fee (2023) $200
Application review fee $100
First-year membership: Associate (full year) $355
First-year membership: CPA or FCPA (full year) $790
First-year membership: Associate (half year) $177.50
First-year membership: CPA or FCPA (half year) $395


Renewing Memberships Fee 2023 (AUD)
Associate $355   
Associate (on total rate) $790   
CPA or FCPA $790   
Retired $158   
Reduced (on application only) $395   
Late fee: Applies to payments received after 2 February (not applicable to retired or reduced membership) $50   
Public Practice Certificate $505   
Limited Practice Certificate $120   



Step 5: Once you complete the above steps, you become a member of CPA  Australia. You are eligible to sit the CPA Exam. On passing the exam, you become a Certified Practising Accountant.



What is The Pass Mark For CPA Australia?


CPA Australia uses a scaled score model to evaluate examinations. The CPA Program evaluation scale has a range of 100 to 900, where:


  • 100 - no correct answers

  • 540 - a "Passing" scaled score

  • 900 – all correct answers



How Much Does It Cost To Do CPA in Australia?


Along with the CPA program fee, you will also incur a membership fee, as you need to be a member of CPA Australia to complete the CPA program.


Refer to the above table for the Membership charges for new and current members.



CPA Program Fee:


Fee 2023 (AUD)
Subject Enrolment (Early Bird) $1260
Subject Enrolment $1420
Standard Exam Deferral $360
Late Exam Deferral $485
Study Guide Replacement $100


Fee 2023 (AUD)   
Exam Enrolment $580
Extension Fee (per month to a maximum of six months) $75
Change exam appointment between 24 to 72 hours before the scheduled exam appointment $44
Late Exam Deferral $485
Study Guide Replacement $100


Note: The above fee figures are subject to change as the organisation reviews the fee each year.



Is Becoming a CPA Worth It in Australia?


Yes. CPA is a globally-recognised accounting designation that helps you stand out in your accounting and finance career.


Becoming a CPA is a highly valued mark of professional competence. It shows your extensive depth and quality of knowledge in the finance and accounting field.


The CPA Program integrates globally relevant education and experience. It helps students understand organisations' dynamic issues, develop strategies to solve them and realise their financial goals.


More than an education program, it is a continuous commitment to professional standards and constant development.



How Many CPAs Are There in Australia?


According to Labour Market Insights, are 198,800 accountants employed in Australia as of 2023.



What is The Lowest Salary of a CPA?


According to PayScale, the lowest pay for a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is A$58k / year.



What is The Lowest-Paid CPA?


Entry-level CPA roles may receive less than the average salary in this role.


Per the PayScale data, Entry-level CPAs with less than one year of experience can expect to earn an average compensation of AU$58,244 per year.



What ATAR Score is Needed For Accounting?


The ATAR requirements for accountancy courses usually vary between universities.


Below are the minimum ATAR scores required by renowned Australian universities to determine your eligibility for specific courses in Australia:




Is a Bachelor of Accounting Hard?


Many students find studying for a Bachelor of Accounting course in business school complicated. A demanding curriculum, challenging classes, and little spare time are the main reasons behind it.


The course involves several accounting concepts and financial principles and regulations. Mastering them is essential to learn how to create, maintain, and analyse a business's finances and make it compliant and profitable with the law.


However, students with proficiency in mathematics, who attend regular classes, pay close attention, and keep up with their studies, can adapt to the curriculum easily.



What Subjects Are Needed To Become an Accountant in Australia?


Most universities require students to have sound knowledge of mathematics and English before applying for accountancy courses in Australia.



What is The Difference Between a CPA and a CA?


Chartered Accountants and Certified Practicing Accountants are highly qualified professionals who provide various financial services.


However, they differ based on the mode of qualification, area of work, and area of employment.



Governing Body and the Area of Study:


To achieve the CPA (Certified Public Accountant) designation, you must possess an accounting degree or a degree in a relevant field, along with a professional qualification or completion of the CPA program offered by "CPA Australia."

On the other hand, to become a CA, you require an accounting degree and completing a CA training program offered by "Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand." Trained graduates must undertake 3-years of mentored practice to work in this profession.


Furthermore, CA exams are more educational and challenging, with a lower passing rate than a CPA exam.



Area of Practice


While a Chartered Accountant focuses on the technical aspects of accounting and handles complex tax issues, a Certified Practicing Accountant studies general business accounting processes and management practices holistically.


They may offer advice concerning business planning, marketing, etc.



Area of Employment


Based on their qualification, CPAs are usually considered accounting specialists and expert financial advisers and work in all types of businesses, from start-up firms to enterprise-level global corporations.


On the other hand, Chartered Accountants specialise in technical accounting matters and tax and work in larger companies or groups.



How to Become an Accountant in Victoria?


Victoria University, the University of Melbourne, and RMIT University are the top universities in Melbourne that offer accountancy degrees.


Consider studying for a bachelor's degree in accounting, a bachelor in business (accounting), or a bachelor of commerce(accounting).


These qualifications give you the basic accounting knowledge, professional accreditation in accounting, and tools and insight to prepare for an accountant career in Australia.


Some of the good study options include the following:


  • Bachelor of Accounting – Victoria University

  • Bachelor of Accounting – RMIT University

  • Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting) – The University of Melbourne

  • Bachelor of Business (Accounting)- Holmesglen University



How To Become an Accountant in NSW?


Your preferred degree options to become an accounting in NSW include:


  • Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting)- The University of Sydney

  • Bachelor of Accounting - UTS

  • Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting)/Bachelor of Economics (Accounting) - UNSW

  • Bachelor of Accounting- Western Sydney University



All the above qualifications are professionally accredited by IPA, CPA, and the ICAA.



Is CPA Australia a Diploma?


No. CPA Australia is a semester-based, online distance-learning program that consists of three major components:


  • CPA Program Subjects

  • Your degree

  • Your Experience Requirement


To complete the CPA Program, you must possess a degree equivalent to an Australian Bachelor's degree level or a minimum of 8 standard units (1-year full time) Australian Master's degree level.



How Long is a CPA Course in Australia?


It takes a minimum of 1 year to a maximum of 6 years to complete the CPA program.


The program runs semester-wise with two semesters per year. It consists of 4 compulsory subjects and two electives. Students can enrol in up to three subjects in each semester, with each subject requiring 10 to 15 hours of study per week.


Besides the study-based component of the CPA Program, you also require completing 36 months of relevant experience. You can accrue 36 months of experience before, during, and the following six years from starting the CPA Program.


Thus, the CPA program duration depends on the number of subjects you enrol in each semester based on your learning capacity.



How To Become an Accountant in Australia for International Students?



To Become an Accountant:


Several Australian universities offer accountancy courses for international students, like the Bachelor of Accounting (International Students) – at Swinburne Institute of Technology.


However, you need to meet specific prerequisites before applying for the course:


1. Qualification Requirements – You must hold an Australian Year 12 or equivalent international qualification.


2. English Language Requirements - Overall IELTS band of 6.0 (Academic Module) with no individual band < 6.0


3. Visa Requirements - Overseas students in Australia must have a "student visa" to study a full-time accountancy degree course on the university campus.



To Become a CPA:


Overseas students with a bachelor's degree in accountancy can complete an online semester-based CPA program offered by CPA Australia.


A relevant degree provides you with the basic knowledge and competencies to start CPA Program studies. Those without a degree can complete foundation exams to cover knowledge gaps before commencing the CPA Program.



Is CPA Considered a Chartered Accountant?


No. CPA is not equivalent to a CA as both qualifications involve different subjects leading to other practice areas.


  • CA training is more focused on public accounting and ethics. However, CPA emphasises more on the commercial aspects of accounting.


  • CA subjects provide in-depth knowledge of specific business finance areas, including specialised tax matters, compliance, financial analysis, and advisingOn the other hand, CPAs are considered generalists who focus on general business management and accounting practices and have a more comprehensive understanding of procedures, policies and best practices.


  • As CA requires specialised training and skills, it is a more prestigious qualification leading to more career opportunities, including promotion, than a CPA qualification.



Is CPA a Qualified Accountant?


Yes. CPAs are highly qualified general accountants in Australia. They hold a degree in accounting, business, or finance and have completed a demanding CPA program supervised by CPA Australia.


CPAs are regarded as accounting specialists and financial advisors, as they undergo training to identify businesses' financial issues and form strategies to realise their financial objectives.


They are qualified to support various business finance domains, including financial and business planning, product cost analysis, financial analysis, marketing, and general advising concerning business finance.


Thus, considering their expert accounting skills and knowledge, CPAs are sought at all business levels, from start-ups to multinational corporations.



What Is Harder, CPA or CA?


CA and CPA professions can be successful and enjoyable for individuals who like accounting and are skilled in their occupations.


Both accounting careers require rigorous educational preparation but differ based on the subjects/ courses involved. Your prior experience level in finance or a related field determines the complexity level of an accounting career.


CA students often learn about highly technical and specialised aspects of business accounting. They need to work for a CA firm, be mentored by CA members, etc. It often makes the qualification highly technical and exhausting.


On the contrary, CPA students learn about "general" business accounting procedures in a flexible and manageable CPA program. Furthermore, CA exams are considerably more complex than CPA exams easier.


Workwise, CAs often have to deal with intricate accounting procedures such as tax and auditing matters. Working as a CPA is relatively easier as they deal with various accounting topics for their organisation/ business.


Now that you know everything about becoming an accountant in Australia, you are ready to explore a career in Accounting. Education is a solid place to start, whether new to the field or keen to discover new opportunities.


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