Will accounting be completely automated using artificial intelligence? And will this spell its end as a sensible career choice for school pupils? Not at all, assures Professor Rashied Small, Executive: Thought Leadership and Faith Ngwenya, Technical Executive, both from the South African Institute of Professional Accountants (SAIPA).
According to Ngwenya, AI will definitely take mundane, repetitive work away from accountants and free them to tackle the more exciting parts of their job. “AI is good at performing tasks that don’t change much and even improves on them,” she says. “But when it comes to managing a turbulent business environment, nothing can compete with human intuition.” So what can pupils expect if they pursue a career as a future-ready Professional Accountant?
“Professional Accountants are well positioned to serve as strategic business advisors because, of all the management functions, only they are exposed to the full body of business data,” says Professor Small.
Accountants will soon move their attention from ledgers and journals to people and problems. Their new skills will include creativity, communication, presentation and collaboration, to better help their employers or clients solve complex business problems and develop smart solutions. They’ll also use new technologies, like AI and data analytics, to enhance their services.
Accountants also make good entrepreneurs because they understand business and how money flows through it, and, as consultants, they play a key role in economic development, performing equally well in any sector.
The accounting career
Technology will help accountants achieve a better work-life balance - the days of working nights over year end will soon be a thing of the past. As a career, accounting offers a very respectable income and affords practitioners a wide range of career opportunities, such as becoming a CFO or financial director, starting their own practice, or providing tax consulting services.
How to become an accountant
An important part of becoming an accountant is obtaining a professional designation, like SAIPA’s Professional Accountant (SA), because it proves one’s competence to prospective employers and clients. That means following the Institute’s prescribed study path, which requires a pass in high school accounting and maths, and completing three years of practical training after graduating. After that, if you pass its written Professional Evaluation exam, you’ll be granted membership in the Institute and awarded the title of Professional Accountant (SA).
Who is SAIPA?
With over 12,000 members, SAIPA is South Africa’s largest professional body representing accountants who do not perform auditing. The Institute is a full member of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) and a founding member of the Pan African Federation of Accountants (PAFA).
While interest in accounting at schools has dropped over the last decade, the demand for competent accountants in business and government has not. “As a leading institution of Professional Accountants, we want to ensure there are enough to serve the economy in the future. So we encourage those pupils with an aptitude for numbers and business to consider this career path,” says Professor Small.
School pupils are invited to contact SAIPA’s head office for advice on becoming a Professional Accountant.
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