Are you a person who enjoys being organised and pays attention to detail? Are numbers also your thing? Do you find that you’re not so interested in abstract algebraic numbers, but you enjoy the structured approach of numbers when working out your finances? If this sounds like you, have you thought about becoming an accountant?

Accountants are on the critical skills list for South Africa. Every business, big or small, needs at least one accountant, and often a team of accountants. All these businesses need to ensure that they record all their financials in a proper way. This means that there are always jobs available for accountants once their studies are completed. If you did Accounting at school and it was a subject that you felt secure in, then look no further. This may well be the career you’ve been looking for. You’ll earn a very good salary and will have the choice to work in a team or on your own as a consultant.

What is an Accountant?

As an accountant, you will work with a wide variety of financial documents. You will have to organise the data from these documents in different ways, depending on the requirements. You’ll also have to interpret the financial information that you gather from the data so that you can advice your client or business on what all the numbers mean. This, then, helps the business to run in an effective way, as all the managers will understand what the business needs to do to earn a good profit or get through a rough patch.

Luckily, there are several computer packages available to do much of the basic financial tasks, so the accountant really specialises in interpreting the data and developing strategies based on this information. The job of a bookkeeper is complimentary to an accountant as it’s the bookkeeper who often records financial transactions. An accountant will have a bachelors’ degree and therefore will do the more skilled work around interpretations, including predictions such as in a budget or financial plan.

Accountants work with government, companies, organisations, entrepreneurs, or individuals. They prepare and interpret financials reports and suggest solutions for any problem areas that might arise. Accountants are also involved in preparing taxation documents that must be submitted to SARS (South African Revenue Service) annually.

You can decide to work in any sector that interests you. Whatever sector you decide to work in, you will make a large contribution to the successful financial planning of the individual or the organisation.

What do you need to study in order to become an accountant?

If you want to study as an accountant, then you will need to have a good Grade 12 NSC pass in Mathematics (not Maths Literacy). It’s preferable to have done Accounting as a Grade 12 subject but it’s not necessarily a compulsory requirement. You will also need to have passed your home language and English at a Grade 12 level. Each institution has different requirements for these subjects so look closely at this should you apply to study in this field.

You will then study a 3-year Bachelor of Commerce degree (B.Com). Once you’ve completed this, you will need to complete a three-year learnership with a SAIPA (South African Institute of Professional Accountants) accredited organisation before taking a Professional Evaluation (P.E.) Exam. These are written in May or November every year at various centres around the country. Once, you’ve passed this exam, you will be a qualified professional accountant. For more information go to: South African Institute of Professional Accountants –

Should you wish to become a chartered accountant, you will need to study further and complete a post-graduate programme.

Although this may seem a long time to study and learn on the job before you are considered a professional, remember that you will earn a good salary on a learnership and that your earnings after passing the professional exam will be one of the best in the country.

Where can you study to become an Accountant?

You can study for a degree at these universities:

University of the Witwatersrand
University of Cape Town
University of Stellenbosch
University of Pretoria
Nelson Mandela University
Rhodes University
University of the Western Cape

You can study for a diploma at these colleges:

Cape Peninsula University of Technology
Tshwane University of Technology
College of Cape Town

There are many other colleges offering diplomas in accounting but make sure that they are accredited with the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET).

There are also many bursaries available for those who want to study to become an accountant. Click here for the details.

Once you have qualified as an accountant, you really will find that the world is your oyster! You’ll have a degree that will enable you to earn a high salary and you will be able to work in any sector that you want to. On top of this, you will find work opportunities both in South Africa and internationally. So, if you think this might be the career for you, I encourage you to go for it!