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Finance and Accounts is a specialised field. It contains within it, various technical specialities. Anyone who works in the finance and accounts area can at best do works relating to a few of such specialities. This is because, finance and accounts is a very vast and broad area and a single person cannot specialise in all such fields at the same time. This is true for other professional disciplines like the engineering and medicine.
Just as in medicine, an individual cannot really master all the various specialities, similarly an accounts and finance professional cannot specialise the different specialities contained in the field (I write this at the outset, because it is a huge misconception that prevails among people that account and finance is a single discipline). However compared to medicine (or other fields) where the line is clear with a graduate degree (eg. MBBS or B.Tech) and thereafter post graduation (MD or M.Tech) with specialisation, the path to finance profession is a bit complicated.
Table of Contents
- Chartered Accountancy
- MBA (Specialization Finance)
- Company Secretaryship
- Cost / Management Accountancy
- Engineering & Finance
This is considered the best route to the profession of accountancy and audit. CA enjoys huge popularity and prestige in the profession. The CA in various countries are backed by statutes, as they are the professionals who have the authority to sign the audit reports. In USA, it is called CPA (Certified Public Accountant, that is administered by AICPA). In different countries there are national level councils that oversee the CA profession. In India it is called Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI). In England it is called Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW).
A CA can pursue his own independent profession. This means working as a professional auditor and also the works relating to consultancy viz tax and management consultancy. The tax consultancy in India is a huge field with a CA having the ability to represent his client in various issues relating to the direct and indirect taxes. Management consultancy includes raising loans, making project reports, due diligence, and mergers and aquisitions etc. In the industry, they mostly work in the area of Corporate Finance. However, the Chartered Accountants due to their professional training can fit into any discipline in the finance and accounts field. This may of course not hold true for the other courses.
MBA (Specialization Finance)
Master of Business Administration is the most popular course and also takes the least time. Usually this is a one and half to two year course and is administered by universities or private institutions. This scope of this course mostly lies in financial institutions and investment banks, forex markets etc.
The MBA course although having the same content as taught in various institutes, vastly differ in their estimation. Usually it is the ‘branded’ institutes that get away with the good placements. Some of the most popular ‘branded’ institutes include Harvard Business School, Yale, Stanford etc. In India it is the IIMs (Indian Institute of Management – IIM Ahmedabad, IIM Kolkata, IIM Bangalore). MBA course is perhaps the most costly of all the various courses relating to finance and accounts. However the career would basically depend on the nature of placement that the candidate is able to get after the course. MBA does not enjoy any statutory recognition.
This course is mostly slanted towards law, mostly commercial law. This profession again enjoys statutory recognition. This profession deals with the statutory compliance of the various statutory provisions that a company has to follow. Areas like issue of shares, holding shareholders meeting, certifying compliance with various legal provisions by the company are the main domains in which these professionals work. In India this course is offered by the Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI).
Cost / Management Accountancy
The Cost / Management Accountants are mostly related to works of factories and pricing of products. They are mostly employed by companies. In India the course is administered by Institute of Cost and Works Accountants of India (ICWAI). In some instances Cost Accountants can also do independent practice, depending what are the statutory provisions in this regard prevailing in the country. The most popular international course in this regard is the CIMA (Certified Management Accountant) course; this course is administered by the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (UK). In USA also there is a corresponding course of CMA that is offered by the Institute of Certified Management Accountants (USA).
ACCA: This is what is known as ‘nut and bolt accountant’. This course is offered by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants of UK. However this course is more slanted towards the industry rather than independent practice.
CISA: Certified Information System Auditor is a specialised course. It is not a degree, but a professional certification. It is administered by the Information System Audit and Control Association, USA. The main area of this is the audit of digitised financial and other records. This has an interface of Accounts/ Finance knowledge, Audit and most importantly computer and infotech knowledge. A corresponding course in India is the ISA (Information System Auditor) course that is offered by the ICAI. However certifications of CISA are useful for independent practice or when working with some consultancy firms. The companies often prefer to keep engineers for such works relating to data maintenance and computer technology.
CFA: Chartered Financial Analyst course is offered by the Association of Investment Management and Research (AIMR), USA. As the name goes, the focus of this is financial analysis. CFA is also higly regarded by the industry in the financial field. Banks, insurance industry and share/stock trading companies are the major areas of work.
CIA: Certified Internal Auditor course is offered by the Institute of Internal Auditors of USA. The focus of this course is internal audit.
CFE: Certified Fraud Examiner. This course is offered by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners and deals with areas of unearthing fraudulent financial transactions, fraud investigation, legal elements of financial frauds.
The law degree in the field of accounts and finance is important from the point of commercial law. Often companies hire law graduates to deal in cases relating to commercial law. However the main opportunities for law graduates in the field of accounts and finance is in the area of Practice by representing their clients in Courts for the commercial and tax law disputes, which is quite a fascinating field.
However given the current system in India, lawyers have an advantage in matters of tax as they can represent their clients in a Court of Law like High Court or Supreme Court. However most of the tax disputes are resolved in tax tribunals (both for direct and indirect taxes), and in these tribunals, Chartered Accountants and Company Secretaries can also represent their client on same footing as a lawyer.
Also when the proposed NTT (National Tax Tribunal) comes into existence – it would be the NTT that would deal cases in appeal from ITAT or CESTAT – and not the High Court. It has been provided that in the NTT, the Chartered Accountants and Comapany Secretaries would be able to represent their client on same footing as a lawyer. Apart from representational work, the Lawyers are also in demand with emergence of global trade and WTO regime – the requirements for those knowing patent law and for patent law attorneys for disputes arising from patent laws are in great demand – this also includes various advisory works and backend research jobs.
This is an area where those who have interest in mathematics and statistics would find quite satisfying. Actuaries is applied Maths/Stats in the field of Insurance and also in important areas like Risk Management. Insurance companies require Actuaries for the purpose of making of insurance policies. Also, qualified Actuaries can do independent practice, as often their certificates are required by companies who manage their own provident and pension funds.
Usually Insurance companies hire those who have passed three or four papers as Actuarial Assistant, and thereby such candidates can continue in work while they complete their qualification. Generally, the qualification for Actuarial sciences are administered by National Societies existing in different countries. The Actuarial Society of India (ASI) is the national body in India to conduct this course and award the certification. Actuaries are among the highest paid professionals in the finance sector.
A degree in Statistics (M.Stats) is not directly related to finance or accounts. However, it has various business related applications. Consequently those from this field are grabbed up for areas like Market Research, Media Planning, Quality Management (TQM), and any other business process where there is lots of data to analyse.
Engineering & Finance
The finance world is no more a manual world – but an electronic and digitised world. Its natural that there would be requirements of engineers in the world of finance. Some engineers may decide to do mainstream finance courses like MBA or CWA. There have been instances, where from IIMs, those majoring in Finance, the companies have picked up those students who had engineering background. The reason is simple – engineers by training have a logical mind. Particularly in the financial sector where investment portfolios and mutual fund investments are no more just mere economic theory – but complex mathematical modelling – engineers are a better choice – as that brings efficiency (and also returns) to the investors.
But even apart from this, there are areas like ERP implementation (different platforms like SAP, Oracle etc) – which is very remunerative field – and requires around two months of training / certification. Then there is CISSP certification. As most of the financial sector works on computer system – the CISSP is the security expert of the Information System. CISSP is similar to CISA, but technically much ahead of it.
And then there is hardcore engineering field like maintenance of hardware and softwares in places like Stock Exchanges. Or maintenance of the financial infrastructure like Computer systems / Databases / Networks in Banks, Insurance and other Corporate Organisations.
The above courses cannot be easily classified into the usual educational stream. Some of the courses like the CA and Company Secretaryship etc. are considered equivalent to post graduation in some countries/ universities, thereby making them eligible for research and a PhD. However many others are certification that holds good only when one is really serious of pursuing the particular line (eg. CISA).
Often these various courses are life-long pursuit in the sense that these finance/ accounts professionals have to fulfil requirements of CPE (continuing and professional education) annually by attending certain hours to lectures and classes that update the members with the latest developments in the professional field. Courses like CA and CISA etc. come in this category.
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