Date posted: 31/08/2017 5 min read

How to choose your next qualification

CAs need something that distinguishes them from the pack, so it may pay to specialise or work overseas in the next career move you make.

In Brief

  • Align any additional qualifications with your life and career goals.
  • Choose between gaining a depth or a breadth of knowledge.
  • Clear time and space in your life for study.

Twenty-something professionals, including chartered accountants, can get quite restless. In their mid- to late-twenties, post-graduation, settled into working life with rising incomes, they can start to think seriously about their future.

With communications degree, Danielle Papas, a marketing and events coordinator for a leading property group, is typical of this group.

“I‘m 24. I think about my future – I hope that my relationship will work out, I worry I might not be able to afford to buy a house in Melbourne, I think about my career.” 

Papas says she worries because she has always wanted to have it all. 

“Early on I set ambitious goals for myself. This is about ensuring that I remain on track. It’s a key time.”

Depth or breadth

For young CAs, the career component may involve a choice between deeper specialisation and expertise in one area, or a broadening of outlook.

David Cowie, financial controller for a large construction group, says CAs need something that “distinguishes them from the pack”. Something different and something attractive to employers. This applies more to external recruitment than to internal promotion, Cowie says.

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“If employers want an expert at a particular thing, for example construction accounting, international taxation treaties, or valuation methodology, then experience in that exact area will be critical. The demand for specialists is more common in certain sectors and businesses,” he says.

To achieve personal differentiation, a combination of factors is required including qualifications; experience – technical, people or perhaps overseas – work achievements, community service; diversity and cultural understanding. 

Twenty-something CAs looking to choose a second qualification need to ensure it aligns with their life and career goals. They will need to consider how to balance work, career, community, study and family commitments.

Arts training as a point of difference

Melbourne City councillor Dr Jackie Watts, who is chair of the Knowledge City portfolio, says: “We need to consider what areas of knowledge are required so employees may be considered educated and well-engaged with the milieu in which they must perform. 

“Companies may buy services based upon technical skills, but it is arts training that can give CAs the advantage in the global workplace. It’s all about different types of thinking.”

Watts sees a wider education as an employer responsibility too, adding companies and individuals need to invest to maximise the latent talents within. 

“With systems disruption, automation, digitisation and robots taking over, so-called soft skills are becoming more important. It’s intuition, creativity and the ability to understand causal and consequential determinants or interconnectivity that will matter.”

Timothy J Lynch, associate professor, and director of the graduate school of humanities and social sciences at Melbourne University, sees a lot of young professionals on the “next qualification” journey. The school has many courses on offer, with the most popular being a masters in marketing communications.

Twenty-something CAs looking to choose a second qualification need to ensure it aligns with their life and career goals.

Lynch says Melbourne is so attractive as a city not due to is not the population’s technical skills, but rather its vibrant arts scene. 

“This is fundamental to the city’s attraction,” he says.

“Arts training gives students an insight into the ‘travails of life’. It speaks to the difficulties those who went before us faced, and how they coped. It’s about the human experience.” He says this knowledge is invaluable for aspiring business leaders.

“It may not always make you rich, but it will give you an opportunity to be happy – something twenty-somethings might reflect upon.”

Lynch says young professionals take the arts to study something that they love.

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Like Watts, he believes that there is no one single track to success.

“An arts degree helps students build creativity into the rigour of their earlier discipline.”

Tips for choosing a second qualification

  1. Start with your life and personal goals.
  2. Add on your work and career goals.
  3. Decide between specialisation, and breadth of knowledge.
  4. Consider an arts subject as an option.
  5. Make time and space for study. It takes skill to balance study with career and family.