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20 August 2017Last updated
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Ask the expert: I’d like to pursue a career in finance

Our education expert offers advice on pursuing a career in finance

Sanjeev Verma
3 Aug 2017 | 01:00 pm
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I’m a grade 10 student studying in a British curriculum and I’m considering a career in finance. I’ve taken accounting IGCSE course. However I cannot stand accounting and am wondering if it is possible to have a career in finance without accounting? Moreover, would business schools accept my application if I don’t take AS accounting?

At the outset I must congratulate you for being astute enough to distinguish between accounting and finance. These are two separate functions and require different skill sets but are more often than not clubbed together because both deal with managing money and business assets.

Accounting involves recording and analysing the financial transactions of a company in accordance with internationally accepted norms and ensure the financial statements thus prepared reflected the true and fair state of the financial health of company. Accountants are responsible for managing the cash flow, debt, recognising revenue, analysing profit and paying taxes.

Finance on the other hand uses this information to make futuristic financial and budgetary decisions for the company and by its very definition involves an element of risk and uncertainty. Anticipating, evaluating, and managing these risks and uncertainties is a large part of the responsibility of financial managers.

Their work includes managing and distribution of assets, coordination of capital and investments with a view to improve the value of the business.

Finance tends to have broader scope and more of macro outlook and one can consider accounting as a part of finance. The tools used by each to reach their goals are also different. Accountants tend to rely on balance sheets, profit and loss and cash flow statements while finance managers would rather use performance reports, ratio analysis, risk analysis, break evens and returns on investment.

Accountants are responsible for undertaking audits, tax returns, budgets and managing cash flow while financial analysts would focus on investments and various financial products that could be used by investors, be it corporate or individual.

Accounting deals with today’s revenue and expenses while in finance you would be planning and working on tomorrow’s profit.

Accountancy itself can be further subdivided into public, management and government specializations. Public accountants are responsible for recording and managing the financial documents for their clients, usually corporations, individuals or government entities.in accordance with the law of the land.

These would include auditors and tax consultants. Forensic accountants work for the government to detect fraud and embezzlement. Management accountants work in private organizations and oversee budgets and cost control.

Accountants should have an eye for detail and strong quantitative and analytical skills. Their duties are process-oriented and the jobs requires both concentration and precision.

While both job descriptions would need the person to have mathematical and analytical skills, financial analysts are required to make decisions quickly, often under pressure. The results of their work can easily be quantified and requires confidence and strong communication skills.

It is not uncommon that students bolster their bachelor’s degree in accountancy and finance with a professional specialisation in either accountancy (Chartered accountant, Management Accountant, CPA) or Finance (CFA, MBA-Finance, Master of Finance).

It is also possible to pursue these professional specialiaation or a master without necessarily having pursued a bachelor degree in accountancy or finance.

To answer your question, you need not pursue accounting either in school or even in college and still end up with a specialisation in finance.

Harvard, MIT, Wharton, Chicago, LSE, LBS, Stanford, NYU, Oxford, Manchester, NUS, University of Melbourne are considered as the leading Universities offering programs in accountancy and finance.

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Sanjeev Verma

Sanjeev Verma

is a leading international education counsellor