How to Become an Accountant

To share the diversity of our National Young Leader mentors and their respective careers, we interviewed Alex Zhang, a Chartered Professional Accountant, about becoming an accountant. Previously, Alex obtained a Bachelor of Commerce with a Specialization in Accounting at the University of Toronto. Currently, he is an investment accountant, and is pursuing his Chartered Financial Analyst designation. Below, Alex answers common questions about the path to becoming an accountant.


What are the qualifications to become an accountant?

If you are determined to become an accountant, you should enrol in an accredited program in university, such as the accountancy program offered at University of Waterloo. The accounting program will ensure that you complete all the required courses by the time you graduate. You are then well-prepared to obtain your work experience and pass your license exam.

However, that does not mean you will not become one if you are currently enrolled in other program. CPA Canada has its own professional development program that will help you complete all the courses you did not take during undergraduate study. You will be able to do so after you graduate.

How do accounting students find  jobs?

For me, I did not know my employer before I got hired. I found my first job through a career fair at my university. Career fairs offer great opportunities for you to meet many potential employers. In addition, career fairs will enable you to explore various industries and jobs so that you have a better understanding before you begin your first job.

How is the interviewing process?

First of all, congratulations on getting the interview! It is a signal that the company is interested in hiring you for the position. For accounting related positions, the employers will want to know if you have a solid knowledge base. They may test your knowledge through theoretical questions and problems. The other questions are going to consist of scenario questions in which they evaluate your behavior and reactions. To prepare for your interviews, you can find potential questions here.

How important is networking?

Networking is very important in recruiting, especially when you do not have too much experience. Networking will give you an opportunity to talk with professionals who are already in the field and enable you to learn more about the nature of the work. However, you do not need to stress about networking; just be yourself and you will do just fine.

What tasks do accountants perform?

On a daily basis, accountants properly record transactions within and between companies. On a monthly/yearly basis, you are required to sum up your work by producing various financial statements reports. In particular, for investment accounting which is my speciality, we report net asset valuations for various funds, monitor dividends and interest incomes, reconcile accounts, and prepare financial statements. If you are someone who enjoys routine work, then accounting may be the right path for you.

What are some challenges and rewards of accounting jobs?

Challenges occur with the problem-solving accountants have to do. Sometimes, things don’t add up because of human errors and we have to identify the reason for the mistakes, and rectify the error, often under time constraints. It’s rewarding after you solve such a problem, and you feel accomplished.


If you have any questions about accounting or finance, Alex would be happy to help through our free National Young Leader Mentorship program. Start your consultation with Alex here.

Photo Credit: Matt Beckwith via photopin (CC)

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