Deciding a career: Certifications related to Finance, What to do?

So you are at the verge to decide what career to choose? Accountancy profession in Pakistan and elsewhere is generally considered to be monotonous, time consuming and 'boring' as compared to other professions like Engineering, Arts etc. Accountants are often projected as boring people with nothing to do except for talking in terms of numbers, facts and figures. This may however, be true in some circumstances, but may not hold true in totality.

One should understand that a few terms which are used interchangeably have different meanings. Accounts and finance are not one and the same thing. Book keeping is a different thing and financial analysis is another. When we talk about accounting, there are various levels of accounting, namely operational accounting which includes book keeping, day to day transaction tracking etc. Then we have financial management which is a higher level. In it, we learn about sources of funds, managing funds, manipulating funds and giving all stakeholders the maximum which could be earned out of their wealth. Investment accounting in itself is a whole world.

What are the areas which relate to accounting and you may study? The highest level of accounting degree in Pakistan is Chartered Accountancy or CA which has a combination of studies with four years of hands-on training in a Chartered Accountant firm. The Institute of Chartered Accountant of Pakistan is the governing body conducting its examination. Information may be obtained from their website at www.icap.org.pk. There are few chartered accountants in Pakistan not because it is difficult, but because of lack of awareness. People do not know about this profession, degree and the fact is that it is not as difficult as it is perceived to be.

Then we come across cost and management accountancy or commonly called, CMA. The Institute of Cost and Management Accountants of Pakistan is the governing body conducting examination for this qualification. Their website is www.icmap.com.pk and all required information can be obtained from this website. The difference between this and CA is that CMA may be done without any mandatory training. You have to study, take exams and pass. Pass rates are generally lower and you may be surprised to know that there are more CAs in Pakistan than CMAs.

Then we have two related foreign qualifications, namely ACCA and CIMA, both of UK origin. ACCA is a second tier degree in UK which stands for Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (website www.accaglobal.com). This is new for the Pakistani student and many students whom I know are moving to UK on the basis of getting admission in colleges of ACCA. This qualification can also be completed without any mandatory training, although ACCA requires at least three years post or pre-qualification work experience before awarding its membership. However, since it is an 'internationally recognized qualification', students prefer to go for it.

Finally we have CIMA. Chartered Institute of Management Accountants or which is also termed as CMA of UK (equivalent to CMA of Pakistan). Very few students go for CIMA qualification. Reason again being lack of awareness among the student cadres. In UK CIMA qualification is more related to decision making and those who do this are considered to be part of management who will help the higher management in decision-making. Their core paper includes a case study and this type of exam is missing in the three abovementioned qualifications. (website www.cimaglobal.com)

Life is becoming too fast these days. People need to get updated and upgraded with the passage of time. When deciding what to do and how to do, it is always advisable to develop skills. All the degrees are a way through which one can go towards a good career but I would advise one thing: Qualifications are not an end itself, these are means to an end. Unless they are applied in one's life, they fizzle out. It is always good to obtain knowledge and as the saying goes: life is becoming so fast that in order to stand at your place, you have to run.

Therefore it is extremely important that qualifications/ degrees are not attained for the sake of degrees but for knowledge which will be applied in one's organization. The CEO of Apple, the international computer makers, once remarked; “we do not hire smart people so that we have to tell them what to do, we hire smart people so that they tell us what to do.”

Malik Mirza is a qualified ACCA, CIMA, CA and CIA. He completed his articleship from A.F.Ferguson, Islamabad Office and and is presently working as an Assistant Manager in the same organization. Some of his previous work has been published in ICAP's Pakistan Accountant. He can be contacted at malikmirza2000@yahoo.com.

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