Before you can even start thinking about which training office you would like to be placed in for the duration of your articles, you’ll be confronted with the choice of what environment to go with: public practice, commerce and industry, or the public sector. Each type of environment comes with its own pros and pitfalls.
Public practice is considered the more conventional path as it involves training at a firm of registered auditors and accountants. Companies such as PwC, Deloitte, EY (Ernst and Young) and KPMG – ‘the Big Four’ – fall into this category. Commerce and industry, on the other hand, offers opportunities at companies such banks, large retail organisations and investment companies. Public sector options include the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA), Eskom, the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and South African Reserve Bank (SARS), among others.
All this choice probably doesn’t help you all that much in making a decision that will impact on the rest of your career, so we’ve stepped in to outline what the different environments entail and what you can expect from each to give you a better idea of what suits you best:
Public practice: If you choose this route, you will do audit work and verify the accuracy of the financial affairs of the training office’s clients. As a trainee in this environment, says PwC, you can expect to work in a challenging and fast-paced business environment. “Expect to work hard during your traineeship, but also to gain valuable experience. You will learn best business practices, managing people and financial reporting.” Most public practice firms also offer study support programmes and assistance with career development.
Commerce and industry: SAICA actively encourages trainees to consider commerce and industry, as it encourages greater entry into and upward mobility within the accountancy profession, increases the supply of scare skills by creating more professional training opportunities and promotes the education and training of accounting professionals in large organisations. CAs who take the commerce and industry option have a wide and diverse range of financial duties and multi-disciplinary skills, meaning that they need to have an in-depth understanding and knowledge of their company’s financial management.
Public sector: Doing your articles in the public sector doesn’t always get the best rap – misperceptions surrounding mismanagement of funds play a large role in this – but there are enormous career opportunities in the space. The public sector provides trainee accountants with a diverse range of opportunities to hone your skills which you would be unlikely to find in another environment. You will typically get exposure to a number of different departments and organisations, keeping you on your toes and providing numerous opportunities for you to pursue.
Remember that no matter what route you ultimately opt for, hard work and a positive attitude are your most important secrets to success.
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