If you are reading this then you are an ambitious person who will just not settle for a mediocre life and neither will you compromise your career growth and earning potential. Before I go ahead to explain how you can become industry ready and earn on par with your engineering friends or higher as soon as you graduate, you need to understand the economical and industrial environment of the country you wish to work and settle in. This understanding will help you select and invest in the right qualification, which will give you the required skill, which in turn will help you command a higher salary in the industry.
Let us assume you are a commerce graduate in India, maybe first year or final year. Like all other commerce graduates in India, the most common career path that you would have chosen is to become a Chartered Accountant or a Cost Accountant. In case you have not been able to clear the CPT exams then the last option you might think of is, becoming a Company Secretary. These are the most widely taken career paths and professional qualifications by Indian commerce students. If none of these work, then you might think of doing a post-graduation course like M.Com or MBA. The MBA being the most sought after, due to the glamour and high salary packages that one reads about being offered to IIM grads.
Now before you take a decision to invest your time and parents’ money in pursuing a qualification or course, let me take you through the industrial environment in India. The Indian economy is dominated by the Services Sector which contributed around 64% of our GDP in 2015-16. This is a sector which has become the most important foreign exchange earner as well as attractive sector for FDI in India. The top sub sector under services which contributed 21.6% to the GDP and grew at a rate of 10.3% in 2015-16 is the one comprising of financial services, real estate and professional services.
Now you must be thinking if our GDP is growing at more than 6% and services sector is growing at 10% and sub sectors like financial services, real estate and professional services are booming then why can’t a B.Com graduate earn more than 3 lakhs as soon as he or she passes from college? The main reason is the skill gap that exists between the industry requirements and what a graduate acquires at college. An article in Economic Times last year had mentioned that 80% of engineering graduates in India are not employable. This fact is hard hitting because India is known as the global hub for IT professionals and our services sector grew on this very IT boom. So now you need to think that if the largest sector under services is getting fresh graduates who are unemployable, then what would the condition be, of other streams like science, commerce and arts. The skill gap is much higher than what exists among engineering graduates.
Coming back to the Indian financial sector which is currently growing at a tremendous pace and requires professionals with specific skill sets. The most important skill being finance & accounts. This brings us to the question: who are the ideal professionals required for finance & accounts roles? The obvious answer to this is Chartered Accountants and Management Accountants and also people who have done an MBA in Finance. Now you must be wondering, I have not cleared CPT itself, then how will I ever become a chartered accountant or I can’t spend 4 years slogging to become a chartered accountant and waste my precious time nor can I invest 15 Lakhs plus and get an MBA degree from one of the top ten institutes in India. This is where you need to research a bit more about the various international professional courses that are now available in India.
If you wish to take a financial management related career path then CMA, CIMA or an MBA in Finance will be ideal for you. If your interest lies in taking the chartered accountant’s path then the most flexible qualification that you can pursue is ACCA or Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, this is a professional chartered accountancy qualification from UK and is recognized in 181 countries globally. Now you will be wondering, if this is an international qualification, then it will be expensive and difficult to clear. But here is the beauty of this qualification, you are eligible to apply for this qualification as soon as you finish your 10th grade. This course has 14 papers in total and a person can write each paper at the pace which is convenient to them, there is no upper age limit nor a short fixed period within which one has to finish all 14 papers. There are exam sessions every quarter, hence you need not wait one full year to appear for exams, if you missed one opportunity. Coming to the cost of the program, the entire 14 papers will cost a person roughly 5 to 6 Lakhs including tuitions, books, registration fee, annual subscription and examination fees. This course is eligible for education loans up to 7 lakhs from nationalized banks such as Canara Bank, which means you or your parent need not worry about financing your education and also invest the full amount at one go. The cost of the program is spread over 2 to 3 years.
The ACCA program has a curriculum which is designed based on inputs from the industry globally and hence has the content which will impart the student with the latest knowledge and skills as per industry requirements. A very practical oriented curriculum which does not encourage rote learning. This helps students improve their application skills rather than just have theoretical knowledge. The 14 papers are divided into 3 levels Skills, Knowledge and Professional. Once a student clears the 3 papers under Skill level, ACCA awards the Diploma in Accounting & Business certificate. On completion of the 6 Knowledge level papers, ACCA awards the Advanced Diploma in Accounting & Business. Finally on completing the 5 Professional level papers one becomes an ACCA Affiliate. In order to get the Membership to ACCA body one must show 3 years of professional experience in relevant sector. This experience can be obtained before, after or while the student is studying.
Since this qualification is recognized in several foreign countries, a person who is an ACCA member can easily work in those countries. Some of the countries are Australia, Canada, UAE, UK, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong etc. The ACCA qualification gives true global mobility which no other professional qualification gives. Now you will be thinking that what if I want to work in India, is this qualification recognized here? What are the jobs I can get? What will be my salary as a fresher?
So the ACCA qualification is now recognized by most employers in India. The main reason being all the multinational companies are now looking at finance & accounting professionals who have knowledge of international accounting standards, taxes and all other skills which a CA should have. Also the number of chartered accountants passing out in India are in very small numbers and cannot meet the industry requirements. This presents a very good opportunity for commerce students who were not able to take up or complete the CA qualification.
Talking about the job roles that ACCA affiliates are offered in India, it is not restricted to accounting or reporting but they get roles in internal audit, taxation, accounting advisory and forensics. All the Big4 audit firms recruit ACCAs in India. Not just audit firms but investment banking, insurance, information technology, FMCG, real estate and several other sectors are now hiring ACCAs. Finally coming to the question of salaries offered, it will be an exaggeration if I say ACCAs with zero experience will get salaries on par with MBAs from top institutes, but on an average the starting salary for an ACCA affiliate with zero years of experience will be anywhere between 3.5 Lakhs to 6 Lakhs. Once you get some work experience and become a member then the salaries offered can cross 10 Lakhs.
Now if you were to compare the opportunity cost in the case you did not take up a professional qualification like ACCA but only did your B.Com, it would be approximately 3 Lakhs per year after the first year of graduation, assuming this will be your starting salary and then add to this 3 years of B.Com and another 2 years that you will need to obtain any professional qualification. In total, the opportunity cost is roughly 6 Lakhs and 5 years of your valuable time. On the other hand if you had decided to do the ACCA program in your first year of B.Com. Then you will be finishing the entire program in 3 years. So by the time you graduate you are eligible for a minimum 3 Lakh salary package. You invested 6 Lakhs in the course by taking a bank loan, EMI for which will begin only after first year of finishing your course or the year you get a job, whichever is earlier. Since you already have a job that pays you 3 Lakhs per annum and you decide to pay off the loan completely, you can do it in 2 years. This way you are debt free and now earning more than 3 Lakhs a year from the 3rd year onwards.
I hope this has given you some idea and points to think about before investing your time and money in a professional qualification. For more details on the ACCA program, its advantages and how to take educational loans for this program, do request a call back and our counselors will get in touch with you or visit the nearest Globalfti Center and we will be more than happy to guide you.